The controversy associated with the recent launch of Operation Amotekun, Western Nigeria Security Network by South-west governors, has brought to the fore the need for the National Assembly to revisit the clamour for a multi-level policing, reports Deji Elumoye
Save for the cooperation and assistance of the 36 state governments and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), the various state commands of the Nigeria Police Force (NPF) would have been bare for lack of equipment and other logistics to carry out their daily routine of securing lives and property.
It was the state governments that long before now took it upon themselves to equip the state police commands with vehicles, motorbikes, among other equipment for the police officers and men to function effectively.
This move, which started over 20 years ago before the nation returned to democratic rule in 1999, had led to a couple of security outfits like ‘Operation Sweep, Operation Thunder’ etc being set up by the state governments to combat the rising wave of crimes in their states.
Over time, some state governments observed that more security apparatus needed to be put in place and this informed the setting up of Hisbah security outfit in Kano, which for sometime now, has complemented the efforts of the police in combatting crime in Kano State without generating any outcry.
However, the move penultimate, Thursday by the Southwest region to institute its security outfit, Western Nigeria Security Network, nicknamed Operation Amotekun, was met with hues and cries with the Attorney General of the Federation, Abubakar Malami, declaring it illegal.
The position of the federal government has, however, not dampened the spirit behind the formation of the security outfit as the six Southwest governments insisted on going ahead with the security initiative to address the mounting security challenges of banditry, kidnapping, armed robbery, etc in the geo-political zone.
Various groups and individuals including Nobel laureate, Prof Wole Soyinka, Ooni of Ife, Oba Adeyeye Ogunwusi and the Pan Yoruba socio-cultural group, Afenifere, as well as the Southern and Middle Belt Leaders Forum had also risen in unison to support the establishment of Amotekun in the Southwest and chastised the federal government for declaring the security outfit illegal.
Afenifere was quick to advise the six Southwest states to ignore federal government’s declaration of its new security initiative as illegal.
Its spokesman, Yinka Odumakin asked the governors of the Southwest states to disregard Malami’s statement and go ahead with proper security arrangements for the zone.
He, however, said the federal government if not satisfied with the zone’s security arrangement was at liberty to go to court to challenge it.
“The Governors should ignore him and let him proceed to court if he has anything against their action,” wondering if “Malami is now 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”.
The Southern and Middle Belt Leaders Forum (SMBLF) also condemned in strong terms, Malami’s declaration of Amotekun as illegal.
The Forum, in a statement jointly signed by Yinka Odumakin, CRU Iherike, Senator Bassey Henshaw and Dr Isuwa Dogo for Southwest, Southeast, 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, “and in furtherance of the widely – held suspicion that sections of the country are deliberately being rendered vulnerable for herdsmen and other criminals by the federal government.”
The forum further advised the Southwest governors 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.
“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 Katina 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”.
Others in reaction to the launch of the security outfit also renewed the call on the federal government to hasten the establishment of state police to curb the insecurity situation in the country.
One of such calls came from a member of the National Assembly, Senator Olamilekan Adeola, who canvassed for the establishment of state police in the wake of the controversy generated over the recent establishment of Amotekun. He called on the Federal Government to immediately set in motion machinery for the establishment of state police as a way of allaying fears and concerns in some quarters about a “regional security force”.
Senator Adeola, representing Lagos West, urged the Federal Government to in no time set administrative and legislative apparatus in motion for the realisation of state police through a fast-tracked constitutional amendment, “as the alternatives, in face of continuing insecurity, may be the resort to self-help by citizens or the launching of varieties of ‘Amotekuns’ by geopolitical zones.”
According to him, the establishment of state police is the only acceptable way to stop ‘Amotekun’ and other similar bodies already in operation and others in the offing following security challenges facing various parts of the nation.
This brings to the fore the urgent need for the National Assembly to revisit the issue of amending the constitution to create room for the creation of state police. The idea was mooted in the Eighth Assembly but a lot of forces worked against its passage then.
As at now, Article 45 in the second schedule of the 1999 constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria gave exclusive authority to the Police and other federal government security services established by law to maintain law and order. This particular aspect needs to be amended to allow for the creation of state police.
At the Eighth Assembly, former Deputy Senate President, Senator Ike Ekweremadu, came up with a bill for the amendment of the 1999 Constitution to allow for the creation of states and community police.
Ekweremadu, who also doubled as Chairman of the Senate Committee on Constitution Review, in the bill had sought to admit Nigeria into the league of countries operating state and community police system like United States, United Kingdom, Spain, Mexico, India, Germany, Canada, Brazil and Australia.
He had then expressed optimism that with the Bill titled “Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (Alteration) Bill, 2018” passing through the first reading: “I am sure that as soon as possible, we will take the second reading and probably send it for public hearing through the committee so that we fast-track it as directed by the Senate.”
This, however, was not to be as the bill never went beyond that stage in the Eighth Assembly. With the latest development in the country, it will not be out of place if Senator Ekweremadu and other Senators of like minds re-introduce the state police bill.
It is very glaring now that some Senators as well as members of the House of Representatives will be willing this time to give their backing to the bill, which may be the only way out of the security challenges being faced across the country.
With the National Assembly resuming plenary next Tuesday after a long Christmas break – the leadership of the two chambers should give the issue of the creation of state police the priority it deserves.
Just as Senate President Ahmad Lawan hinted late last year that Electoral Reforms and passage of Petroleum Industry Bill would be the priority of the Senate in year 2020, he, along with the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila, should also include the passage of the bill for the creation of state police as another priority of the Assembly this year.