Operation Amotekun: Don’t support criminals terrorising South-West, ex-govs warn FG: A number of ex-South-West governors have thrown their weight behind Operation Amotekun, declaring that the new security outfit is an answer to the yearnings of the people of the region.
According to them, many lives have been lost due to a spate of killings, robberies and other criminal activities in the zone.
This came as pressure continues to mount on South-West governors to jettison the regional security initiative following the Federal Government’s declaration that the outfit was illegal.
Following a series of killings and kidnappings allegedly by 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 January 9, the governors inaugurated the outfit consisting of members of the Oodua Peoples Congress, Agbekoya, vigilante groups and hunters.
Nobel laureate, Prof Wole Soyinka, and groups, including Ohanaeze Ndigbo, the Yoruba socio-political organisation, Afenifere, and Southern Kaduna Peoples Union, lauded the governors for setting up the outfit.
However, the Attorney General of the Federation, Abubakar Malami, on Tuesday said the outfit was illegal, saying security could only be provided by the Federal Government.
The AGF in a statement said, “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 defence 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 defence of Nigeria or any of its constituent parts.
“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.”
But on Friday, ex-governors Adebayo Alao-Akala (Oyo), Gbenga Daniel (Ogun), Segun Mimiko (Ondo) and Segun Oni (Ekiti) as well as Cornelius Adebayo (Kwara) expressed their anger at Malami’s statement and warned the Federal Government against supporting criminals terrorising the South-West.
While backing the serving governors for the community policing initiative, the former governors in separate interviews with Saturday PUNCH urged the six South-West states to go to court should the Federal Government insist on stopping the outfit.
According to them, there is no better time to establish a regional security outfit that will support the conventional security agencies to check the rising security challenges facing the region.
Alao-Akala, Daniel, Mimiko, Oni and Adebayo said South-West governors must not yield to pressure to drop the initiative.
Alao-Akala knocks Malami, says govt supporting Civilian JTF
Alao-Akala described the comment of the AGF as “unwanted”.
He said, “My advice is that they should let Amotekun stay. Let me tell you one thing: as a man, you have the power of arrest. You have the power to arrest as a policeman has and then hand the criminal over to the police. After arresting criminals, Amotekun personnel will hand over them to the police. They will continue to give the police information. They will also hand over the cases that they cannot tackle over to the police.
“Amotekun is made of people who understand their terrains very well. Like I said earlier, Amotekun is the larger form of having a maiguard in your house. In this wider case, the governors decided to employ many maiguards to secure their people. It is very simple; it is like the night watchmen that you have in your area. The only difference is that this is a bigger arrangement where the governors would be paying them salaries for providing security services.”
According to him, Amotekun officials are expected to cooperate with the security agencies.
He said, “To say that they are illegal; they are not at all. It is just a way to complement the security outfit of the nation. The JTF in the North are helping the police and army to curb Boko Haram activities in Borno and Yobe states and government is paying them. If you say Operation Amotekun is illegal, it means that many people are doing what is illegal judging by the precedent.”
On whether the Federal Government should allow state police, he said, “We are not ripe and civilised to have state police yet. State police will just be like the state electoral commission; we are not ripe enough for that. People in power will be using it against their political opponents and there would be chaos everywhere. We tried it before but it failed.”
Don’t be intimidated, Mimiko, Oni urge govs
Mimiko and Oni urged South-West governors not to be intimidated by the Federation Government’s decision on the outfit.
Mimiko, who said Amotekun had been embraced by the entire people of the region, irrespective of political, religious or ethnic affiliation, expressed confidence the outfit would drastically address the security challenges facing the zone.
Read Also: Ibori loot: UK renews bid to seize £117m
He said, “It is only the court that can interpret the legality or illegality of the operation. For me, the idea should not be jettisoned. The operation is in form of community policing and I believe it will guarantee security in the region.
“The personnel would not carry arms, they would be gathering intelligence for the police. I don’t have any doubt in my mind that the operation would reduce criminality.
“What the governors have done is in the interest of the security of the region and the entire country and I don’t have any doubt in my mind that those opposing the operation today would embrace it later.”
Oni said the Federal Government should encourage other zones in to emulate Operation Amotekun.
Oni, who said Amotekun was a statement of the people’s loss of confidence in the country’s security apparatus, said the governors should sue the Federal Government in case it wanted to serve as stumbling block to the outfit.
The ex-national deputy chairman (South) of the All Progressives Congress, said, “Amotekun is a necessity because we cannot leave ourselves hollow. Kidnappers will just come, embarrass people, kidnap our people and rob our people. They would manhandle our people, they would debase our women and so on. It is not right.
“My advice to the governors is to go on with Amotekun. If the Federal Government does not want to agree with them, they should go to court. They should go and test it at the court just like the governor of Ondo State, Mr Rotimi Akeredolu, has said.
“The Federal Government should encourage as many Amotekuns as possible. The Yoruba have a saying that ‘a man identifies a snake and a woman kills it, the important thing is that the snake should not escape’. Criminals should not hold us to ransom in any part of the country.
“The other parts of the country should be encouraged to have their own equivalents of Amotekun because if there is security in one part of the country and it is not in others, it is still not safe.
Insecurity turning S’West to endangered region – Daniel
Daniel said insecurity was already turning the South-West to an endangered zone.
He said, “No doubt the South-West was gradually becoming an endangered region in terms of the safety of life and property, and before this gets out of hand, a quick and organised fix like Amotekun is desirable.
“There is practically nothing wrong with establishing the regional security outfit and other similar organisations especially since they are meant to complement the efforts of the Nigerian Police and other security agencies which in practical terms appear to have been overstretched.
“On the legal and ethical controversy, I see Amotekun as putting a structure around what has been in existence for several years.
“In fact, the initiative of the governors brings informal security outfits under the law, so it cannot be an infraction of the constitution.
“People and communities have engaged private security concerns to protect them over the years.
“The governors in their respective states are considered the chief executives and security officers, except you are now stripping them of the ‘executive’ titles. By that right and power also derived from the constitution, they can decide what form of security architecture that is suitable for their states and can sign agreements with anyone and any states in pursuit of that.
“States do sign cooperative agreements on joint economic initiatives. Lagos and Kebbi states produced ‘Lake Rice’ in a sort of cooperative arrangement. There have been cooperation on border towns joint development etc, so I see no reasons why states cannot cooperate on security which threatens them as a people of common history and heritage.”
Also, Adebayo said there was nothing wrong if a cluster of states decided to form a security outfit to guard and protect their people.
He said, “Generally, in accord with the nature of federation and along the lines of what we have in this same country, there is nothing strange, new or improper about state or region or community organising means of protecting themselves.
“I don’t think it is improper for state governments working in cooperation and collaboration to achieve what the Federal Government has not succeeded in achieving. I don’t think it is fair to expect states, communities and people to look away while events are taking place, which jeopardise peace and threaten their lives and bring misunderstanding between people of different backgrounds in our country.
“If the Federal Government has not succeeded in protecting us, should the states fold its arms and do nothing? I don’t think anything has been done that endangers the work of the Nigeria Police.
“If anything, this is supposed to help the masses; they cannot take justice into their own hands but they can take protection to their own hands without disobeying the rules and laws of the federation. They have to protect their citizens, land, industries, farms and personal holdings within communities, which the Federal Government is not in a position or may not be willing to undertake in details.
“So, there is nothing underground about it. Decisions were taken over time before they gave effect to it. I believe if there was anything wrong with what they were planning, they should have been warned by the Attorney General rather than wait until they had completed and launched it. If all those had happened, I don’t think we will be in this position.”
Police can no longer handle insecurity – Aluko
Meanwhile, a former Deputy Governor of Ekiti State, Mr Abiodun Aluko, told Saturday PUNCH that Amotekun should be allowed to work with the police for a better security of the people in the region.
Aluko said, “Ordinarily, Operation Amotekun was established to complement the efforts of the Nigeria Police and other security agencies because we are under-policed. The policemen and other government security officials around do know the terrain and the culture of the people.
“When we were much younger, the police had people supplying them with information. The police did not have equipment to get to rural area and it is almost like that even now. All over the world, security officials work with information.
“Obviously, the security situation in Nigeria now is more than what the police alone can handle. And the issue of state police has been at the front burner for a long time.
“Governors are the chief security officers but they cannot control the commissioners of police in their various states because the commissioners of police would still need to get approval from the Inspector General of Police.
“Malami doesn’t know the law more than Prof Itse Sagay (SAN); Femi Falana (SAN) and other senior lawyers. So, I don’t agree with him that Amotekun is illegal.
“I believe the police should be made to work with Amotekun. Amotekun is okay but they should not allow it to degenerate to confrontation between the South-West and the Federal Government.”
Group gives Tinubu 24 hours to speak out
A South-West association, Save Lagos Group, has given the National Leader of the All Progressives Congress, Bola Tinubu, 24 hours to reveal his position on Amotekun.
Tinubu, who is seen as the leader of the South-West by many, has remained silent on Amotekun which was launched by South-West governors last week.
In a statement on Friday, the Convener, Save Lagos Group, Adeniyi Sulaiman, said the group was giving Tinubu 24 hours to speak up.
Sulaiman asked Tinubu, who is an advocate of restructuring, to be courageous regardless of his rumoured Presidential ambition.
The activist rubbished threats by northern groups like the Miyetti Allah Kautal Hore which stated that supporting Amotekun may cost the South-West the Presidency in 2023.
He said it was hypocritical of the Federal Government to allow Shariah Police, Hisbah, to operate in more than 10 northern states while Amotekun, which is operating only in the South-West is illegal.
The SLG convener said the safety of the people of the South-West was worth more important than any Presidential ambition.
He commended several personalities like Nobel Laureate, Prof. Wole Soyinka; Afenifere chieftain, Chief Ayo Debanjo; activist, Mr. Femi Falana (SAN), Chief Olu Falae, Otunba Gani Adams and several others for coming out to speak for the people.
Lagos lawyer drags FG to court over Amotekun
A Lagos-based lawyer, Malcolm Omirhobo, on Friday approached the Federal High Court in Lagos to challenge Federal Government’s opposition to Amotekun.
In his suit, Omirhobo urged the court to declare the Federal Government’s opposition to Amotekun as discriminatory, particularly as some states in the North have similar security outfits.
Joined as defendants in the suit are the Government of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, the President, the AGF, National Assembly; Inspector-General of Police, Nigerian Army, the Navy and the Nigerian Air Force.
Also joined as defendants were the governments of Lagos, Ogun, Ondo, Osun, Oyo, Ekiti, Zamfara, Kano, Sokoto, Katsina, Bauchi, Borno, Jigawa, Kebbi, Yobe, Kaduna, Niger and Gombe states, alongside their respective attorneys general.
Among others, Omirhobo wants the court to declare that, “It is discriminatory, improper, illegal, unlawful, unconstitutional and undemocratic for the Nigerian Government to support the transformation, institutionalisation and implementation of Sharia and the use of Sharia Police (HISBAH) in northern states, while declaring illegal, the establishment of Operation Amotekun, a secular, vigilante security outfit, set up within the context of a federal system of government to augment and complement the Nigeria Police.”
The court has yet to fix a date for hearing.