Federal Government declaration that the Western Nigeria Security Network (WNSN), codenamed Operation Amotekun illegal has continued to attract severe knocks from different stakeholders. The declaration attracted outrage to government.
Leaders, lawyers and groups called on Attorney-General of the Federation (AGF), Abubakar Malami (SAN), to justify his position with the establishment of Civilian Joint Task Force (JTF) in the North East and Hisbah in Kano, Katsina and Nasarawa among other northern states.
Malami had on Tuesday in Abuja, declared the regional security outfit, Amotekun, illegal saying security of the federation “is the exclusive responsibility of the Federal Government. The setting up of the para-military organisation called Amotekun is illegal and runs contrary to the provisions of the Nigerian law.
“No state government whether single 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 party.” He vowed: “The law will take its course on any group or association linked with Operation Amotekun.”
Immediately after the statement, stakeholders faulted the pronouncement, asking Malami: “What made Amotekun illegal in South West but made Civilian JTF and Hisbah legal in the North?”
Ogun State Government described the AGF’s position as “a mere statement from another government official.” The Chief Press Secretary to the Governor, Kunle Somorin, said: “It is a mere statement by another government official. Other political leaders across the South West have spoken in favour 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 is no going back on Amotekun.”
Aare Ona Kakanfo of Yoruba land and National Coordinator of the Oodua Peoples Congress (OPC), Iba Gani Adams, told Daily Sun: “It is unfortunate that rather than praise the governors, you are condemning their action, thereby strengthening the hands of those who believe the Federal Government is against some sections of the country.
“As a lawyer and a senior advocate, you should know that you are not the law. You are only the Attorney-General, not a court. It is only a court of competent jurisdiction that will decide if what an individual, group of individuals, an entity or a state does is legal or otherwise. So, it is only a court that can invalidate the South West joint security initiative, not you.
“I want to establish this fact that the Yoruba have a right to protect themselves from attack or violence of any sort. Issues of security is highly sensitive, and we can now understand where the threat is coming from. It is unfortunate that the FG is doing everything to frustrate the South West governors’ efforts.
“Amotekun initiative has nothing to do with the territorial integrity of Nigeria. If there was a breach of the territorial integrity of the country, the military would come in immediately.
“So, nobody is rising against Nigeria, as your letter to the governors, directly or indirectly, implied. What is happening is that our people no longer feel safe because the land has been invaded by some elements from within and outside the country.”
Prof Itse Sagay (SAN), Chairman, Presidential Advisory Committee Against Corruption (PACAC), told South West governors to ignore the directive of the Attorney General: “Governors have no business consulting Malami before coming up with an idea of how best to secure their states or regions.”
His views tallied with the pan-Yoruba socio-political organisation, Afenifere. The group described the announcement “as a joke taken too far.” It called on the South West governors to ignore Malami. Afenifere’s National Publicity Secretary, Mr Yinka Odumakin, said: “They are joking. Now they have exposed themselves that they are the ones supporting insecurity in the South West because if they don’t support insecurity in the South West, they will not take this action.
“All that they are telling us is that they will leave us vulnerable. They have not declared Miyetti Allah illegal or the herdsmen carrying AK 47 around the country. It is the security put together by our governors that they are now declaring illegal. On what basis are they declaring it illegal? So, they are carrying it too far.
“The first question Afenifere wants to ask Malami is that: Is Malami a court of law to declare action taken by federating units illegal? What power is he exercising? We are calling on our governors to ignore him totally. If he has anything against what they have done, let him go to court and they meet him in court.”
Another group, Southern and Middle Belt Leaders Forum (SMBLF) in it reaction, said action of the AGF had further exposed Nigeria as a country under command and control and governed by a conquest mentality.
The group charged Malami to explain what makes Civilian JTF legal in the North East where there is war and in Kaduna and Kano where there is no war, while Amotekun is illegal: “This is a defining moment to decide if we are under segregation and operating different laws in the country.”
Another socio-cultural group, Tiwa n Tiwa L’Osun Development Association, led by a rights activist and legal practitioner, Kunle Adegoke, declared that the Federal Government was not being realistic with the security situation in the country:
“I don’t want to read motives into the declaration of purported illegality of Amotekun by the Federal Government. It is clear that nothing prevents a state government from forming a security outfit when private companies even run security business.
“It is clear that the elements at the level of the Federal Government do not realise that Nigeria is grossly under-policed and that is why security of lives and property has become a joke in the country. The idea of state police is part of the restructuring requirements that Nigeria urgently requires and until this is achieved, the nation will be a security risk to its citizens.”
The lawyer said the spate of killings and kidnappings in the country should worry any sane government: “Declaring Operation Amotekun illegal was tantamount to saying that security of lives did not matter.
“For the Federal Government that has woefully failed in securing lives and properties to turn around to say a body designed by the states to secures the lives of the people is illegal is tantamount to insisting that security of lives does not matter and it delights in bandits, brigands and terrorists violating our daily existence at will. There is nothing illegal in Amotekun.
“Ironically, the Federal Government has not declared the military/civilian Joint Task Force in the North East in combating Boko Haram an illegal enterprise. If it is lawful for the Federal Government to recognise and fund civilian groups in the North East in combating a huge security threat, how can the efforts of Amotekun be illegal in the face of the criminal activities threatening the continued peaceful existence of the South Westerners?”
In another statement jointly signed by Odumakin, representing the South West, General CRU Iherike, South East, Senator Bassey Henshw from the South South and Dr Isuwa Dogo Middle Belt, the group said it suspected that sections of the country were deliberately being rendered vulnerable for herdsmen and other criminals by the Federal Government:
“We insist that what the governors have done is what individuals and neighbourhoods can legally do to secure their lives and properties. The right to preserve life cannot be under any exclusive list other than the list of those who have no value for human lives.”
Another pro-Yoruba group, Oduduwa United People Association (OUPA), said: “Amotekun must be allowed to stay. There is nothing illegal about its formation. The Federal Government should allow it to be as it will help security challenges in the country, particularly in the South West.”
Lagos-based socio-political activist, Chief Adesunbo Onitiri, bemoaned the AGF. He told Daily Sun: “Malami was in the country when the South West governors mooted, made necessary consultations with all the notable stakeholders before the outfit was officially launched, but he did not raise objection.
“Beside, the public declaration of Amotekun as illegal by Malami apart from being a mere expression of his personal view, is not the position of the law and not a declaration of law.
“If the security of the South West or any zone is being threatened by kidnappers, armed herdsmen, cultists and armed robbers, the people have the rights under the law to protect themselves. Malami’s declaration is an embarrassment to the Federal Government. His opinion is an open biase against the people of the South West.
“He should urgently withdraw such illegal declaration. This country belongs to us all. A government that has failed to protect lives and properties cannot prevent its citizens the opportunity to protect themselves. If it’s true that the government is against insurgency and wants to protect the people, the government must support the Amotekun project.
“Professor Itse Sagay has declared the Amotekun outfit legal and in order, as it conforms to the constitutional rights of the governors of the South West as chief security officers of their states. The outburst of Malami therefore is inflammatory and very unfortunate.”