The Chairman of the South-West Governors’ Forum and Ondo State Governor, Mr Rotimi Akeredolu, on Sunday, said the regional security outfit, Operation Amotekun, was not targeted at any non-Yoruba ethnic group.
Akeredolu, who stated this in a statement in Akure by the state Commissioner for Information and Orientation, Mr Donald Ojogo, said discourse on Operation Amotekun should not be given an ethnic colouration.
The South-West governors, traditional rulers and other prominent indigenes had, in June last year decided to set up Operation Amotekun as a result of serial killings and kidnapping in the zone.
Following the launch of the security outfit on January 9 in Ibadan, prominent groups, including the Igbo apex socio-cultural group, Ohanaeze; the Yoruba socio-political organisation, Afenifere; Northern Elders’ Forum and Middle Belt associations, threw their weight behind the move by the South-West governors.
But on Tuesday, the Attorney General of the Federation, Abubakar Malami, SAN, faulted the South-West governors. He said they did not consult his office before setting up the security outfit.
“The setting up of the paramilitary organisation called Amotekun is illegal and runs contrary to the provisions of the Nigerian law, he said.”
Akeredolu on Sunday reiterated that the security outfit was to complement the efforts of the conventional internal security agencies.
He warned people against making divisive statements or utterances that were capable of compromising the genuine intentions of the South-West governors.
He said, “Amotekun, when fully operational, will serve the purposes of local information and intelligence gathering for processing and usage by the conventional security agencies. Amotekun is therefore, merely supportive and not a replacement for the nation’s security agencies.
“The concerns expressed by individuals, agencies of government and several stakeholders are noted without bias. Where possible, the inexorable efforts of the South-West governors will be deepened through relentless interface.
Don’t give Amotekun ethnic tag, Akeredolu advises critics
“As such interface and engagements continue. It is pertinent to say that the ongoing discourse on the issue of Amotekun must not be misguidedly used as a platform to ventilate personal or group views aimed at oiling primordial sentiments and grievances. Ethnicising the current situation is even more unhelpful. There should be no reason for such.
“This is more so that the Amotekun scheme is not targeted at any non-South West ethnic group just as its benefits are to be reaped by all Nigerians irrespective of ethnic or religious placements.”
‘We will pursue Amotekun, through political, legal means’
The governor expressed confidence that the South-West governors would not submit to blackmail either from within or outside the region, insisting that the governors were ready “to pursue the Amotekun security scheme through all permissible political and legal means.”
Let FG go to court, Afe Babalola tells S’West govs
On his part, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria and founder, Afe Babalola University, Ado Ekiti, Chief Afe Babalola, on Sunday said the South-West governors should go ahead with Amotekun and allow the Federal Government to go to court, if it was not satisfied.
Babalola, who said that with Amotekun, the governors had taken a valid legal step to secure their areas and people, urged them to ignore the statement of the AGF that the outfit was illegal.
He said the Federal Government should go to court if it felt the governors had violated any section of the constitution.
Babalola, in an interview with The PUNCH in Ado Ekiti, described Amotekun as “a protective and supportive outfit established by the governors of the South-West. It has its roots in the 1999 Constitution and the previous constitutions before it; 1960 and 1963.
“In my opinion, the act has been done, Amotekun has been launched, let them go on. Anybody that feels what they have done is wrong can go to court. They will meet the governors there. All they (the governors) will have to do is to show them the law, the constitution, sections 24, 40 and 45. That is it.
“What the state governors have done is legal, so why should they bother? Let them (FG) try to go to court. It is a case that must fail if they go to court. The South-West governors have not set up a parallel police outfit.
“The law says you can join together in association to assist the police. How can the police or any government be angry about this. In fact, they (FG) should really thank them (South-West governors) and blame them for coming too late because if this outfit had been established 10 years ago, we would not have all kidnapping and other crimes.
“Section 24 of the constitution provides that ‘it shall be the duty of every citizen to make positive and useful contributions to the advancement, progress and well-being of the community where he resides’. Well-being means security of life and property, among others. How many Nigerians realise that they have a duty to assist and to protect the interest of the community and themselves.
“Section 40 goes further that ‘every person shall be entitled to assemble freely and associate with other persons, and in particular, he may form or belong to any political party, trade union or any other association for the protection of his interests’.
“When you put these two together, it shows that all of us have the duty to associate whether as Yoruba people or as state people to ensure that lives and property are safe.
“The Amotekun outfit has its roots in the constitution. It is constitutional, it is legal, it is proper. If this outfit had been established about 10 years ago, we would know that kidnappers were hiding in a place. We won’t have those who go to the farms to kill people because they will be fished out. That is why the constitution says that such an outfit should report to the police.
“What I have just said is that it is to support the police, support the government in their duty to ensure that there is peace, there is safety of property and safety of lives. Amotekun is a good idea. It is belated but it is lawful and constitutional.
“All that the AGF said was that Article 45 of the constitution, Second Schedule, gives the FG, the exclusive power to manage the police; he did not say that sections 20, 40 and 45 were abrogated.
“The sections I have quoted are superior to the schedule he is talking about and in any event, the governors have not set up a parallel police outfit. What they have done is to set up a supportive and protective organ to assist the police and in their communiqué, they said it would report to the police.”
Also, the Peoples Democratic Party National Vice Chairman, South-South, Mr Emmanuel Ogidi, said the All Progressives Congress-led Federal Government did not have any solution to the insecurity in Nigeria.
Ogidi said efforts by the regime, led by the President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.), were yielding no result as killings, kidnapping, banditry, insurgency and herdsmen attacks were on the increase.
He stated that the position of the AGF that Amotekun was illegal showed that the Federal Government had lost its grip on internal security.
The PDP leader, who spoke to journalists in Abuja on Sunday, said, “Only a few days ago, the South-West states came up with Amotekun, a security outfit, only for the attorney general to come up and say it was illegal. People are being killed and we should not defend ourselves? President Buhari took oath to protect Nigerians but that is not what we have seen.
The Emir of Yalmatu Deba Emirate in Gombe State, Abubakar Ali, said the Amotekun initiative of the South-West governors could best be described as state police.
Ali stated this in an interview with one of our correspondents at Dadinkowa in the Yalmatu Deba Local Government Area of the state.
The monarch said he did not subscribe to the idea of the newly established security agency of the South-West, noting that if its roles were not properly defined, it could lead to clashes.
He stated, “Actually I read about it. But I don’t subscribe to that idea. Amotekun is at best state police. We have the federal police. In a situation where you have state police, if their roles are not clearly defined, there may be clashes. The state police may want to protect a governor’s interest which may be contrary to the Federal Government’s interests.” The emir, however, stressed the need for unity and peace in the country.
Resurgence of Ansaru, evidence of need for Amotekun – Afenifere
Meanwhile, Afenifere on Sunday said that the resurgence of a terrorist group, Ansaru, further demonstrated the need for Amotekun.
It insisted that the re-emergence of the group, which claimed responsibility for the attack on the convoy of the Emir of Potiskum, Umaru Bubaram, on the Kaduna-Zaria road last Wednesday, showed that the nation’s security architecture could no longer cope with the security challenges facing the country.
Ansaru last carried out an attack in February 2013 in which seven foreign nationals were kidnapped from a compound owned by the Lebanese construction company, Setraco, in Kano.
The group said it carried out the attack on the emir, who was on his way to Zaria, Kaduna, on a tour of some traditional institutions in the North as part of preparations for the official inauguration of the Potiskum Central Mosque, Yobe slated for last Saturday. At least, six persons died in the attack while the emir narrowly escaped.
Commenting on the incident on Sunday, Afenifere’s spokesman, Yinka Odumakin, said the attack indicated the collapse of the security system in the country.
He further stated that those opposing Amotekun simply wanted to make the South-West vulnerable to attacks by bandits, kidnappers and other hoodlums.
Odumakin noted, “We have the impression, we may be wrong, that it is those who want to leave us vulnerable to such attacks that will continue to say we don’t need Amotekun. They are not able to secure the land against the bandits. What is going on? Governor Akeredolu’s convoy was attacked, so what is happening in the country?
“Clearly, with the collapse of the central security infrastructure, we need groups like Amotekun to secure lives and property and that is why we are insisting that Amotekun has come to stay.”
Meanwhile, the Director General, Development Agenda for Western Nigeria Commission, Seye Oyeleye, said governors of the South-West states would be meeting Buhari in Abuja this week.
Oyeleye, in an interview with The PUNCH, said, “We are working and we are happy that progress is being made as far as the security initiative is concerned. It is laughable to think or say that we are backing out.
“You see, it is difficult to be disclosing when we had meetings or when we shall have the next meeting because, you will agree with me that this is a security issue. But, for this purpose, I can tell you that we had two major meetings just last week.
“The fact is that most of those making noise about this are not the ones doing the work. Everything is getting to the point when you will have sufficient information about the operation, but I learnt that our governors would meet the President sometimes this week.”