Operation Amotekun and matters arising
Governors in the South West Zone recently launched the Western Nigeria Security Network, WNSN, to help tackle the growing security challenges bedevilling the region.
The initiators, say, the security network, code-named Operation Amotekun, was set up to complement the mainstream security agencies in the country and not to duplicate or replace the Nigerian Police.
Amotekun is a community policing response to the problem of insecurity in the country. Lately issues of kidnapping and banditry have been on the increase across the country with the south west recording its fair share of the crimes.
The murder of a daughter of Afenifere’s chieftain, Pa Reuben Fasoranti, may have been the trigger for the creation of a regional security outfit like Amotekun.
Speaking at the launch, Oyo state governor, Seyi Makinde, noted that it was the responsibility of the government to protect its citizens, adding that the governors took the oath to defend the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
“What we seek to do is to keep our people safe, not fighting Nigeria but the elements among us that seek to destabilise our region.
“As governors of these states, it is our priority to ensure that both indigenes and settlers living within the boundaries of our various states carry out their legitimate activities in a secure environment,” he said.
But since its official flag-off the security outfit has generated several debates. For one, the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, immediately declared Operation Amotekun as illegal.
A statement signed by his Special Assistant on Media and Public Relations, Umar Gwandu, pointed that the establishment of Amotekun is not backed by any known law in the land.
“The setting up of the paramilitary organization called “Amotekun” is illegal and runs contrary to the provisions of the Nigerian law.
Malami’s pronouncement seems to highlight the outfit as a threat to the corporate unity of the country.
However, the south west seem not to be backing down on this one as they insist Amotekun is not a paramilitary outfit but an initiative by the South-West governors to defend her people against rampaging attackers.
Prominent Yoruba leaders like Prof. Wole Soyinka, Pa Ayo Adebanjo, Chief Gani Adams, among other leaders have since condemned the AGF’s critic of Amotekun.
Gani Adams in an open letter to the AGF stressed that the right to life is universal and no government can legislate against that.
Part of the statement reads, “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.”
The Aare Ona Kakanfo of Yorubaland reminded the minister that no individual is law, “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.”
He therefore implores the governors to ignore the AGF’s position on the matter, insisting that the right to life cannot be in the exclusive list of any government.
For most Nigerians, the debate over the legality or otherwise of Amotekun maybe the Nigeria’s moment of truth and test of the federal system of government currently being practiced in the country.
Some critics believe that the federal government's declaration of Amotekun as "illegal" was rather hasty and could shake the very foundation of Nigeria. Already, the action has since ignited conversations, as to why the federal government had never considered the moral Police in the north, Hisbahs, an illegal outfit, nor the arms-bearing civilian JTFs in the north-east as such.
Many wonder why people who feel unprotected by an over stretched federal security agencies shouldn't band together to preserve their lives.
The clamour for state policing has never been amplified than this period, most especially because of the herders - farmers’ clashes, bandit activities, kidnappings and armed robbery on our highways from North to South.
Only last week, 35 persons were killed and about 58 others were kidnapped along the Kaduna-Zaria highway. Such has become a daily reoccurrence, yet the government is taking offence at a people’s decision to safeguard their lives.
If not properly tackled, the country may be having some form of constitutional crises on its hands as the constitution rests issue of security with the federal government.
For instance section 14 of the constitution states that the primary responsibility of government is security and welfare of citizen, yet in defining ‘government’ the constitution listed: President, Governor and local Government chairman, however, only the president has the powers to order the police or any security agency to act.
Amotekun may have been a product of necessity, the south west leaders should, however, clear up the grey areas with the FG and the Police.
Though the mode of operation of WNSN is still vague, many are worried that the structuring of Amotekun to carry arms, no matter how unsophisticated, could have some security implication in the future.
The creation of Amotekun may well turn out to be the opportunity for the establishment of state policing or even a complete restructure of the Nigerian state.
This is now an awakening for President Buhari to look up the state police document and suggestions by the committee he set up, dust it up and bring it to the public for debate.
© 2015 The Abuja Inquirer | Newspaper. Designed by G E Springfield