Killer kidnappers armed with more sophisticated weapons than Amotekun — S’West chairman
Akogun Adetunji Adeleye is the Commander of the Ondo State Security Network Agency also known as Amotekun Corps. Adeleye, who is also the Chairman of the corps in the South-West, speaks about the security of the state and the zone in general in this interview with PETER DADA
How has it been with Amotekun in previous years?
To start with, we give all glory to God for sparing our lives, 2023 has been an eventful year for Amotekun. Eventful in the sense that the focus in 2022 was more on herder-farmer clashes which by the grace of God, by the end of 2022 we have substantially subdued. Farmers can now go to farms. That is not to say there are not one or two breaches, but we can gladly say we have over 90 percent success. So in 2023, the emphasis shifted to more of armed robbery combat and anti-kidnapping antics. We were able to bring to a standstill a lot of the antics of criminals especially on the highway. During the 2022-2023 ember patrols across the border of Ondo State especially between Ife, Ilesha, and Owena Akure, we were able to rescue quite a large number of victims, and some stolen vehicles were recovered, millions of goods that were stolen and kept in the forest were recovered and handed over to the owner. In 2023, we were able to arrest quite a large number of suspected kidnappers the majority of whom are already in the correctional centres. Some of them are still in court and we believe that we will secure good results in ensuring that these criminals are put behind the bar.
How many of them were jailed?
I want to say that out of all cases of kidnapping in Ondo State in 2023, it is either we arrest them before kidnapping or immediately after ransom was paid. Why we adopted that method was to secure the release of the victims alive and unhurt. If we descended heavily on them, the victims might get hurt during cross-firing or out of anger, the kidnappers might waste their lives. That is why we adopt that subtle approach. But there are about five cases where we apprehended them during the exchange of ransoms. All these are done to discourage kidnap for ransom in the state, and you will observe that kidnapping doesn’t happen inside the town. It happens at the boundaries, especially boundaries of states where they don’t have Amotekun and they know it will be difficult for us to enter and pursue them, especially around Edo. That was why we have cases of kidnapping more in the northern part of the state where we have both Kogi, but on the other side we have Amotekun, there they know we work together. So if you run to Osun, Oyo, or Ogun, I will pursue you there. We have been able to substantially curb kidnappings in Ondo State up till now.
On the issue of burglary, you also find that an obstacle especially last quarter of last year. This is mainly because there was no opportunity for them to do hardened criminal issues so what they result in is breaking shops. Last quarter, we embarked on 24-hour patrols and I will tell you that between September and December, we arrested over 200 burglars that we charged to court most time for burglary. We have a few cases of vandalism of federal and state government assets. All of them have gone to correctional centres. We have very few cases of murder.
In the course of doing all these, what are the challenges you encountered?
We are limited by the equipment we have. Most of our tracking devices only give us an idea of where kidnappers are, and with modern technology, you can pinpoint exactly where they are if we adopt it. But the equipment is very expensive but not as expensive as life, so we believe it is what the government can do for us. Again, we still need additional support from the public in giving us timely and quality information devoid of deceit. Sometimes, they will say it is a robbery, and we run to the scene only to find out that is a husband and his wife who are fighting, it’s very discouraging.
How has that been hampering your mission?
In 2023, we adopted several measures that compressed our response to distress calls. We now have a distress call number that is self-hunting. So more than five people can attend to five different people at the same second and in different locations and we dispatch immediately. Our target is to bring our response time to a distress call to bring it down to possibly five minutes in every part of the state and environs, so we employ different techniques to ensure that, and it’s assisting us.
Is it not possible for criminals to use the distress call to divert you if they want to operate?
They still use it, but we have devised our or security tactics for identifying genuine ones. They have done it several times they used it as a decoy, and they attempted to attack us or even take our weapons, but we have equally devised better security management techniques to tackle that.
We are now in 2024, what should the people of Ondo State be expecting from Amotekun corps?
Improved security of life and property is our watchword in 2024, and that is why we launched the theme this year to be “Go the extra mile”. We have told you zero tolerance to crime, and we have achieved near zero tolerance to crime, so now we are going the extra mile to ensure that the entire society especially commuters and residents of Ondo State are not terrorised. Last year it was recorded that as a result of the serene secure atmosphere, the IGR of the state increased by over 200 percent, so we are looking forward to making it more investor-friendly this year. We want to make the state more investor-friendly so that investors are free, we want to be able to boost tourism in the state by ensuring adequate security in the tourist centers even in the forest that is why we are combing the forest now to get rid of the miscreants and the terrorist hiding in our forests, we want to clean it up of miscreants.
According to the media, there has been an upsurge in kidnappings in some parts of the country in recent times, as a security chief, what do you think is happening to the country’s security system?
It could be traced to one, the harsh economic situation in the country. Two, modern technology makes it unnecessary for people to keep cash at home, so even if armed robbers storm your house they are only able to get ATM card, and it is easy to trace as there is a limit to what they can get, I think they see kidnapping as a lucrative criminal way of making money and that is why we are discouraging payment of ransoms, if we face the issues of kidnappers without emotion and without payment of ransom, it will reduce, but it’s very difficult.
There is fear that the hoodlums are coming back to the southwest as the chairman of the Amotekun Commanders in the South-West, what is the corps doing to prevent this?
They have been coming to the South-West. In recent times, we have arrested over 150 of them. Only two weeks ago, we paraded 26 kidnapped suspects. A few days ago, we arrested 17 at a point. So you can see there is an upsurge of these suspected kidnappers and many of them are coming from the northern part of the country, even though they have local collaborators, but we are getting them.
What have you been doing to those local collaborators?
That was why at the last parade, we enjoined our traditional rulers and obas to desist from giving accommodation and land to unknown Fulani herders. There are registered Miyetti Allah groups that they should work with. Anybody who is looking for land should go and bring the chairman of the Miyetti Allah who will identify him, so if anything goes wrong we know whom to hold. But what they kept telling us is that these miscreants and kidnappers only come, they even attack Miyetti Allah members and rustle their cows to attack unsuspecting members of the society. So we will keep educating the traditional rulers, the Obas, the Olus not to give land to those they don’t know. The government has taken a position, that, if you want to stay in our forest reserves, come and obtain a pass, and a permit, and before we issue the permit, we will do the necessary security clearance.
There has been a clamour for the Amotekun men to be permitted to carry sophisticated weapons. How far with this?
We have not stopped appealing to the Federal Government to give us access to the same equipment that the majority of these terrorists use. If criminals are illegally carrying sophisticated weapons, I don’t see why we, who are legally established, should not. And we have started seeing traces that some other states and security agencies are already using some of the equipment, so we feel we should be allowed to use such, also in the South-West.