South-West Plans Anti-Graft Teams for Amotekun

There are strong indications that the South-West states are planning to set up anti-corruption units in their security outfit, Operation Amotekun.

The unit, in each state, it was gathered, would handle cases of graft and abuse of power levelled against operatives of Amotekun.

It was learnt that the Amotekun bills, which were being drafted by the states, would make provisions for either an anti-graft unit or an ombudsman to check the excesses of the operatives.

A top official of one of the states said, “Some of the operatives may want to take advantage of their powers to extort money from people or engage in other forms of corruption. The anti-corruption unit or an ombudsman will take care of this.”

It was gathered that the unit or the ombudsman, depending on the preference of each state, would receive complaints on cases such as bribery, extortion, misuse of power, human rights abuses and other complaints levelled against any member of Operation Amotekun.

The Ekiti State Attorney General, Wale Fapohunda, in an interview , confirmed there would be anti-corruption provisions in the proposed Amotekun law.

Explaining highlights of the proposed law, Fapohunda said, “There must be anti-corruption provisions in the law. The proposed law must have citizens’ complaints provisions, including a framework for an independent ombudsman with strong authority to receive complaints from the public on matters of corruption and abuse of power.”

Recall that the South-West governors had at a summit in Ibadan on January 9, agreed to set up Operation Amotekun to address killings and kidnapping in the zone.

But the Attorney General of the Federation, Abubakar Malami, SAN, on January 14 kicked against the security outfit, saying it was not only illegal, but also negated the principle of federalism.

Malami’s statement, however, attracted criticisms from eminent lawyers and groups including Chief Afe Babalola, SAN; Mr Femi Falana, SAN; the Nigerian Bar Association; the Ohanaeze Ndigbo and Afenifere.

At a meeting in Abuja attended by Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, South-West governors and Malami, the Federal Government and the governors of the zone resolved their differences over Amotekun and decided that a law should be made by each of the states to give the security outfit a legal backing.

A few days after the Abuja meeting, the attorneys-general of the South-West states met in Ibadan and began the process of drafting the Amotekun bill, which each state would submit to its house of assembly.

Providing more insights into the bill, Fapohunda on Saturday said Ekiti State was proposing the inclusion of citizens’ complaints provision in the proposed Amotekun law.

According to him, it is to ensure that the states can deal with potential cases of violations by operatives for the purpose of accountability.

He said, “The proposal is to have an independent person. Each state will appoint an independent person that will be like an ombudsman; with strong authority to receive complaints and deal with them immediately.”

The attorney general said the appointment of an ombudsman would afford citizens the opportunity to complain “when things go wrong.”

According to him, the function of the ombudsman will be “to receive complaints from aggrieved citizens, as well as investigate those complaints and also send findings when there is the need for follow up on those findings.

“If you have a case, for example, that a citizen was tortured or beaten or so, that ombudsman will be responsible for receiving such a complaint and when it is established as a credible complaint, the law will take its ordinary course”.

He said by the proposed law, the ombudsman could recommend prosecution or dismissal of an errant operative depending on the degree or nature of the violation.

Fapohunda said, “The way we structured it is that there would be an accountable structure like a board that will oversee the operatives; so corruption, abuse of human rights, and general abuse will definitely be subject of scrutiny by this ombudsman.

“For any person responsible, the ombudsman can now advise that such a person must be removed, prosecuted or dismissed. It depends on the nature of the violation. For us essentially, it is for accountability which is non-negotiable. Each state will have a call centre like what the police operate, the states had agreed on that before now. You can call and make reports.

“Because our people need additional confidence, the standard operating guidelines (for the operatives) will state clearly what the operatives can do and what they cannot do; where that does not now work, that is where the ombudsman now comes in to identify specifics,” Fapohunda said.

Although the AG said Ekiti State did not suggest the profession of the ombudsman, he stated, “It does not really matter that such a person will be a lawyer, but legal experience will be very useful.”

Explaining other highlights of the bill, he said, “Primary organisational goal of Amotekun must be to work with individual citizens, communities, public and private organisations, formal and informal security agencies to identify and resolve security issues which potentially affect the livability of communities.”

The AG, who said Amotekun must be a public service delivery organisation, stated, “The proposed law must have clear provisions on respect for human rights. The proposed law must have clear provisions on accountability and transparency.”

“The proposed law must include provisions on gender considerations in recruitment of personnel. There must be sustainable funding provisions in the law; and clear provisions on modalities for collaboration including sharing information, resources and expertise between the six states.”

Fapohunda, who said the proposed law would not stipulate how much would be paid to Amotekun operatives, said, “It will only state how the governments will fund them. It can’t say how much now.



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