The Federal Government has declared the South-West security outfit, Operation Amotekun, illegal. The Attorney General of the Federation, Abubakar Malami (SAN), made the government’s position known in a statement on Tuesday by his spokesman, Dr Umar Gwandu.
Inside reports suggest that the South-West governors would in the next few days meet and might resort to legal action against the AGF’s pronouncement. Following serial killings and kidnapping allegedly by the Fulani herdsmen last year, the South-West governors, at a summit convened by the Development Agenda for Western Nigeria in June agreed to set up Operation Amotekun.
On Thursday, the governors inaugurated the security outfit, which would comprise the Oodua Peoples Congress, the vigilante groups and local hunters. The Nobel laureate, Prof Wole Soyinka, and groups, including the Ohanaeze Ndigbo; the Yoruba socio-political organisation, Afenifere, and Southern Kaduna Peoples Union, lauded the governors for setting up the security outfit.
However, some elements within the Presidency and the police high command are not favorably disposed to the regional outfit because they consider it as part of restructuring agenda which the South-West has been clamoring for. On Tuesday, the Federal Government finally came out with its verdict on the outfit about one week after its inauguration. It said it was not carried along while the outfit was being put in place.
The statement read, “The setting up of the paramilitary organisation called Amotekun is illegal and runs contrary to the provisions of the Nigerian law. The Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 (as amended) has established the Army, Navy and Air Force, the Police and other numerous paramilitary organisations for the purpose of the defense of Nigeria.
“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 defense 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) authorizing the Police and other Federal Government 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. Finally, it is important to put on record that the Office of the Attorney General and Minister of Justice was not consulted on the matter. If it had, proper information and guidance would have been offered to ensure that Nigeria’s defense and corporate entity are preserved at all times.”
Malami noted that Nigeria was a sovereign entity governed by laws meant to sustain its corporate existence as a constitutional democracy.
He said although the nation is a federation of states, the Federal Government superintends over matters of national interest. He added, “The division of executive and legislative authority between the Federal and state governments has been clearly defined by the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 (as amended).
“It is against the same background that matters relating to the peace, order and good government of the Federation and in particular, the defense of the country, are enshrined in the Exclusive Legislative List. “The Second Schedule in Item 17 deals with defense. This is a matter that is within the exclusive operational competence of the Federal Government of Nigeria. No other authority at the state level, whether the executive or legislature, has the legal authority over defense.”
It was learnt that one of the options the South-West governors were considering when Malami made the pronouncement was a legal action.
Amotekun is a reality, no going back, says Ogun govt When contacted, the Ogun State Government described the AGF’s position as “a mere statement from another government official.” The Chief Press Secretary to the state governor, Kunle Somorin, in an interview with newsmen even said the AGF might be taken to court.
He said, “It is a mere statement by another government official. Other political leaders across the South-West have spoken in favor of Amotekun. Other regions are planning to emulate South-West governors on the ideas and ideals of Amotekun. “There’s no going back. We can challenge it in the law court. The AGF must know the truth that Amotekun is a reality, nothing is changing it. There’s no going back on Amotekun.”
But the Special Adviser to Governor Rotimi Akeredolu on Security Matters, Alhaji Jimoh Dojumo, who spoke to newsmen said the state government had yet to be informed. But the state governor, in a telephone interview with Channels Television, said the South-West governors had not met on Malami’s statement.
“We have not met. When we meet, we will react appropriately, but one thing is clear, laws are not made in the office of the AGF. He is only meant to interpret the law,” he said. The Chief Press Secretary to Osun State governor, Ismail Omipidan, said Amotekun was a joint initiative of all South-West governors.
“Amotekun is a joint operation. The decision was taken jointly. And I believe the governors will also meet to review whatever position if the needs arise to do that,” Omipidan said. But the state governor, in a telephone interview with Channels Television, said the South-West governors had not met on Malami’s statement.
“We have not met. When we meet, we will react appropriately, but one thing is clear, laws are not made in the office of the AGF. He is only meant to interpret the law,” he said. A renown historian, Prof Banji Akintoye, in an interview with one of our correspondents, said the Yoruba would in court challenge the declaration of Amotekun as illegal by the Federal Government.