• Says states have no legal right over defence
• Afenifere urges aggrieved parties to go to court
Iyobosa Uwugiaren, Deji Elumoye in Abuja, Segun James in Lagos and James Sowole in Akure
Governors of the six states in the South-west that promoted Amotekun, a regional security network to complement the federal government’s efforts in battling crime in the geopolitical zone, are soon to meet to decide how to respond to yesterday’s declaration of the security outfit as unconstitutional, THISDAY has gathered.
Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Mr. Abubakar Malami (SAN), had earlier yesterday declared Amotekun illegal, saying the governors lacked the legal authority to form it.
THISDAY had reported exclusively on Sunday that Malami would issue a statement on the position of the federal government shortly.
However, the Yoruba socio-cultural group, Afenifere, has urged the governors to ignore Malami and called on the federal government to go to court if it felt the governors were wrong.
While Ekiti State Governor, Dr. Kayode Fayemi, said he could not react since he had not been briefed, Osun State Commissioner for Information and Orientation, Mrs. Funke Egbemode, told THISDAY that all the South-west governors would soon meet to review the federal government’s position and chart the way forward.
Egbemode noted that all the necessary things were done to kick-off the security outfit in order to facilitate developmental efforts in securing lives and property of all the citizens.
According to her, the governors put in place the security outfit to ensure protection of lives and property of the people.
Special Adviser to Ondo State Governor on Security Matters, Alhaji Jimoh Dojumo, corroborated Egbemode’s statement, saying the governors would have to meet on the development.
“We are yet to be informed, but if truly the federal government declares it illegal, my principal (Governor Akeredolu) and other governors in the South-west would have to meet and decide on what to do next,” he said.
However, Malami in a statement by his media aide, Dr. Umar Gwandu, said he was not consulted on the matter, adding that if he had been consulted, proper information and guidance would have been offered to preserve Nigeria’s defence and corporate entity at all times.
He said: “The Federal Republic of Nigeria is a sovereign entity and is governed by laws meant to sustain its corporate existence as a constitutional democracy.
“It is a federation of states, but with the federal government superintending over matters of national interests. The division of executive and legislative authority between the federal and state governments has been clearly defined by the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 (as amended).
“It is against the same background that matters relating to the peace, order and good government of the federation and in particular, the defence of the country are enshrined in the Exclusive Legislative List.”
The federal government added that the Second Schedule in Item 17 deals with defence, saying this is a matter that is within the exclusive operational competence of the federal of government.
He said according to schedule, no other authority at the state level, whether the executive or legislature, has the legal authority over defence.
He added: “The setting up of the paramilitary organisation called Amotekun is illegal and runs contrary to the provisions of the Nigerian law. The Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 (as amended) has established the Army, Navy and Air Force, including the police and other numerous paramilitary organisations for the purpose of the defence of Nigeria.
“As a consequence of this, no state government, whether singly or in a group, has the legal right and competence to establish any form of organisation or agency for the defence of Nigeria or any of its constituent parts.
“This is sanctioned by the provision of Item 45 of the Second Schedule of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (as amended) authorising the police and other federal government security services established by law to maintain law and order.”
Malami said the law would take its natural course in relation to excesses associated with organisation, administration and participation in Amotekun or continuous association with it as an association.
Afenifere Urges Aggrieved Parties to Go to Court
However, in a swift reaction, Afenifere advised the six states in the South-west to ignore the federal government’s declaration of Amotekun as illegal.
Afenifere’s spokesman, Mr. Yinka Odumakin, told THISDAY that the governors should go ahead with proper security arrangements for the zone, saying if the federal government was aggrieved, it should go to court.
He wondered if Malami was a court of law to declare the action of elected governors illegal.
“These people are taking it too far and not hiding the fact that they endorse the insecurity we face in Yoruba land,” he said.
Another Afenifere chieftain, Chief Ayo Adebanjo, told THISDAY that President Muhammadu Buhari had no right to declare any action of a state government illegal.
“If he has issues, he should go to court. We have been saying that he is trying to impose a military government on the people, nobody is listening,” he said.
Secretary General of Afenifere, Chief Sehinde Arogbofa, accused the federal government of double standards, wondering why Amotekun was declared illegal when similar security outfit had been in existence in Kano state.
He said: “We understand that similar initiative like Amotekun had been put in place in Kano State to defend certain interests. Why the double standards? This is a slap on our fundamental human right, but we have the right to defend ourselves because every human has right to defend himself.”
The Southern and Middle Belt Leaders Forum (SMBLF) also yesterday condemned the federal government’s statement.
The forum in a statement jointly signed by Mr. Yinka Odumakin, Mr. CRU Iherike, Senator Bassey Henshaw and Dr. Isuwa Dogo for South-west, South-east, South-south and Middle Belt respectively, described Malami’s action as an abuse of office to suppress the rights of federating units to secure themselves. It advised the South-west governors to ignore Malami and allow him to go to court to challenge their decision as he could not constitute himself as a court over elected governors.
It said: “We are not under military rule. We insist that what the governors have done is what individuals and neighborhoods 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 vires action of the AGF 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 North-east where there is war and in Zamfara and Katsina 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.”
But the Secretary General of the Arewa Consultative Forum, Mr. Anthony Sani, said the South-west governors should accept the position of the federal government or challenge it in court.
He noted that the underlying causes of insecurity were poverty, unemployment and ignorance, which he said should be addressed.
Sani urged state governors to put pressure on the federal government to ensure the numbers of soldiers and police personnel are enough, adequately trained and properly equipped to combat security challenges.
He said: “Now that the federal government is reported to have declared Amotekun illegal, it is left for the South-west governors to either accept the position of the federal government or to challenge it in the court of law.
“That is how democracy works. However, it is my candid opinion that the state governors should address the underlying causes of insecurity which includes poverty that comes with unemployment and endemic ignorance.
“They should pressure the national government to ensure the numbers of soldiers and police personnel are enough, adequately trained and properly equipped.”