Emotions ran high on Tuesday across four regions of Southwest, Southeast, Southsouth and Northcentral following the declaration of the South Western Security Network code-named Amotekun as illegal by Attorney-General and Minister of Justice Abubakar Malami.
Political leaders and leaders of socio-cultural organisations decried the statement credited to the minister as an after-thought, warning that, his threat has compounded the challenges of lopsided federalism in Nigeria.
Afenifere leaders Pa Rueben Fasoranti and Senator Ayo Fasanmi said Malami wanted to rubbish a robust regional idea that gave birth to the security network.
To 94-year-old Fasanmi, the minister deserved condemnation for making a reckless statement, which amounted to gross injustice.
He said: “I have just heard about it now. I am worried about the statement. That statement should not emanate from a minister of justice when he is not a minister of injustice. What does he mean? What the six governors of the Southwest have done was in order.”
Fasanmi advised Southwest leaders, particularly the governors, to take Malami to court.
He flayed the minister for lack of sympathy for the region, pointing out that Southwest had groaned continually under the yoke of kidnapping, armed robbery and herdsmen/farmers’ clashes.
Fasanmi stressed: “The people of the Southwest cannot sleep with two eyes closed. I don’t think Mr. President will support the minister’s statement. It is anti-people. There is even the need for the decentralisation of policing. We should be praying for Nigeria. I don’t know what I will tell Awo when I meet him.”
Fasoranti, who clarified that Afenifere was not contacted by the governors, observed that Malami decided to oppose a good idea.
He said: “Afenifere was not involved and do, we cannot pass any comment. It is a good idea, but, we were not invited. It was deliberate that they should exclude us. Afenifere is an important organisation that has played noble roles in Yorubaland.”
A combative Chief Ayo Adebanjo said the statement by Malami conveyed the impression that the Federal Government was planning to move against the region despite its support for President Muhammadu Buhari.
He said the reckless statement was discriminatory and condemnable, adding that it underscored the minister’s insensitivity to the plight of Yoruba.
Adebanjo said Southwest All Progressives Congress (APC) leaders should reflect on the critical statement, adding that it reflected the disposition of the Federal Government to their region.
He stressed: “That is to show to APC leaders from the Southwest what the Federal Government thinks about them. To Malami, there is nothing wrong with the local organisations in the North. But, we cannot protect ourselves in the Southwest clearly and cleanly.
“I am not surprised. All the Yoruba people in APC should learn this lesson that these people do not wish us in the Southwest. God will save Nigeria. ”
Former Oyo State Deputy Governor Iyiola Oladokun said the governors of the Southwest did not violate the constitution, adding that they only responded to the region’s yearning for improved security.
He recalled that kidnapping, armed robbery and other security challenges motivated the setting up of Amotekun by the region to protect lives and property against this menace.
Oladokun said: “I am convinced that the six governors have said that Amotekun will not be parallel police. They acted under the aspect of the constitution that places on them the responsibility for maintenance of law and order as chief security officers of their states. I will like to see the statement to be able to say whether the AG is right or wrong.”
Elder statesman Senator Biyi Durojaye retorted: “Which aspect of the law does it violate? Did Agbekoya not exist in Yorubaland before?”
Malami’s reaction too late, says Okorie
United Progressives Party (UPP) National Chairman Chief Chekwas Okorie believes the Attorney General’s declaration is coming too late since the security outfit has already been launched. He said the best course of action open to the government now is to go to court to challenge the move.
His words: “I don’t have the details or the reason why he declared it illegal, but since he is not a court of law — he is only the Attorney General – so he would have to go to court because Amotekun has taken off. It is not Amotekun or the Southwest regional governors that would go to court; it is the Federal Government that would do so.
“If I were in a position to advise him, I would not have asked him to go in that direction, because it appears to be a hasty move. Everyone would agree that the security situation in the country requires an extraordinary measure, especially at the community level. Since state and community policing has not been given the impetus that was expected from the government, the states decided to do something for themselves, and it is obvious that there are similar outfits elsewhere in the country, including the North and especially Kano State where Hisbah or sharia police exist; though not as organised as Amotekun. There are vigilante groups everywhere. When Benue State enacted the Anti-Grazing Law and the Miyetti Allah challenged it in court, they lost. The state recruited some people to enforce that law, which could also be likened to local police.
“I would advise the government to accept this Western Nigeria Security Network. Challenging it would worsen an already restive situation and that is what Nigeria does not need at this time. The government should either come up with its community or state police or allow this one to operate. If it is a good model and it can control crime in the Southwest region, then others will copy it.
“This is because if there is security across the country, the Federal Government would benefit from it. The country would be secure and people can do business without threat to their lives and properties. So, my advice to the Attorney General, therefore, is to go to court, if he feels strongly about it.
“Many observers have already described what the Southwest governors did as constitutional, so to the best of my knowledge, the Attorney General is just raising tension by declaring it illegal. There is a general feeling already that our judiciary has been cornered by a certain section of the country, so I don’t see how the Attorney General’s move would promote stability.”
Yoruba leader: AGF’s statement is arrant nonsense
Afenifere Renewal Group Chairman Chief Olawale Oshun described Malami’s statement as rubbish.
Oshun said Malami should also declare Hisbah Corps, (a religious police force responsible for the enforcement of Sharia) and Civilian Joint Task Force in the Northeast illegal.
“He is talking arrant nonsense. Let him declare Hisbah police in the 10 Northern states illegal and also let him declare the Civilian Joint Task Force in the Northeast. He is talking rubbish, arrant nonsense. Those are not Nigerian police institutions and they are not Nigerian security institutions but they were created because there is a need; Amotekun was created because there is a need for it. He is talking nonsense,” Chief Oshun said.
The former Chief Whip of the House of Representatives urged the governors of the Southwest to go ahead with the implementation of the Amotekun.
“That is what the people of the region want. The governors must go ahead. This country belongs to all of us. They must go ahead,” he said.
Akintoye: he does not like Southwest
Yoruba World Congress leader Prof. Banji Akintoye said Malami’s statement shows one thing very conclusively that the people controlling Federal Government do not have the welfare of the people Southwest at heart and “we will look at that and decide what we want to do.”
Akintoye, a renowned historian, said the Northerners have created many society-controlled organisations in the north.
“They went to create Sharia policemen that can arrest anybody. We, in the South, never questioned that; nobody in Nigeria questioned that. What we have set up is not another police force. We have not set up anything that conflicts with what the constitution provides for and so, we are in a good condition to defend our interests now, that is all. The Yoruba people must be ready to defend their interest under the law.
“This does not mean a confrontation with the Federal government. Lead us now, and we will follow you. Can a man elected by a people from x states refuse to defend his people when they are under pressure? The answer is No. the governors have a job to do and we look forward to them to do it and as they do it, they are assured of our supports,” he said.
Southern, Middle Belt leaders urge governors to ignore Malami
The Southern and Middle Belt Leaders Forum (SMBLF) yesterday urged the Southwest governors to ignore Malami.
The leaders, in a statement, described the statement of the minister as an abuse of power.
The statement was signed by Yinka Odumakin, South West; Gen CRU Iherike, Southeast; Senator Bassey Henshaw, Southsouth and Dr Isuwa Dogo, Middle Belt.
SMBLF leaders stated: “The attention of the Southern and Middle Belt Leaders Forum(SMBLF) has been drawn to the illegal diktat by the Attorney – General of the Federation, Mr Abubakar Malami (SAN) declaring Amotekun, the South West security (not military or Police) outfit illegal.
“We consider his action as an abuse of office to suppress the rights of federating units to secure themselves and in furtherance of the widely – held suspicion that sections of the country are deliberately being rendered vulnerable for herdsmen and other criminals by the Federal Government.
“We ask the governors of the South West to ignore Malami and allow him to go to court to challenge their decision as he cannot constitute himself a court over elected governors. We are not under military rule.
“We insist that what the governors have done is what individuals and neighbourhoods can legally do to secure their lives and property.
“The right to preserve your life cannot be under any exclusive list other than the list of those who have no value for human lives.
“The ultra vire action of the AGF has further exposed Nigeria as a country under command and control and governed by a conquest mentality.
“We ask Malami to tell us what makes Amotekun illegal and Hisbah legal.
“He should further explain to us what makes Civilian JTF legal in the North East where there is war and in Zamfara and Katina and Kano where there is no war, while Amotekun is his only illegal take.
“This is a defining moment to decide if we are under segregation and different laws in the country.”
‘AGF’s statement shocking’
Constitutional lawyer Ike Ofuokwu said the AGF’s statement was shocking and contradictory.
He said there was nothing illegal about Operation Amotekun, just as the Civilian Joint Task Force in the Northeast is not illegal.
Ofuokwu said: “The AGF’s position is strange to everybody. The purported declaration of Amotekun as illegal is stranger than fiction.
“If they declare Operation Amotekun illegal, it means the Civilian Joint Task Force in the Northeast, the O’dua Peoples Congress (OPC) and other vigilante groups are all illegal.
“I believe that Amotekun should be highly commended and other states should adopt the same approach.
“The AGF’s statement is like the hand of Esau and the voice of Jacob. Unless they want to expose the people of Southwest to herdsmen attacks and the menace of bandits and terrorists, the Southwest governors should be commended for what they have done.
“It is even the states that fund the police, so let them fund their security apparatus and supervise them genuinely.”
Shittu: Amotekun justified, compelling in law,
The University of Lagos lecturer Wahab Shittu has said the formation of Amotekun is justified and its nature compelling in law.
Shittu argued that the Governors as chief security officers of their various states are entitled to take measures to safeguard their spheres of jurisdictions in line with the autonomy of federating units which is the hallmark of true Federalism.
”The threat to the survival of the state by terrorism, kidnapping and insurgency makes the deployment of extraordinary measures compelling”, he contended.
According to Shittu, “The creation of Amotekun as pro-security measures is in furtherance of the spirit and letters of our constitutional framework, which is anchored on defence, health, safety and order of society.
“The justification for this premise is that all crimes are local, hence the appropriation of security votes to states in defence of security.
“The further compelling argument are questions of law and order, the question of peace and war and the question of life and death.
“These coupled with the justification for self-defence makes the creation of Amotekun compelling”.
Shittu stressed that the formation of the corps must be backed up with appropriate legislation to spell out the modalities and other operational arrangements.
He argued: “Security is both local, national and international. A threat to security anywhere is a threat to security everywhere.
“Rather than frustrate the emergence of the security outfit, measures of collaboration with regular forces ought to be explored on operational modalities, arms control and other logistics,” he advised.
AGF right, says Yakassai
An elder statesman Alhaji Tanko Yakasai agrees with the Attorney General that Amotekun is a bad move. He likens it to a secessionist bid. He said: “I have already declared that I am not in support of the initiative. I see it as a secessionist bid. I agree that it is a security programme, but a move in the direction of local or community policy should be a national initiative.
“I am of the view that the problem of an inadequate number of policemen to man the country is linked to poor budgeting. I can understand the position of the Federal Government is not being able to employ more men because the expenses are huge. What I think will solve the problem is to have a synergy between the federal, state and governments in funding the police.
“They can share the responsibility in this way: the Federal Government should take responsibility for recruitment, paying salaries and allowances, as well as training. Then the state government will take responsibility for accommodation, while the local government will take responsibility for their movement.
“So, in this way, the police expansion programme would be jointly funded by the three tiers of government. They would be given proper training and deployed to the areas where they come from.”