Just five days after the launch of the South-West’s security outfit, Amotekun, a test of might is brewing over it.
The dramatis personae are in two groups. On one hand are the South-West governors and leaders from other parts of the country. On the other hand is the Federal Government.
To the Southern and Middle Belt Leaders Forum (SMBLF), the declaration by the Federal Government yesterday that the security outfit was illegal further evidenced state-backed injustice in the polity.
In a statement late yesterday, SMBLF said: “We consider his (Attorney-General Abubakar Malami) 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 southwest to ignore Malami and allow him to go to court to challenge their decision as he cannot constitute himself as a court over elected governors. We are not under a military rule. We insist that what the governors have done is what individuals and neighborhoods can legally do to secure their life and property.
“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 northeast 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.”
Earlier, SMBLF had issued a communiqué following its one-day meeting in Abuja on Monday, where it commended southwest governors for exercising the right to provide security for their people. It noted that the case of individuals or states protecting themselves is not an issue on the exclusive list.
“What is currently on the exclusive list is policing, which is wrong under federalism, as federating units in this country once had native authority police as is usual of multi-level policing under a federal structure.
“While we encourage our states to make do with Amotekun as a temporary measure, the demand for state police must be intensified within the overall restructuring of Nigeria,” SMBLF said in a communiqué.
The meeting was presided over by Pan Niger Delta Forum (PANDEF) leader, Chief Edwin Clark, and supported by Chief Ayo Adebanjo (leader of Afenifere), Chief John Nnia Nwodo (president general of Ohanaeze Ndigbo), and Dr Pogu Bitrus (president of Middle Belt Forum). Also in attendance were prominent leaders from across the south and Middle Belt.
The meeting “reviewed the subtle threats” that followed the introduction of Amotekun “with a conclusion that there is an obvious agenda to make non-Fulani groups in Nigeria defenseless and vulnerable to herdsmen and kidnappers, so that the presidency would not have to tutor them on how to live peacefully with their killer-neighbours the way it had to tell Governor Samuel Ortom of Benue in January, 2018.”
It “observed with sadness that Nigeria today is under a worse irresponsibility of power than it was in 1967 when the first civil war occurred with unbridled nepotism, sectionalism and undisguised marginalisation of major sections of the country in pursuit of a Fulanisation agenda; as we have seen an ethnic group dominating the heads of the three arms of government, the leadership of all security agencies, finance sector and communications in a manner suggestive of a rehash of the planning stage of the genocide against the Tutsis by the Hutus in Rwanda when all sectors relevant to a war economy were taken over for the purpose.”
Ekiti State Governor Kayode Fayemi said: “I don’t speak for the southwest government. I am just hearing it from you. If what you are saying is true, we are going to react appropriately.”
A statement by Dr. Umar Jibrilu Gwandu, Special Assistant on Media and Public Relations, Office of the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, reads: “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, including 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. 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 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.”
According to the statement, “Matters relating to the peace, order and good government of the federation and in particular, the defence of the country, are enshrined in the Exclusive Legislative List. The Second Schedule in Item 17 deals with defence. 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 defence.”
It added that had the Office of the Attorney General and Minister of Justice been “consulted on the matter”, it would have “offered proper information and guidance” to “ensure that Nigeria’s defence and corporate entity are preserved at all times.”
Reacting to the Federal Governments’ statement, a former Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice in Ekiti State, Owoseni Ajayi said: “I want to assume that the six southwest governors would not embark on the launch without doing the needful by seeking clearance from relevant authorities.
“Don’t forget that the six southwest states all have attorney generals who should know the position of the law regarding this issue. In fact, the attorney general of Lagos State and the Governor of Ondo State are Senior Advocates of Nigeria.”
The immediate past Speaker of the Ondo State Assembly, Jumoke Akindele, said: “It is as insincere as it is hypocritical. Why has it been okay to have the Hisbah police corps, which is the Sharia enforcer in some states in the north? Why have those been condoned?
“Why would a government that has failed in every facet of security provision to a people begrudge them the chance to provide security for themselves?”
The new Leader of Yoruba Peoples Congress, Prof. Seth Akintoye, said: “The onus is now on the governors to press for their position and decision through constitutional means for the safety of their people. This is a big test for our constitution and the governors.”
But the president of Yoruba Ronu, Akin Malaolu, differed, saying: “The governors of the South-West acted unwisely and it would be wrong for the Federal Government to tolerate such a breach of constitution.”