Sequel to reports that Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association of Nigeria (MACBAN) members had been coopted into the security architecture of Ondo State, a lot of questions and anxiety now trail the development.
Many people, especially the Yoruba of the South West, have queried the propriety behind the inclusion of Fulani in the security system as volunteers when the indigenous Odua Peoples Congress (OPC) were not offered such opportunity.
Some members of the Fulani vigilante, who were with identity cards and with arms and ammunition, were identified around the North Senatorial District of the state, creating a lot of fear and misgivings among the people.
Fuelling more suspicion against the MACBAN and their expansionist tendencies is the strong evidence that their activities may well be beyond Ondo State, as the ID cards of the members read ‘Ondo State Chapter’, suggesting there are other state chapters.
Some have criticised Governor Oluwarotimi Akeredolu for conscripting Fulani vigilantes in the state security system, but the man said he was not aware of the group’s full deployment and recognition with identity cards, even though there were initial talks on how to collaborate to secure the state.
Some have twisted the account of renowned lawyer, Kayode Ajulo, when he stated his observations and encounter with the so-called vigilantes on his way out of the state.
According to him: “It is quite true that I was in Akure, Ondo State from Friday, 19th July 2019 to Sunday, 22nd July, 2019 for my mother’s investiture as the Iya-Ijo (Chief Matron) of our home Church, Christ Anglican Church, Oke-Ifira-Akoko, Ondo State.”
“On my way back to Abuja on the 22nd day of July 2019 in the company of some security men, we saw two men at the highway around Akoko, Ondo State carrying dane guns.”
He disclosed that the men identified themselves as members of the Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders Vigilante group whose operation is known to all the security apparatuses in the area.
“Also, they willingly showed us their identity cards, which had their names and designations. Some other security men came to corroborate their claims,” he said.
Meanwhile, the Ondo State commissioner of Information and Orientation, Mr. Donald Ojogo, admitted that the Akeredolu-led government was in the know of the development, but distanced the state government from the ID card and other complexities involved.
According to him: “Various claims have been made as regards the activities, duties as well as the supposed mandate of these men in question. It is pertinent to recall that at the height of the incessant kidnap cases, the Ondo State government took some far-reaching drastic measures, including a marching order to the law-abiding Hausa/Fulani leadership in the area to fish out criminal elements among them.
“The Hausa/Fulani leadership was directed to select a handful of trusted men amongst them who could serve as tour guards in the thick forest as security agencies prepared to comb the forests.”
The commissioner, who said the measure yielded results, however, warned that; “while government appreciates the efforts of those who volunteered to provide information and serve as tour guards to the security agencies in the ongoing operations in the area, it will not tolerate any unauthorized move by any group to take an undue advantage of the current state of insecurity in the country.
“Government, having been unaware of any such identity card carrying persons in the name of a vigilante group, has directed security agencies to get to the root of the matter and apprehend any such person or group of persons operating in that manner.”
Whereas the Aare Ona Kakanfo of Yorubaland, Chief Gani Adams had recently alleged a plot to implicate some Yoruba leaders and militia groups over insecurity in the region, he accused some top government functionaries of sponsoring the Fulani.
While paying a condolence visit to the Afenifere patriarch, Pa Reuben Fasoranti, whose daughter was killed recently, Adams said: “We have to be careful not to go into their own trap. We have to be careful. It is good you see me in circulation to walk with you.
“We don’t want a situation where we walk into their trap because we realise that this ugly incident is being coordinated beyond our own scene. There are some forces behind them.”
“How can ordinary Fulani be holding AK 47? In our findings, AK 47 rifle goes for about N1m and with many bullets. So, we are looking beyond ordinary Fulani herdsmen.”
Adams, who is a co-founder of the Yoruba militia group, OPC, however, lamented that the Yoruba are not proactive to resist any aggression rather they prefer to react despite warnings.
A retired Commissioner of Police, Barr. Samuel Adetuyi wondered where the Fulani vigilantes derived their authority if both government and the police are not aware of their deployment. “So, where did they derive their authority? My appeal is to the Federal and State governments to deal with the situation according to law.
“My worry is the complications that situations like this can engender. Supposing other organisations come out with their own vigilantes? This is a recipe for chaos. The consequences of inactions or wrong actions certainly may be grave and may hit at the basis of Nigeria’s unity.”
Appraising the situation from the point of view of a technocrat, he added that, “constitutionally, only the Police is saddled with the responsibility for the internal security of the country. But of course, other security agencies have joined the Police in this task.
“Their roles have the approval of the government. But to have vigilante in this manner has the potential to further worsen the already fragile security situation. I believe that the government must act very fast and disband them. A stitch in time saves nine.”
Adetuyi, who was at the 2014 National Conference to represent the Nigeria Police Commission said: “Government must be open and transparent in this matter. Considering the current security situation, anything that can easily be misinterpreted must be avoided. If there is a need for the vigilante, it must draw membership from the locals. But if others are required, then the Police department must manage and control them. No group should be allowed anywhere as vigilante without being registered and under the operational control of the Police to check abuses.”
The Southwest governors, none-the-less have iterated their commitment to deal ruthlessly with people perpetrating crimes in the geo-political zone, assuring that the security architecture would be beefed up in August to tackle crime.
The Chairman of southwest Governors’ Forum, Akeredolu, stressed this after an indoor meeting with his colleagues, last Monday.
Other governors were: Mr. Dapo Abiodun (Ogun), Mr. Babajide Sanwo-Olu (Lagos), Dr. Kayode Fayemi (Ekiti) and Engr. Seyi Makinde (Oyo). He hinged the envisaged improvement on the security summit held recently in Ibadan, the capital of Oyo State, adding that the technical committee of the summit had submitted their report for implementation.
“We have received the reports of the technical committee and the governors of all the states in Western Nigeria, we have now discussed the technical committee report and we are set to take immediate action on the very key areas recommended to the governors.
“From next month, our security architecture would have changed. From what we have now, that commission is going to do some work for us and thereafter we will all implement it to ensure there is a security of life and property in Western Nigeria. We are assuring our people that we are prepared, and we will deal ruthlessly with anybody who comes within our space to commit any criminal act. But the details of what we want to do cannot be discussed in the open.”