The police on Sunday strongly warned the South-West Stakeholders Security Group working with the Western Nigeria Security Outfit codenamed Operation Amotekun (leopard), against any breach of security.
The police commands in Ekiti, Ogun and Ondo states said they would not tolerate illegal possession of firearms by the members of the group.
They said anybody in possession of illegal weapons would be arrested.
Also, a top police officer said the operatives could only use Dane guns, which do not use cartridges.
The SSSG, comprising the Oodua Peoples Congress, the Vigilante Group of Nigeria, the South-West Hunters Association, the South-West Agbekoya Group, Agbekoya Farmers Society Group, Yoruba Youth Council and the Community Security Awareness Initiative Corps of Nigeria, is led by Aare Ona Kakanfo of Yorubaland, Chief Gani Adams.
Lagos, Osun and Ekiti state governments had, on Friday, said they would recruit about 1,320 operatives from the OPC and other groups for the Operation Amotekun, which was launched by the South-West states on Thursday.
The states, had before the launch, said the OPC and other members of the SSSG, would be used for intelligence gathering.
But Adams said the OPC members and others should not be used for intelligence gathering alone.
He said for effectiveness, they should be trained and supervised by the police. “Security is about life and death. The police and other security agents can train them and license their gun use to greatly assist in the operation. They should not detain suspects but hand them over to the police,’’ Adams said.
Following serial killings and kidnapping in the South-West, governors in the zone had at a meeting in June decided to set up Operation Amotekun.
No fewer than 120 patrol vehicles were on Thursday made available to the security outfit.
The Police Public Relations Officer for the Ekiti State Police Command, Sunday Abutu, said any OPC member that had prohibited firearms would be arrested.
Abutu said it was the responsibility of the police to arrest and prosecute any individual or group bearing arms illegally.
The police spokesman, who said the community security outfits like the vigilantes and hunters could not carry prohibited firearms, said, “The approved local vigilante groups can only carry Dane guns.
“Even people that are going to use those ones (Dane and local guns) have to be approved by the police. The police know those ones that are prohibited and the ones that such groups can use.
“Once we see anybody or group with prohibited firearms, we will arrest them because they are not allowed to carry such.”
The Police Public Relations Officer in Ogun State, Abimbola Oyeyemi, also warned that any civilian member of the Operation Amotekun found guilty of using unlicensed firearms would be arrested.
He said the command would not condone any form of possession of prohibited firearms from members of the Amotekun security operation.
According to him, anybody that does not belong to any security agency, such as the army, the police, and the customs, cannot carry AK-47 rifles.
According to Oyeyemi, the essence of issuing the firearm licence is to have biometric data of the bearer in such a way that if the person uses it to commit a crime, the police will arrest such a person.
He said, “You cannot be in the possession of prohibited firearms and you expect us to condone that. For example, somebody who does not belong to any security agency such as the army, the police and the customs cannot carry an AK-47 rifle. You can’t carry a pump-action.”
Also, the Ondo Police Command said it was illegal for anybody to possess firearms without being licensed.
The state Police Public Relations Officer, CSP Femi Joseph, said anyone who wished to get firearms should get the licence.
He said, “There are categories of firearms. The ones that are prohibited are those ones using cartridges. If you are carrying them without being licensed, it is illegal, but the Dane guns used by local hunters in the farm are not prohibited because they don’t use cartridges.”
In a related development, three days after the launch of the Operation Amotekun, the Agbekoya Farmers Association on Sunday said that the South-West governors and the Development Agenda for Western Nigeria had not incorporated its security arm into the initiative.
The National Publicity Secretary of the group, Chief Tunji Bandele, stated this in an interview with one of our correspondents in Abuja on Sunday.
Bandele, who explained that the farmers’ association had over 2,500 men in its security department, described the Amotekun initiative as the best thing to happen to the Yoruba nation.
Meanwhile, the Convener of Northern Elders’ Forum and former Vice Chancellor of Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria, Prof Ango Abdullahi, on Sunday commended governors of the South-West for establishing Operation Amotekun.
His position is contrary to an assertion by some northern youths that Amotekun is a military wing of the OPC.
The Northern Youths Council of Nigerian led by Alhaji Isah Abubakar, had on Thursday, urged the President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.), not to allow what he described as “unconstitutionality” to prevail.
But Abdullahi on Sunday said, “I should support anything which enhances the security of Nigeria and Nigerians anytime, anywhere.”
On its part, the Southern Kaduna Peoples Union hailed the formation of Operation Amotekun.
The National Public Relations Officer of the SOKAPU, Mr Luka Binniyat, in a statement on Sunday, called for the establishment of a similar security outfit in Southern Kaduna and the Middle Belt
The union said this became imperative in view of the spate of killings, kidnapping, arson and looting in the North-Central zone.
It disclosed that the ransoms paid by Christian families, churches and communities in Kaduna had risen from N300m to N400m as of January 11, 2020.
SOKAPU said, “The recent attacks underscore the urgent need for a vibrant, government funded vigilante organisation for every community in Southern Kaduna and indeed the entire Middle Belt.”
The Chairman, Nigerian Bar Association, Ado Ekiti Chapter, Samuel Falade, also said that the South-West governors had not breached any section of the 1999 Constitution by establishing Operation Amotekun.
Falade, who said since the kernel of the existence of any government was to guarantee the security of lives and property, said t the South-West governors only exercised their rights under the law.