- No going back on outfit — Akeredolu
- Malami lacks power to ban it — Makinde
- Amotekun has come to stay — Soyinka
By Dayo Johnson, Dapo Akinrefon, Peter Duru, Ola Ajayi, Henry Ojelu & James Ogunnaike
Following Tuesday’s declaration by the Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, SAN, that the South-West security outfit codenamed Amotekun is illegal, and reactions trailing FG’s position, the people of Benue State and the Middle Belt said, they were not opposed to Amotekun, saying they were prepared to emulate the initiative.
This came as Chairman of the South-West Governors Forum, Governor Rotimi Akeredolu, SAN, yesterday, vowed that the six governors would pursue Operation Amotekun to a logical conclusion.
Reacting to the pronouncement of the Federal Government that the outfit was illegal, Akeredolu, who spoke at the 2020 Armed Forces Remembrance Day celebration in Akure, Ondo State, said there was no going back.
Also, Nobel Laureate, Professor Wole Soyinka and Chairman of the National Christian Elders’ Forum, NCEF, Chief Solomon Asemota, SAN, said the outfit has come to stay.
Meanwhile, angry reactions have continued to trail the Federal Government’s position on Amotekun, as Yoruba leaders and groups, including the Aare Ona Kakanfo of Yoruba land, Iba Gani Adams; the Yoruba Council of Elders, YCE, some Senior Advocates of Nigeria, SANs, and the National Association of Nigerian Students, NANS, called on President Muhammadu Buhari to call the AGF to order.
Benue, Middle Belt not opposed to Amotekun
The people of Benue State and the Middle Belt said they were not opposed to Amotekun.
Vanguard gathered from a highly-placed source, who spoke on condition of anonymity that even before the Federal Government’s pronouncement on Amotekun, the Benue State government has not been averse to having a similar outfit in the Middle Belt.
The source noted that such an outfit would only be possible in any part of the country where the state governments jointly agree to have it in place and that the governments of the Middle Belt zone are prepared to emulate the initiative.
The source said: “You know that our zone has in the recent past suffered repeated attacks from armed herdsmen that left many dead, so having a similar outfit here will to a large extent complement the efforts of the conventional security organizations.
“But it will only take the unity and agreement of the states that make up the Middle Belt to have such in our geopolitical zone, though, efforts were being made by various parties and groups in the states of the Middle Belt to forge a common front on the matter before the pronouncement by the Federal Government.
“I must however, tell you that irrespective of the position of the Federal Government, states in the Middle Belt will not relent in efforts to ensure that the security challenges in the zone are tackled headlong and a special joint operation similar to Amotekun may be in the cards.
“Curiously, the Federal Government is not down with the initiative of the South West but states have vigilante groups and other forms of community security outfits which is just the same thing as the Amotekun they are kicking against.
“Rather than discourage the people and governments of various states from taking steps to support the fight against insecurity, I would advise the Federal Government to support the initiative. After all, the essence is to tackle insuring in the country.”
No going back on Amotekun — Akeredolu
Meanwhile, Governor Akeredolu said: “We, the six South-West governors, are fully prepared to ensure that Operation Amotekun succeeds.
“Amotekun is not a para-military outfit; the introduction of the security outfit is to complement the efforts of other security agencies. We are prepared to ensure Operation Amotekun succeeds.”
Restating the need for the security outfit, Akeredolu said: “It is in our quest to further curtail the menace of kidnapping, banditry and other crimes in Ondo State and the entire South-West region that we launched Operation Amotekun.
“It is one of the many solutions being proffered to our security challenges in Western Nigeria.
“We want to assure you that the activities of the personnel working for the outfit will be monitored and streamlined along with their mandate of securing lives and property of people of Ondo State and entire Western Nigeria and it will not be used for political purposes.”
Malami lacks power to ban it — Makinde
Also, corroborating Akeredolu’s position, Governor Seyi Makinde of Oyo State, yesterday, berated the Federal Government’s action, saying the AGF lacks the power to ban the outfit.
Speaking when he visited former President Olusegun Obasanjo at the Olusegun Obasanjo Presidential Library in Abeokuta, Ogun State, Makinde noted that it would be improper for the Attorney-General to outrightly condemn the constitutionality of “Amotekun” without due recourse to the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, particularly when his duties were only limited to interpreting laws.
He said: “My position is that you don’t run a government on social media. If I see a letter or a call from the AGF telling me what he just said, then it will be a different reaction. But I have been reading it just like you read it on social media. I haven’t seen anything official to that effect.
“I don’t think in a country like Nigeria, the AGF will just wake up and make his laws. He may interpret and advise the President on the issue.
“This outfit is to complement the efforts of the Nigerian Police and other security agencies in fighting insecurity in the South West region of the country,” he added.
Nothing unique about it — Fayemi
Similarly, Governor Kayode Fayemi of Ekiti State, while speaking on a television programme, said the issue now should not be about whether Federal Government or governors can misuse Police or any security outfit.
Explaining the logic behind the setting up of the security outfit, Fayemi said: “Did the Federal Government not misuse Police in 2014? I was a sitting governor, I had immunity; I was assaulted. Go to history books. What we should be talking about is how to make sure the security institution is accountable within the frameworks of democratic control.
“It is not about whether the Federal Government or governors can misuse Police. Power unrestrained is always misused. That different initiatives are springing up, points to the fact that citizens are not happy with the security situation in the land.
“Governors have a duty and responsibility that are spelt out in the constitution: The security and welfare of the citizens should be their number one priority.
“So, if people in my area of jurisdiction are saying: we don’t know what you are doing’. Should something not be done? We are funding Police, we are buying vehicles, we are buying security gadgets, we are paying allowances, yet we don’t get enough security.
“There is nothing unique about what we have done. I am glad that Governor Simon Lalong said: “We haven’t seen the details of what you are doing but we are working on a similar arrangement in our area.”
Amotekun has come to stay — Soyinka
Backing the initiative, Professor Soyinka said that Amotekun has come to stay irrespective of Federal Government’s opposition on the outfit.
Addressing newsmen at Freedom Park in Lagos, Soyinka lampooned the Federal Government, noting that no serious government will object to such initiative.
He said: “This has been the result of the consciousness by the people of this region. These governors met, looked seriously at the menace, examined its antecedents. They’re elected representatives and they came up with this solution, Amotekun.
“Amotekun is a result of meetings to curb the menace in the region; and now some people who have been sleeping all this time, taking belated actions in many directions, watched the citizens of this nation being decimated, villages being wiped out, farmers being chased off their lands, not merely in the North, but West and down South to the East in Enugu. They are now coming to tell us that this initiative is illegal, unconstitutional.
“I think they should go back to sleep. There may be concerns here and there; it is normal because of the fear that this might be misused but there are provisions for correction. But to come and say that people do not have a right to defend their lives, to secure their means of livelihood, to flush out the evil elements among themselves, I am talking about ritual killers, kidnappers, armed robbers, 419ners, in other words, to pick up the slacks which exiting security units have been unable to fulfil.
“I consider this enemy action, unpatriotic, inhuman. I prefer to believe that the government itself has not spoken, I refuse to believe that any serious government which cares for its citizenry will object to this kind of initiative.”
“But whether they raise it or not, Amotekun has come to stay. Amotekun is a creation of people about humanity, not about legalism.”
He also tasked the South-West governors to come up with a proactive initiative to end hunger in the region.
His words: “Amotekun is only a part of the story, we all know the criminality that derives from many causes, among them are poverty, hunger, desperation, sense of alienation. So, Amotekun should not be crime prevention or the only solution to insecurity and criminality, there has to be also social actions, proactive initiatives to save our impoverished people.
“We should move from Amotekun to Awosikun, both should be complementary. In other words, we should start thinking in terms of how to feed our people, we must think outside the normal parameters of productivity and distribution.”
“Hunger is real, poverty is real, it’s very much with us and it’s reaching a critical mass. So, we should start thinking of soup kitchens as obtained in other parts of the world, involving the millionaires, billionaires among us to contribute to the coffers of our state governments to establish these temporary agencies of amelioration of the condition of our people.
“I don’t want to use the expression of stomach infrastructure that has a bad odour. For those who promoted it; we know whose stomachs they were looking after, so I prefer just ‘Awosikun (food preparation) to end criminality once and for all in our communities.”
FG can go to court — Asemota
Also speaking, chairman of NCEF, Chief Asemota insisted that the South-West governors have a right to protect their land, just as he called on the Federal Government to go to court.
Aseomta said: “The Federal Government itself can go to court, both parties put up arguments and thereafter, the court will decide what the majority of Nigerians want.”
SANs back South West Govs
Also giving support to the initiative, former President, Nigerian Bar Association, NBA, Dr. Olisa Agbakoba, SAN, and Mr Femi Falana, SAN, yesterday, said that the South-West governors have done no wrong.
They said governors do not have to consult with the Attorney-General of the Federation before taking security measures to protect their states.
They spoke, yesterday, at the 16th Chief Gani Fawehinmi Annual Lecture/Symposium (Fawehinmiism) organised by Nigerian Bar Association, NBA, Ikeja Branch in Lagos.
Agbakoba, guest speaker at the event, said no one has the power to overrun the constitution.
He said: “What they are doing is not policing but security measures. The Inspector-General of Police was involved when they started but I don’t know what happened and he backed out. Maybe they had a re-think.”
Agbakoba said the constitution being operated in the country gave the governors wide and enormous powers which he noted they have not exhausted.
He said: “We all need to have the Gani spirit. Maybe, the association of Attorney Generals would need to go to court on the matter to determine who is wrong.
“We need to lower the temperature of the language. We need to convince our Northern brothers that restructuring will not break Nigeria but that it will benefit everybody, that it will make the regions more powerful and independent.”
Falana, described Malami’s position on Amotekun as discriminatory, noting that northern states were operating similar security outfits such as the Hisbah Corps and the Civilian Joint Task Force.
Falana said, “In the North-East region, particularly Yobe and Borno, there is a civilian JTF, well-armed; and sometimes when the soldiers are afraid they ask the civilian JTF to go and confront Boko Haram.
“In Kano and Sokoto, you have Hisbah. Three weeks ago, Hisbah in Zamfara arrested a policeman; they said the policeman was caught in a hotel with three women and they said that was an abomination.
“The point I’m making is that the Nigerian state has collapsed; we are deceiving ourselves. What the (South-West) governors are doing is not more than the Neighbourhood Watch in Lagos. The only prohibition against any kind of group is in Section 227 of the Constitution – Nobody shall set up a military wing for political reasons.”
Falana said if an individual could apply for a licence to bear arms, he saw no reason why a state governor could not apply for firearms for local security arrangements.
Ignore AGF’s position, Aare Adams tells govs
On his part, the Aare Ona Kakanfo of Yoruba land, Iba Adams, described the AGF’s letter on Amotekun as disturbing, saying he (Malami) is only an Attorney-General and not a court of law.
In a letter entitled: Protest over your illegal order to South-West governors, Iba Adams described Amotekun as an initiative to defend the South-West.
Adams said: “I find disturbing your statement of January 14, 2020, declaring the security initiative of South-West governors ‘Amotekun’ as illegal.
“You also threatened that the full course of the law will be applied to anybody promoting the Amotekun security initiative. Maybe you have forgotten. I need to remind you that you are the Attorney-General of the country, not a section of the country.
“So, your outburst against the governors who were elected, not selected or appointed is against the spirit of the 1999 Constitution (as amended). The right to life is universal and no government can legislate against that. I don’t need to bother you about killings, kidnappings, banditry and other criminal vices in the South-West recently.
“Even Mrs Funke Olakunrin, the daughter of Yoruba leader, Pa Reuben Fasoranti, was killed and nobody has been arrested in respect of all these killings. One thing is clear: Nigerians have the right to protect themselves. Not only that: South-West people have a right to protect and defend themselves against attacks.
Amotekun is an initiative by the South-West governors to defend our people.
“Where you are getting it wrong is this: The Amotekun initiative has nothing to do with the territorial integrity of Nigeria. If there is a breach of the territorial integrity of the country, the military will 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.
“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 are highly sensitive, and we can now understand where the threat is coming from. Unfortunately, the FG is doing everything to frustrate the South-West governors’ efforts. For instance, last Wednesday that was less than 24-hours before the launching of Amotekun in Ibadan, the Presidency summoned the South-West governors to Aso rock.
“We knew about the intrigues that played out at the meeting. We knew about the frustrations at Aso Rock, but the governors, having realized the implications of playing politics with the lives of their people, stood their ground and went ahead to launch the security outfit as planned.
“So, it is your position on this volatile situation that is illegal, unlawful, immoral and of no effect because your declaration has proved some critics right that some states in the country are deliberately left vulnerable to attacks by criminals.
“I want to state that the right to life cannot be in the exclusive list of any serious government.
“I call on Governors Babajide Sanwo-Olu (Lagos), Dapo Abiodun (Ogun), Seyi Makinde (Oyo), Gboyega Oyetola (Osun), Rotimi Akeredolu (Ondo) and Kayode Fayemi (Ekiti) to ignore your position on this matter.
“Why do people employ guards in their houses? For security. Why do Community Development Associations (CDAs) employ guards to secure streets and areas? To ensure the protection of lives and property.
“Is that initiative in the exclusive list of the constitution? No. I repeat that the right to preserve and protect your life can never be in the exclusive list of any government.
“I am aware of similar security outfits in other sections of the country. Why you are against the protection of the lives and properties of Yoruba people defies logic.
“This week is the 50th anniversary of the end of the civil war. We should do everything to avoid plunging the country into another war. Mr Malami, please don’t set a bad precedent.”
Call Malami to order, YCE tells Buhari
Similarly, the Yoruba Council of Elders, YCE, called on President Buhari to check the excesses of Malami for opposing Amotekun.
Speaking through Col. Adeleye Agbede (retd), the Senior Elders Forum of YCE described the statement by Malami as provocative and unbecoming of such an exalted office.
Asking President Buhari to caution Malami and any other member of his cabinet that may not be at peace with the security initiative, Agbede said ‘Amotekun’ ‘’is a Yoruba project and that what the governors did had the blessings of every son and daughter of the Yoruba nation.
“It sounds absurd and ludicrous that a security initiative made to secure the lives and property of the people that voted the governors into power could be declared illegal, whereas the marauders parading themselves as herdsmen, who have been kidnapping, killing, maiming and assaulting our people have been moving about freely.
“The Minister would have to tell the whole world the legal instrument that empowers nomadic herdsmen going about with AK 47 without any form of arrest or caution by our security agencies or the Sharia police that are in operation in some states in the Northern part of the country.
“Amotekun has come to stay as an outfit to ensure that our people live peacefully and move freely within our God-given space and as law-abiding people, the outfit will operate within the ambit of the law, cooperate with the government security agencies for as long as our rights are not trampled upon.”
The elder statesman called on the Yoruba traditional rulers to give maximum support to the security outfit in their respective domains stressing that ‘’we are at a very critical stage in the life of this nation that we must hold our destiny in our hands. We can’t fold our arms and pretend as if nothing is happening.”
Ondo farmers lampoon FG
Similarly, farmers in Ondo State, yesterday, described the position of the Federal Government as inhumane and unacceptable.
The farmers, under the auspices of Ondo State Agricultural Commodities Association, OSACA, at a briefing in Akure, described Amotekun as “ray of hope to rescue them from the heinous activities of herdsmen who have been destroying their farms and raping their women without restraint.”
Chairman of the association, Gbenga Obaweya, said: “The security outfit jointly set up by the South West governors would help ameliorate the economic loss they suffered annually from the Fulani herdsmen who grazed on their crops
“We say in clear terms that the declaration of Amotekun as illegality is unacceptable to us. The formation and launch of Amotekun brought a ray of hope to us as farmers and agropreneurs for a few days, but alas, an attempt is being made to dash all our hope.
“For years, we have sought peaceful means of protecting our farmlands and investments with very little success. Any attempt to shoot down this beacon of hope is a recipe for chaos and civil unrest.
“Will the pauperized farmer, a distressed investor not be pushed to violence if they believe they have nobody to protect them? We support the security outfit, Amotekun; we reject any proclamation that it is illegal; we demand that the national body of Miyetti Allah be called to order; farmers who have been victims should be compensated.”
Malami’s declaration is an embarrassment to FG — Onitiri
Also speaking, a Lagos-based socio-political activist, Mr. Adesunbo Onitiri bemoaned Mr. Malami, for declaring the just launched security outfit Amotekun, by the South-west governors as illegal.
Onitiri said the only option for Malami was to go to court and not to cause confusion in the polity.
He said: “Malami was in the country when the idea was muted, made necessary consultations with all the notable stakeholders before the outfit was officially launched. Besides, 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 also not a declaration of law. Amotekun security outfit, I am sure was set up without ulterior motive.
“If the security of the South-west or any of the six geopolitical zones is being threatened by kidnappers, armed herdsmen, cultists, armed robbers, etcetera, 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 bias against the people of the South-West and portrays his immaturity in handling public matters. It is an affront on the people of South West.
“He should urgently withdraw such illegal declaration. This country belongs to us all. A government that has failed to protect lives and property cannot prevent its citizens the opportunity to protect themselves.
“The political bigwig emphasized that the right to protect their lives cannot be denied. We urge every patriotic citizen to speak up and prevent the country from being consumed with conflagration. An evil triumphs when good people are silent.
“If it’s true that the government is against insurgency and wants to protect the people, the government must support the Amotekun project.”