•Calls for executive, legislative collaboration to overhaul network
•Amotekun operatives to enjoy new minimum wage
•No arms for new security outfit, says DAWN commission
Deji Elumoye in Abuja and Ejiofor Alike in Lagos
President of the Senate, Dr. Ahmad Lawan, yesterday reviewed the security situation in the country and concluded that the current system had been inefficient and ineffective.
He called for collaboration between the executive and the legislature to rejig the nation’s security architecture to make it more responsive to the needs of Nigerians whose lives and property have become increasingly endangered in recent times.
“Apparently, the system has not been working efficiently and effectively and we have to do something,” he told Senate correspondents in Abuja, adding: “This time around there should not be buck passing, we have to be forthright. We have to say it as it is and we have to do it as it is required.”
He spoke against the backdrop of the worsening security situation in the country and the rift over the establishment of a regional security initiative, Amotekun, by the six governors in the South-west states to tackle crime in the geopolitical zone.
Lawan’s expression of concern at the wanton bloodletting by non-state actors came as more details emerged on how the South-west governors would run Amotekun.
It was learnt yesterday that the regional security operatives would be paid the new minimum wage and would also enjoy life insurance and medical entitlements.
However, they will not bear arms because they are just community police.
Ahmad told the reporters that the Senate would take a definite step on the urgent need to overhaul the security apparatus by engaging the executive on the issue.
He called for cooperation among all stakeholders to improve the security situation in the country.
He said: “Presently, the story is not good. In many areas we have so much happening that is destabilising our communities and killing of people.
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“We believe that we owe Nigerians the responsibility to intervene and work together with the executive arm of government, actually to work together with other tiers of government – the states and even the local governments – to ensure that we change the way we approach the security issues in this country.”
According to him, the National Assembly will also be interested to know why the security challenges persisted despite steps taken in the recent past to stem the tide.
He said the Senate would involve the security agencies so as to know the problem.
The president of the Senate stated: “We should engage with the security agencies to find why the deterioration in security in many parts of the country. We have had series of engagement before but the escalation now has made it mandatory that we have to have a definite position as a government because we just cannot play politics with security issues. Lives are stake.
“Therefore, the Senate will take a position on how security in the country should be. We believe that the security architecture should be restructured. The present system does not give us the type of outcome that we need. Whether it is the federal, state or local government; even the traditional rulers or others, the most important thing is to secure the lives and property of Nigerians and we would do that.”
He also spoke on the Senate’s Ad- hoc Committee on Constitution Review and gave an assurance that the committee, which would be constituted before next week, would be headed by Deputy Senate President, Senator Ovie Omo-Agege.
He explained: “The committee will be constituted very soon, either this week or next week by the grace of God because the time is ripe for us to reconstitute the committee so that the members could start to work immediately. We have referred some bills to them already.
“Traditionally, everybody knows that since 1999 when the Constitution Review Committee was formed in the National Assembly, in the Senate, the deputy president of the Senate usually heads the committee. We are going to maintain the tradition in the 9th Senate. We have a deputy Senate president, who is vast and an erudite lawyer, who played an important and significant role in the Eighth Assembly as a member of the committee on INEC and constitution review. So, we are good to go by the grace of God.”
On the recent hike by the federal government in Value Added Tax ((VAT) from five per cent to 7.5 per cent, Lawan said the hike would not affect the average Nigerian.
“The 2.5 per cent increment in VAT does not include items that ordinary Nigerians normally use. Many of the items that would now have additional 2.5 per cent are luxury items that ordinary Nigerians don’t use. At this point, we need resources to provide basic social amenities that an average Nigerian need,” he said.
Amotekun Operatives to Enjoy New Minimum Wage
Meanwhile, the operatives of Amotekun are to be paid the new minimum wage and also enjoy life insurance and medical entitlements.
The volunteers will, however, not bear arms because they would be community police.
Director General of Development Agenda for Western Nigeria (DAWN) Commission, Mr. Seye Oyeleye, in an interview with Economic Digest, the in-house journal of the commission driving the security initiative, denied the claims that each operative will be paid N13,500 monthly.
“There is no state, I can tell you authoritatively, that said it would pay N13,500 to Amotekun. All I know is that the states are the ones recruiting and there is no state that will pay below the minimum wage. Let me even tell you further that those that will be engaged will also be insured by the states. There will be life insurance for each of them. So, life insurance is one of the benefits. Also, there will be medical insurance. Those are some of the things that personnel of Amotekun will enjoy once they are recruited,” he explained.
He described the N13,500 pay rumour as a creation of the social media just like the Amotekun logo in public domain depicting two men wearing hunters’ coats and bearing locally-made guns.
“That is not the logo of Amotekun. It is just a creation of someone on social media. All these things, we have tried as much as possible to put out the correct narrative from DAWN Commission. And we tell everybody out there that if they need any information on Amotekun, our phone numbers are there. We put them out all the time. If you have anything to verify, call us, we will give you the right information. You can also call special advisers on security in the six states. So, N13,500 is not true,” he said.
On the modus operandi of Amotekun, Oyeleye said the security outfit would be state-based.
He, however, added that as a regional outfit, the operatives would operate inter-state.
“There is going to be handshakes across the borders. So, they will be operating across the boundaries of the state. That is all I can put out at the moment on the mode of operation. Yes, they will not be carrying arms. Why? It is because they are just community police. Now that our governors have gone over to Abuja to re-engage with the federal government, we are hopeful that each of our vehicles will also have conventional security men with the Amotekun officers. You will find out that the conventional security officers will be the ones carrying ammunition. So that is how it is going to work. But make no mistake about it; all the vehicles are equipped with the state-of-the-art communication gadget so that from any point, they can easily speak with each other,” Oyeleye stated.
Reacting to the allegation that Amotekun was set up to confront herdsmen, he said the security outfit would protect all residents, irrespective their ethnicity.
According to him, the Western Nigeria Security Network, known as Amotekun, was set up to protect lives and property of anyone living within the South-west geographical space.
“So, I say it all the time that no matter what tribe you belong to, as long as you live within this space, the government must protect you. Don’t forget that Amotekun cannot go and operate in Edo State or Kwara, or Kogi; they can’t. Their limit is just the six states,” he said.
He accused those he described as mischief-makers of spreading the rumours that the outfit was a Yoruba army.
“I say it all the time that when someone is being kidnapped, I am not sure the kidnappers will ask whether you are Yoruba, Efik or Ibibio. What they do is to kidnap. So, Amotekun will be covering everybody living within this geographical space. So, it is not against the Fulani; it is not against the Igbo; it is not against the Ijaw and it is not against anyone, except the criminals. Their primary duty is community policing, protecting lives and property of everyone that lives in this geographical space,” he explained.
He also debunked the claim by the leader of the Muslim Rights Concern (MURIC), Prof. Ishaq Akintola, that those to be recruited must present birth certificates issued by churches.
He noted that Osun State Governor, Alhaji Gboyega Oyetola, had issued a statement, rebuking and rebutting Akintola, saying his allegation was not true.
Oyeleye stated that religious politics was not played in Yoruba land as every household has traditional worshippers, Christians and Muslims.
“I know of twins from the same parents, one is a Muslim and one is a Christian. We too read the news on the birth certificates and we quickly put out a disclaimer that it is not true. For want of a better word, that is a blatant lie. No one has said go and bring birth certificate from churches,” he added.