*issue of insecurity will be over once Hunters Bill is passed into law
*seek support of Northern Governors to end insecurity in region
*say members are part of Amotekun
*confess that charms have helped in fighting bandits
*9th Senate committed to our bill
*we should pray for our country
Ambassador Osatimehin Joshua, is the Commander General of the Hunters Group of Nigeria. In this interview with our reporter AUSTIN OWOICHO, he talked about his group and outlined some of its importance and achievements.
Kindly tell us your names and position?
My name is Ambassador Osatimehin Joshua. I am the Commander General of the Hunters Group of Nigeria.
Give us a brief background of your group?The Hunters Group of Nigeria is an umbrella body of hunters group and it is duly registered with the Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC) and to the glory of God, our bill is currently before the National Assembly, precisely the 9th Senate.
The first reading was passed into law on July 15th last year for the Hunters Group of Nigeria to be enacted into the Nigeria security accession and five months after the second reading was also passed by the 9th senate for the Hunter Group of Nigeria to work under enabling authority by the National Assembly.
We appreciate the leadership of the Senate for the passage of the bill. It shows that they are committed to working in line with the transformation agenda of Mr. President in the area of securing lives and property at the grassroots.
This bill known as the Nigerian Hunter Council Bill 2020 and sponsored by Senator Biodun Olujimi from Ekiti South among others is to create synergy between you and other security agencies. How far have you gone in creating this synergy?Let me reflect on what one of the Senators said during the passage of the bill. He said this bill was long overdue judging from our antecedent. When there was nothing at stake, hunters have been doing domestic security to save lives and property in the community.
We have been having cordial working relationship with constituted authority right from time; especially with the police, Civil Defense and the DSS.
We already have a mutual agreement with the Inspector General of Police for hunters to be trained in all the police training schools across the country. This to manage and tame insecurity in Nigeria.
We have been doing our best to work in line with the police. For example our men in Kogi State discovered bandits den in one of the forests in the state. The state governor, Yahaya Bello even rewarded our state commander with three motorcycles and a licensed gun to aid his operations.
Even our office in Kogi State was donated by the governor. Again, just last week, they kidnapped some people in Osun and our men were able to rescue six people, under the umbrella of Amotekun.
Do you work hand in hand with Amotekun or what is your relationship with the group?We are part of Amotekun. We are the major stakeholders in Amotekun, eighty per cent of our hunters in the South West were incorporated into Amotekun; my commander in Ondo State was the one that recieved the vehicles that was donated to Amotekun.
He is even the commander of Amotekun in Ondo State. In Osun State for instance, during the EndSARS protest, it was our men and officers who stopped the hoodlums from hijacking the peaceful protest.
Even the governor acknowledged us and compensated us with motorcycles to aid our operations to carry out our duty easily.
Why is the local hunter group not successful and organized in the North like we have in the South West since your group has a national outlook?We have stated. We wrote a memo to the governor of Ekiti State who is the chairman of the Governors Forum and he promised to address the issue and make it a regional security network. We have written also to governor Lalong of Plateau State who happens to be the chairman of the Northern Governors Forum, our letter is with him at the moment.
I want to appeal as a major player on security issue to all stakeholders in the country, especially the governors from the North that we need their support, not only in terms of money.
We need their moral support so that what we have achieved in the West and the South, we can also achieve in the north.What are your challenges so far?Our challenge as volunteers is the fact that we have been carrying most of our activities by individual sponsorship. Even the bill at the National Assembly was something carried out by our sole sponsorship, including our secretariat.
We are the ones that paid the bills to treat some of our wounded members on the line of duty, either fighting the Boko Haram , or engaging kidnappers and other criminal elements in the society.
So we are appealing to those in authority to come to our aid. We are hunters, we cannot hunt with our bare hands; we need sophisticated weapons, because we have discovered that the weapons used by these criminal elements are more superior and sophisticated than what some of our security operatives have.
So we need the assistance of government in terms of weapons, good offices, and welfare, including other logistic like motorcycles and vehicles to be able to penetrate the forests properly. These are some of the major challenges confronting us.
Talking about weapons based on the fact that you have poor weapons, do you train your men on how to use modern weapons?Not at the moment, because we don’t want to take the laws into our hands.
So how do you intend to fight the bandits when you are not trained on weapons?Yes, eighty per cent of hunters are trained officers in terms of handling weapons because we know the bush, hunting is our hobby. I remember when we visited the Lamido of Adamawa, he pointed out that Nigeria got it wrong in area of security because they neglected the traditional way of securing the community, which is by hunters.
I can assure you that some of our men are some of the best shooters in the country, because they are hunters and that is what they have been doing all their lives. So what we need is assistance and support with sophisticated weapons to take the fight to these bandits wherever they might be across the country.
Governor Zulum of Borno State recently made the move of recruiting 10,000 local hunters to help fight the insurgency in his state, promising to arm them with sophisticated weapons, which met opposition from some section of the public, so do you think the people are safe with weapons in the hands of these men?
They are safe. The reason why people raised that alarm is that maybe they might be members of the Boko Haram. But in our group, we always ensure that we do proper screening before we recruit members of the Hunters Group.
The emir or traditional ruler of your place must sign and guarantee you first. Again, we won’t just give arms to anybody anyhow in the group.
We have a special department and panel that handles weapons. We must first train you, know your psychological State of mind before handing you a weapon.
So our operational department is in charge of handling weapons effectively.
The Peace Corps had a challenge of having its bill passed at the National Assembly and the corps was accused of corruption during its recruitment do you have such challenges?One of the first things we tell any interested member is that they are not here to make money but rather to serve our fatherland. Our membership form is just two thousand Naira; you have your ID card after capturing you in our data.
Again, even if you have a million Naira and come to us, we won’t just admit you into the group without approval from the traditional ruler of your town or state. Hunters here in Nigeria are known to make use of traditional charms and magic in hunting. Is the Hunters Group of Nigeria and its members making use of such traditional means of fighting these bandits and other criminal elements in the society?
Everything is all about technology now and you can achieve a lot with it. I can assure you that we believe and depend on God. Either people say we use jazz or juju, we have achieved a lot. No matter what you do, if God does not court your efforts, you won’t succeed.
But I want to assure the public that once the Hunters Group of Nigeria is properly commissioned under an enabling law, there will no longer be issue of insecurity in the country.
Nigerian hunters are capable of protecting the country.
What message do you have for Nigerians who are excited that the hunters who know the forest and bushy terrains are finally going to be drafted to fight insecurity from the grassroots? We have good a pleasant message for Nigerians this year that they should redouble their trust in this country.
You know Americans always say God bless our country. So Nigerians should always pray for the country and its leaders. We should pray for President Muhammadu Buhari to succeed and pray for our country as a whole.
We also want Nigerians to pray for us the hunters so that we can succeed in carrying out our task successfully. Nigeria is a great country and we can fight any obstacle that comes our way as long as we remain prayerful and believe in ourselves and our efforts.
We are trying; all the other security operatives and agencies are trying their best. They all need our prayers and supports.
How long have you been the Commander General of the Hunters Group of Nigeria and what are some of your achievements? I am the first person to be the Commander General of the organization. I conceived this idea in 2016 during the 8th Senate where I did my MSC on Security and Strategic Studies. The Senate was deliberating on how local hunters can provide solution to the insecurity in the country. I wrote a memo to the committee under National Security and Intelligence under the chairmanship of Senator Aminu Jaji from Zamfara State who advised me to write a letter to the NSA which I did and he replied us and agreed that the hunters could be a lasting solution but that the hunters are not properly structured.
Anyone then could claim to be a hunter in the country because they were not properly registered. So I went to the Corporate Affairs Commission and found out what it would cost to register the group, which I did. So when we registered it, we stared recruiting our men across the states in the country.
So by 2018, all the representatives of hunters across the country decided to elect me as their commander which I first objected, pointing out that my secretary who has more knowledge on security issues because he is a retired AIG of Police should be elected but the secretary called me aside and told me that I should take the position after pointing out the fact that he was now too old to handle the position.
That was how I was elected as the commander. So to the glory of God I have been able with the support of my officers and men carried out a lot of reforms in the organization, just as we have in other countries with hunter associations, like the hunters association in the US, and the hunter council in the UK.
Again, part of my achievements was the reading of our bill at the Senate and by the grace of God, we hope it will be passed into law very soon.
Yet again, I have been able to create synergy with other security agencies like the police, the Civil Defense and the DSS.
This collaboration so far, has been great and positive, including our participation in the Amotekun security formation across the South West.
What is your relationship with the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) Minister in terms of security provision?
Well, we are still working on it. I have not been able to have an audience with the minister at the moment. Although I have met with the Federal House Member representing the FCT last year during a condolence visit.
He said he had heard of us and our successful operations in Abaji where we rescued some kidnapped victims. I believe the minster would come to our support very soon and support us in carrying out our job effectively. I have visited some area councils in the FCT and met with some of their officials. We are definitely working towards that.
Finally, how successful is your relationship and collaboration with traditional rulers across the country?Our relationship has been cordial and positive. Most of the portraits you see here are from the traditional rulers who are happy with what we are doing. They are happy to be associated with us and ready to assist and support us whenever we have issues or incidents in their areas.
They have played a strong fatherly role and advised us on what to do and how to succeed in our mission and pray for our success daily.