PERSPECTIVE – Okowa and Delta Hawk initiative


Delta Governor, Dr. Ifeanyi Okowa.

By Felix Ofou
26 August 2020

When Governors of South West Nigeria announced the setting up of a regional security outfit, known as Amotekun (Leopard), it seemed a long shot given the delicate nature of policing which is thought to be constitutionally the exclusive responsibility of the Federal Government. Many saw it as an attempt at foisting secession, or at best a move aimed at securing self determination; a part of the campaign by the governors for true federalism and restructuring of Nigeria. Of course, pundits predicted almost correctly, that the Federal Government was going to move against the South West governors.

This was because President Muhamnadu Buhari and his All Progressives Congress (APC) led central government had been very sensitive when an earlier attempt was muted by the Pan Igbo sociocultural group, Ohanaeze and other associated subgroups for a regional security outfit in the South East. Buhari, rather than acquiesce to the demand for a South East regional outfit instead launched a military campaign, code named Operation Python Dance to quell what his administration perceived as rising insurrection, and which has led to the killing of many agitators. Therefore, the outcry that greeted the announcement of the setting up of Amotekun followed what seemed like a familiar pattern.
And, matters were not helped when the Attorney General of the Federation (AGF) and Justice Minister, Abubakar Malami, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), declared the move to set up a regional outfit in the South West as unconstitutional. Perhaps, it was the fact that five out of six governors belong to the ruling APC that made reason to prevail. It could also have been the insistence of the governors that forced the Federal Government to a round table, thereby foreclosing a constitutional crisis and a looming threat to the federal structure in place in Nigeria. Ultimately, reason prevailed and the federal government agreed to the setting up of Amotekun. Any further misgiving about the stance of Abuja was dispelled by the actual take-off of Amotekun in Ondo State in a colourful ceremony.

But, the Inspector General of Police (IGP), Mohammed Abubakar Adamu, while not opposing the idea entirely stood against the setting up of the pan-Yoruba security outfit on the ground that it runs counter to the Police Act which provides for one national police force. The IGP instead proposed a state structure which unarguably mitigates the overwhelming behemoth which Amotekun was meant to be. Again, it could be said that the APC factor prevailed as the South West governors soon agreed to make Amotekun a state affair. However, Delta State Government took everyone by surprise in announcing the setting up a security outfit code named Operation Delta Hawk. The announcement was devoid of rancour and flexing of muscles with the federal authorities. Rather, it had the immediate blessing of IGP Adamu who saw it as an opportunity to unveil his plan for community policing in the country. Delta State Government on Tuesday, May 19, 2020 said it had begun moves to establish a security force to check rising insecurity in the state.

Secretary to the State Government (SSG), Mr Chiedu Ebie, made this known at a news conference in Asaba, disclosing that the state government was concerned about the rising insecurity in the state occasioned by herders-farmers clashes, kidnapping and other violent crimes. Ebie remarked that the Governor, Senator Ifeanyi Arthur Okowa, was worried about cases of death and injuries resulting from the clashes and therefore, resolved to set up a security outfit to be controlled by the state in managing the security challenges.

The SSG who was flanked by Commissioner for Information, Mr Charles Aniagwu, and the Chief Press Secretary to the Governor, Mr Olisa Ifeajika, at the press briefing said that the new security outfit would work with the vigilante groups and other security agencies in actualising its objective. “This matter has been under the focus of the State Government since inception of this administration and had informed the appointments and governance structure that has been created since then.

It included the creation of Office of Special Adviser (Peace-Building and Conflict Resolution), appointments of persons of Northern extraction and formation of Vigilante Groups in various communities. “At the same time, we have been very active in the use of intelligence and a recent outcome of this application is the demolition and relocation of the Abraka Market which had turned into a meeting point and haven for criminally-minded persons.”We have also been quite active in engaging with herders and their host communities to ensure mutual trust and peaceful co-existence through the offices of some of the political appointees”, Ebie stated.

The SSG stressed that the government was ready to rise to the challenge by establishing an independent security outfit to further deal with the challenges, adding that a Bill would be sent to the House of Assembly to give it a legal backing. “More importantly and to deal with the security challenges, the state government has resolved to establish a joint security task force which will be drawn from the existing security agencies (in collaboration with the respective vigilantes)”, Ebie said. “But, it will operate under an independent structure that will be backed by legislation. Already, a bill to this effect has been sent to the House of Assembly and has scaled the second reading. “As tasking as the funding requirements of this new body might be, the state government sees it as a realistic and inevitable response to the current security challenge and other related forms of violence. The Joint Security Outfit has been christened Operation Delta Hawk (OPDH),” he stated.

Ebie called on the people not to resort to self-help in the event of any attack as such response was capable of precipitating endless cycle of violence which would do no good to anybody. “In the meantime, we want to reiterate that the state government is completely averse to resort to self-help on the part of any party as such response is capable of precipitating endless cycle of violence from which no one can profit or benefit. “On behalf of the state government, we sincerely condole with the families affected by the recent conflicts and urge Deltans to give us the peaceful social space for our various initiatives to run their course, including collaborating with the Federal Government to find solution to this national challenge. “The process of establishing the new security outfit is being worked out and we will brief Deltans further as we get more details,” he stated.

Three days later, Delta Governor, Sen. Ifeanyi Okowa, inaugurated two committees on community policing to give effect to the birth of the Operation Delta Hawk, saying it was in response to yearnings of citizens for local policing apparatus to check rising security challenges in the state. The committees are State Community Policing Advisory Committee (SCPAC) and State Community Policing Committee (SCPC) with high powered, influential and relevant personalities as members. At the ceremony in Asaba, Okowa said that raising the committees was to deepen the security architecture in the state to enable insecurity issues to be nipped in the bud.
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