The Federal Government and the governors of the South-West states on Thursday reached a middle ground on the controversial security outfit, Operation Amotekun, as both settled for a legal “framework.”
This implies that the states will put in place all the necessary legal backing for the outfit to continue.
The resolution was reached at a meeting between Vice President Yemi Osinbajo and the governors at the Presidential Villa, Abuja.
The Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Mr Abubakar Malami, and the Inspector-General of Police, Mr Mohammed Adamu, also attended the meeting.
Malami declined to grant an interview to State House correspondents after the meeting. He merely said, “We are on the same page” and smiled.
However, the Chairman of the South-West Governors’ Forum, Mr Rotimi Akeredolu, told the reporters that deliberations behind closed doors were “fruitful.”
He said after all the issues relating to Amotekun were discussed, the meeting agreed that the legal framework should be worked out for the outfit.
Akeredolu added that the governors would return home and work out the framework accordingly.
He said, “We held a very fruit discussion, the governors of the South-West were there. The AGF and the IGP also attended. The meeting was presided over by the VP.
“We have rubbed minds and all of us agreed on the way forward. The most important thing is that we are going to have the legal framework to back Amotekun. And this legal framework is one in which all of us will be part of.
“What I believe is that Amotekun is there. And you know the Federal Government is also starting community policing. So, we are going to work together to see that community policing and Amotekun work together.”
Asked why there were no consultations with the Federal Government before the states launched the outfit, the governor replied that there were consultations.
He alluded to the fact of Malami saying that he was “misquoted” on his earlier stance by declaring Amotekun as “illegal.
Akeredolu, who spoke in the presence of the AGF, said, “There were consultations with even the IG before starting Amotekun. What has developed, the noise out there, was the report that there were no consultations, but there were consultations.
“As part of the solution, we said there was going to be a political solution. So, what has happened now (the meeting with the VP) is part of the political solution.
AGF said he was misquoted – Akeredolu
“There was no time the government stopped Amotekun; the AGF has already spoken. He issued a statement and it is so clear, that he said he was misquoted.”
Malami ,while responding to a question during a chat on Radio Nigeria Abuja on Thursday morning, explained that he did not say that Amotekun was illegal. He stated. “I was misinterpreted on Operation Amotekun, I did not say it’s illegal.
“I said the Operation Amotekun should be properly backed by law, so if at the end of this government, if the operation has been backed by law, any government that eventually succeeded this government will not rubbish the operation”.
“I said if they failed to enact a law in support of Amotekun in the South-West Region of Nigeria, another government can come and say it’s illegal and this is because it is not backed up by any law”.
“So, it is just a piece of advice to the state governors to use their power and the State Houses of Assembly in their various states to enact a law that will make the operation more effective.”
But in a statement by his media aide, Dr Umar Gwandu, Malmi later on Thursday insisted that the constitution did not recognise regional security outfit.
Meanwhile, the VP’s office, in a statement after the meeting, said it “was very fruitful and unanimous resolutions were made on the way forward.”
It said the states were asked to put a legal framework in place for Amotekun.
The VP’s media aide, Mr Laolu Akande, wrote, “Having regard to the need for all hands to be on deck in addressing the security concerns across the country, it was agreed that the structure of Amotekun should also align with the Community Policing strategy of the Federal Government.
“It was also agreed that necessary legal instruments will be put in place by each of the states to give legal backing to the initiative and address all issues concerning the regulation of the security structure.”
The governors present at the meeting aside from Akeredolu were those of Ekiti (Kayode Fayemi); Osun (Adegboyega Oyetola); and Ogun (Dapo Abiodun).
Lagos State Governor, Mr Babajide Sanwo-Olu, was absent, while Oyo State was represented by its deputy governor.
Constitution does not recognise regional security outfit
Earlier on Thursday, Malami explained why he declared Operation Amotekun illegal last week.
According to a statement by his Special Assistant on Media and Public Relations, Dr Umar Gwandu, the minister made the statement during a Radio Nigeria programme Nationwide Politics.
Gwandu quoted Malami as insisting that regional security architectural arrangement by states was not tolerated by the constitution.
The minister said, “The planning, execution, consummation of whatever security arrangement must be naturally grounded in law, rooted in the constitution and tolerated by the law.
“For any arrangement to stand within the law, the bottom line is that constitutionality and legality must be factored.
“Provided that there is an aberration relating to constitutional compliance, I think the right thing to do is to ensure constitutionality and legality both in spirit, planning, concept and consummation.
“If you are talking of regional arrangement, for example, at what point did the state assemblies come together as a region for the purpose of coming up with a statue or a law that can operate within the context of the constitution taking into consideration the federating arrangement that does not allow or tolerate a regional state House of Assembly arrangement.”
The AGF said the FG was opposed to a working arrangement with the institution established by the constitution for the provision of security, which is the police.
He added, “You cannot independently, unilaterally operate in the provision of the constitution without recourse to the constitutional authority that is the bottom line.
“Working together, helping the Federal Government in the provision of security is indeed a welcome development but it has to be rooted in the law and within the context of working arrangement with institutions constitutionally established and not a unilateral exclusive arrangement by a regional body.
“In the circumstances of Amotekun, it is the idea of unilateral control that it is the problem without recourse to the institutional and constitutional arrangement that is put in place by our constitution.
“You can, indeed provide whatever support and consideration but definitely it must be rooted in the constitutional arrangement and so self-help by way of unilateral arrangement cannot be tolerated with particular reference to regional arrangement which is not rooted in the constitution within the context of security.”
Don’t emulate Amotekun, AGF warns other zones
Responding to a claim that some state governors from some regions had been making efforts to establish regional security apparatus in their regions, the minister said, “The law is universal. It is not exclusive to a zone or a region in its application. The universality of the law will naturally prevail in ensuring that due process is indeed complied with.”
Falana’s new position on Amotekun vindicates FG, says Malami
Also, the AGF on Thursday said by asking for South-West state governments to “proceed to enact the necessary laws” on Amotekun, a human rights lawyer, Mr Femi Falana, was reaffirming the Federal Government’s stance.
Malami’s spokesman, Dr Umar Gwandu, in a statement said no amount of effort to hide the truth would work.
The Osun Muslim Community, a group that had initially condemned Amotekun, had backed the security initiative.
Recall that the group in a statement by its President, Alhaji Mustafa Olawuyi, and the Secretary, and Hashim Olapade, had on Monday said it would never support a one-sided security outfit, which it also said was at variance with the constitution.
However, in another statement by its President, Alhaji Mustafa Olawuyi, obtained in Osogbo on Thursday, the OSMC said after interaction between the authorit of Amotekun outfit and the Muslim community in the state, there was “proper understanding of the issue among all the stakeholders.”
Apologise for misleading Nigerians, Falana tells AGF
Falana, in a statement, said the AGF should apologise for misleading Nigerians on Amotekun.
He said, “The Attorney General of the Federal Government and Minister of Justice, Mr. Abubakar Malami, SAN has unequivocally asserted that Amotekun is illegal and unconstitutional on the grounds that defence is an item on the exclusive legislative list. He also said that it is illegal for states governments, either singly or jointly to set up any security outfit under the current democratic dispensation. Of course, Mr Malami knows that I do not agree with him that Amotekun is illegal simply because the enabling law has not been enacted. The fact that the office of the Special Assistant to the Attorney General of the Federal Government and Minister of Justice on Media is not a creation of the constitution does not make it illegal!
“On a more serious note, I was not surprised that the Federal Government was initially opposed to Amotekun. Like Amotekun the Sharia State Police callled Hisbah was ferociously attacked by the Federal Government. Even though Hisbah was established by the Kano State Hisbah Law No 4 of 2003 the Federal Government said it was illegal. In fact, in a letter addressed to the Kano State Government, President Olusegun Obasanjo expressed concern over the constitutionality of Hisbah. Thereafter, the President sent a fact finding delegation to Kano on the matter. Based on the antagonistic posture of the Federal Government the Nigeria Police Force took steps to outlaw the Hisbah. Apart from declaring the Hisbah illegal and unconstitutional the police arrested the commander-general of Hisbah and his deputy in Kano and took them to Abuja where they were detained.
“When the harassment of the Hisbah by the police continued unabated, the Kano State Government approached the Supreme Court to test the constitutional validity of the Hisbah Law. Curiously, the Supreme Court struck out the suit for want of jurisdiction on the grounds that there was no dispute between the the Federal Government and the Kano State Government on the existence and operation of Hisbah.”
MUSWEN urges restraint
But the Muslim Ummah of South-West Nigeria, in a statement onThursday by its Executive Secretary, Professor Muslih Yahya, expressed concern about the controversy on Amotekun.
He said, “Besides the legal issues that the launch of the initiative threw up, we are worried by the ethnic, religious and political dimensions to the public debate. Since when the controversy broke out, MUSWEN has exercised restraint with a view to ensuring that our position is based on irrefutable facts and not sentiments.”
In a related development, Oluwo of Iwo, Oba Abdulrosheed Akanbi, in a statement, called on governors in the South-West to ensure that Amotekun outfit check ritual killings in the region.
Ohanaeze youths urge South-East govs to bring back Bakassi Boys
The leadership of the apex socio-cultural youth body in Igbo land, the Ohanaeze Ndigbo Youth Council Worldwide, on Wednesday night, urged governors of the South-East to reinstate the Bakassi Boys vigilante group and the security arm of the Indigenous People of Biafra.
The group stated this in a statement by its President-General, Isigusoro Okechukwu, and Secretary General, Nnabuike Okwu, on Wednesday night.
Ibadan Progressive Union backs S’West govs on Amotekun
A foremost socio-cultural association in Ibadan, the Ibadan Progressive Union, lauded the South-West governors for their courage to secure Yorubaland through collaborative initiative.
The IPU, in a statement by its president and secretary, Olayinka Alli, and Dr. M.B. Olatunji, respectively on Thursday, declared its support for Amotekun.
The Yoruba Youth Socio-cultural Association Worldwide said that it received with gladness Malami’s withdrawal of his statement that Amotekun was illegal.
The National President of YYSA, Olalekan Hammed, in a statement issued on Thursday, said, “There is no more hindrance for Western Nigeria Security Network code-named Amotekun.”
Members of the House of Representatives were divided along regional lines on Operation Amotekun.
While the lawmaker representing Obokun/Oriade Federal Constituency of Osun State in the South-West, Mr Wole Oke, supported the security outfit, his counterpart from Kaita/Jibia Federal Constituency of Katsina State in the North-West, Mr Soli Jibia, opposed it.
Oke, in an interview, said, “I am Amotekun Oluwole Oke. All my leaders have spoken; the entire race, the entire region and the entire residents, including the Igbo, Tiv, Urhobo, Hausa or Fulani residents, or those that have one thing or the other to do in South-West are part and parcel of Amotekun.”
But Jibia asked, “What is Amotekun? That is a mythical story. All those people that are talking about it are not being honest and very insincere. They know the truth, they know the position of things.”