Operation Amotekun: How long can the blind truce last?

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Attorney-General and Minister of Justice Abubakar Malami

ALTHOUGH the federal government and the six southwestern states have agreed on the way forward for the security outfit, Amotekun, which was launched by the governors in response to security challenges in the region. However, it will be futile on the part of the federal government to stop the wind of change in the area of securing the lives and properties of Nigerians.

 

By Anayo Ezugwu

When the southwest governors launched Operation Amotekun, the new security outfit in the region on Thursday, January 9, the objectives of the outfit were clear. Governor Kayode Fayemi of Ekiti State said the operation was nothing but a community policing response to insecurity in the region.

Fayemi said: “But pending the time that the community policing strategy being put together by the Nigeria Police comes to fruition, it is clearly important that we give our people a confidence-boosting strategy. We are not creating a regional police force neither are we oblivious of steps to take in order to have state police. Yes, some of us are apologetic advocates of state police, but we are also law-abiding citizens of Nigeria. We know the process and procedure to undergo to get to that point.”

The operation was applauded by many prominent personalities in the region and beyond that even Professor Wole Soyinka, Nobel Laureate described it as a pleasant New Year gift from the governors. Speaking as a guest speaker at the Never again Conference in Lagos, Soyinka said Amotekun has restored his hope and believe in the governors.

But this celebration in the southwest appeared to be short-lived when Abubakar Malami, the

Governor Kayode Fayemi
Governor Kayode Fayemi

attorney general of the federation and minister for justice, was reported to have declared the operation illegal. A press statement alleged to have emanated from his office said that the issues of defence and security were under the exclusive list and not with the states.

The statement stated that setting up Amotekun would run contrary to the provisions of the 1999 Constitution (as amended). “As a consequence of this, no state government, whether singly or in a group has the legal right and competence to establish any form of organisation or agency for the defence of Nigeria or any of its constituent parts.

“This is sanctioned by the provision of Item 45 of the Second Schedule of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (as amended) authorising the police and other federal security services established by law to maintain law and order. The law will take its natural course in relation to excesses associated with organisation, administration and participation in Amotekun or continuous association with it as an association,” the statement said.

The declaration raised several issues and debates which tended to further divided Nigerians along regional, ethnic and religious lines. And to resolve the controversies, Bola Tinubu, national leader, All Progressives Congress, APC, in a press statement made available to Realnews on Wedneday, January 22, called on the governors and the attorney general to have a private discussion on the issue. He said Amotekun is not a threat to the unity of the nation. “Either the governors should seek an official but private meeting with the attorney general, or the attorney general can initiate the contact. Since Amotekun is their initiative, the governors bear the greater onus in seeking the meeting.

Bola Tinubu
Bola Tinubu

“The fabric of the republic has not been put at stake by Amotekun. However, that fabric could be torn by the dangerous rhetoric of those who should know better. Those claiming that this limited, inoffensive addition to security threatens the republic have taken themselves upon a madcap excursion. Those claiming that the federal government seeks to terribly suppress the South-West have also lost their compass.

“Those who occupy these two extremes have sunken into the dark recesses of fear and political paranoia that can undo a nation if such sentiments are allowed to gestate. I have initiated communication with the chairman of the South-West Governors’ Forum, Arakunrin Rotimi Akeredolu, with a view to meeting the South-West governors to explore amicable solutions to the avoidable controversy,” he said.

Likewise, Femi Falana, SAN, human rights lawyer, urged the southwest governors to submit bills on Amotekun to their Houses of Assembly. In a statement on Wednesday, January 22, Falana noted that the police had endorsed Amotekun, while the attorney general of the federation questioned its legality.

Femi Falana
Femi Falana

“Although I had cause to take issue with Malami over his legal opinion on the security outfit, I was compelled to call on each of the South-West governors to forward a bill to the House of Assembly of each state for the formation of Amotekun,” he said.

According to Falana, in the absence of an enabling legal instrument for the establishment, structure, functions, control, funding, and operation of Amotekun, various interest groups in the country have continued to express divergent views. “Amotekun is not a regional paramilitary organization, but a zonal security outfit being set up to assist the Nigeria Police Force and other security agencies in combating incessant killings, kidnapping, armed robberies and other violent crimes that are on the ascendancy in the region due to the negligence of the Federal Government to effectively police the country.

“Apart from those who are strenuously opposed to Amotekun, the concerned people in the South-West, who have embraced the security initiative are entitled to know the law setting it up. Therefore, the attorneys general in the states in the South-West should be saddled with the urgent responsibility of ensuring that the enabling laws for Amotekun are enacted by the respective Houses of Assembly without any further delay.”

But Mogaji Gboyega Adejumo, publicity secretary, Yoruba Summit Group, said the governors formed Amotekun because the federal security agencies failed in protecting people from the region. Speaking on Kaakaki on African Independent Television, AIT, on Thursday, January 23, Adejumo said the region would not sit and allow herdsmen to overrun them.

“Even when Tinubu was fighting the federal government, he was not fighting on the bases of insecurity, but on the bases of constitution and federalism. We are saying that Nigeria is not progressing because we are practicing a system of government that does not represent true federalism.

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