NIGERIAN society groups and governors of the six states of the southwest geo-political zone have been united in their condemnation of attorney-general of the federation Abubakar Malami for recently declaring the regional security outfit Amotekun illegal.
Over recent years, heavily-armed herdsmen have been running riot across southwestern Nigeria, engaging in kidnapping, armed robbery and banditry. To address the problem, the governors from across the geo-political zone decided to launch a regional security outfit named Amotekun, which means leopard in the local Yoruba language.
Within the last week, the six governors have supplied Operation Amotekun with vehicles and equipment. Under the arrangements drawn up, the governments of the six states will train vigilantes, hunters and members of the Oodua Peoples Congress (OPC) to provide security to provide intelligence for the official security services like the police, military and civil defence corps.
Governors from other parts of Nigeria have declared that they too are considering launching similar regional outfits to Operation Amotekun. However, in a dramatic twist yesterday, Mr Malami declared that the Nigerian government considers Amotekun an illegal institution as the group runs contrary to the provisions of Nigerian laws.
According to Mr Malami, no state government has the right to set up any form of organisation to protect its territory without approval from the federal government. In a statement issued by his office, the attorney-general added that only the federal government has the right to provide security in Nigeria.
Since he made the comments, Mr Malami has been widely condemned by hundreds of Nigerian leaders, with the National Association of Nigerian Students (Nans), telling him that whether he likes it or not Operation Amotekun has come to stay. Kowe Odunayo, Nans’ southwest coordinator, said that the tactical moves by the federal government to shut down Amotekun and doom the zone, particularly the students, to insecurity and continuous attacks by bandits and violent herdsmen, would not be allowed to succeed.
He advised Mr Malami not to play politics with the individual and collective security of a people and called on governors of the six southwest states to stand on their feet and ensure that this laudable Amotekun initiative is not killed by some enemies of peace in Yorubaland. Mr Odunayo added: “t is no news that insecurity has engulfed the southwest among other regions of the country, which prompted our ever-thinking leaders most especially our governors to come up with a security architecture specially designed to safeguard the southwest.
“However, it was a surprise for us when we heard that the powers-that-be outside our zone are not pleased with the move. This became more evident when a Fulani/Hausa youth group spoke recently condemning our security architect even when it has nothing to do with them.
“We have realised that, the north only want the southwest to continue to suffer insecurity because they know that if security could be achieved in the southwest, our economy in this region will boom and we would have all that we are suppose to have even for us to attain regional economic sufficiency and growth. With the opposition of the federal government and the northerners to Amotekun, we wonder whether they don’t like insecurity in this country to end and we would not accept that in our zone.”
Governor Rotimi Akeredolu Of Ondo State, added: “One thing is clear, laws are not made in the office of the attorney-general. He can only interpret the laws and give positions of government on matters relating to the law.
“When he comes out with relevant portions of the law on the matter, we will consider it and respond adequately as the law stipulates. We have not met but I can assure you that when we meet, we will adequately respond to the position of the attorney-general of the federation.”
Also, the Southern and Middle Belt Leaders Forum (SMBLF) has condemned Mr Malami, describing his outburst as an abuse of office and an attempt to suppress the rights of the federating units to secure themselves. According to the SMBLF, Mr Malami’s statement was in furtherance of the widely-held suspicion that sections of the country were deliberately being rendered vulnerable for herdsmen and other criminals by the federal government.
They said: “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 a court over elected governors. We are not under military rule and 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 attorney-general of the federation 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 northeast where there is war and in Kaduna 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.”
Constitutional lawyer and human rights activist, Mike Ozekhomhe, has urged the governments of the six states of the southwest to proceed to the court to challenge the government’s pronouncement on Amotekun. He added that there is no conflict between Amotekun and the provisions of the constitution.