It is not strange this days to hear or read the news of arrest of northerners in the southern parts of the country under the guise of checking the activities of herdsmen.
The group that has now stood out so glaringly in squeezing the space that is free for northerners to freely mingle like every other citizen in the South-West, is the Amotekun.
Day after day and week after week, one reads stories about how the Amotekun guys go about arresting, in most of the reported cases, only northerners for being in that part of the country.
Well, if northerners commit crimes wherever they are, they should answer for it.
But it is something else when these arrests are based solely on stereotypes and ethnic profiling, as we have learnt has happened to about 45 northerners who travelled to Okitipupa and were arrested, simply for coming from the North. No weapon or any incriminating item was found on any of them, going by media reports about the arrest.
Their only offence was that “Over 45 group of Northerners (sic) were reportedly sighted in the community by the residents,” as Vanguard newspaper reported it.
The report said they were brought into the town for unspecified purpose around 9pm on Thursday and dumped around army barracks.
The local government chairman and Amotekun were subsequently invited.
“They were reportedly rounded up and prevented from going into the community,” the report said.
The paper also reported the chairman of the local council, Igbekele Akinrinwa, as blaming a native of the town for facilitating the northerners trip to the community, disclosing that the said facilitator had been arrested.
In all this, nobody, from the chairman to the locals and the Amotekun, accused any of the 45 northerners of committing any crime or being in possession of any item or article that could show intent to go against the law.
At the time they were arrested, the law allowed every Nigerian to move freely in any part of the country – and that has not changed.
Now, two days after the arrest, we got to understand that the men had been handed over to Amotekun by the state police command – To do what with them that the police cannot do under the law? Only God knows!
This is as Sahara Reporters reported it today: “The Public Relations Officer of the state police command, Mr Tee-Leo Ikoro, in an interview with Punch also confirmed the incident, saying the suspects had been handed over to the Amotekun Corps.”
The PPRO was then quoted thus: “The men are mostly northerners who said they wanted to undergo military training in the barracks to be security guards but the commander did not allow them because he did not have a signal to that effect. But since there was no place to keep them in Okitipupa, they have been handed over to Amotekun.”
This will be the first time one is hearing that the police handed over suspects to vigilante. To go and do what with them? If those northerners were lying about their intention in Okitipupa, is Amotekun the one that can do the job of digging out the truth better than the Nigeria Police?
Even in a situation where the Nigerian constitution, for instance, allows for state police and assuming, Amotekun is a state police, federal police will not have handed over suspects in their custody to the state police in such a matter that they have jurisdiction to investigate.
Now, the federal police handing over suspects to an ethnic vigilante that sits logic on its head and creates room for suspicion about a bigger ethnic agenda in quarters we least expected.
If the South-West does not like Buhari’s administration, Nigerians from his part of the country should not be brazenly targeted for persecution by ethnic groups enjoying the support of some elements of our law enforcement agencies.
What is to be done is to turn the Amotekun into an army of voters to fight for the leader that the South-West so desires, come 2023.
The federal government should intervene and arrest this trend from degenerating. In other countries, the police officers who handed over those people to vigilante would have, by now, been reprimanded.
Azare wrote in from Bauchi State