- To agree on legal framework for regional security network
Iyobosa Uwugiaren, Omololu Ogunmade, Alex Enumah in Abuja and Kemi Olaitan in Ibadan
The federal government and governors from the South-west yesterday found a political solution to the growing rift over the regional security outfit, Amotekun.
They both agreed to develop a legal framework for the outfit, whose launch has pitted the people of the region against the federal government, especially in the wake of the declaration by the Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Mr. Abubakar Malami (SAN), that it is illegal.
They also agreed that the regional security network would have to be aligned with the federal government’s community policing policy.
Malami had insisted earlier yesterday that any security arrangement not supported by law remained illegal.
But speakers of Houses of Assembly in the geo-political zone rallied behind the Western Nigeria Security Network (WNSN), code named Amotekun, pledging to give it legislative approval.
Rising from a two-hour meeting, presided over by Vice President Yemi Osinbajo at the State House, Abuja, Chairman of the South-west Governors’ Forum and Ondo State Governor, Mr. Rotimi Akeredolu (SAN), said they had a fruitful discussion and agreed on the way forward.
According to him, nobody ever attempted to stop Amotekun and described it as a form of community policing.
He dismissed insinuations that discussions were not held with the Inspector General of Police, Mr. Mohammed Adamu, before the launch.
Akeredolu said he had earlier stated that political solution would eventually be found to the controversy generated by the advent of Amotekun, adding that what happened yesterday was a fulfillment of the declaration.
“Well, we had a very fruitful discussion. Governors of South-west as you know, we were all there. The meeting was presided over by the vice president. The Attorney-General of the Federation was there as well as the Inspector General of Police.
“So, we have rubbed minds (sic) and all of us have agreed on the way forward. The most important one is that we are going to have a legal framework to back this Amotekun. And this legal framework is going to be one which we is going to look at and will be sure to go without any hindrance,” he said.
Asked if the agreement meant that Amotekun would not function for now, Akeredolu said: “No. What I believe is our resolution is that Amotekun is there. You know the federal government is starting community policing. In essence really, it is about community. So, we are going to work together to see the community policing and Amotekun work.”
On whether lack of consultations fuelled the controversy, which trailed the launch of Amotekun, he said: “No. No. No. There were consultations. Don’t say there were no consultations. There were consultations because we held discussions with the IG then and what has developed is what has led to this; not that there were no consultations.
“We just felt that with all this noise outside, it is better for us to sit down. Remember that immediately the noise started, I said that we are going to explore political solution and all of us are here. My colleague, the deputy governor of Oyo, who is of the PDP, all of us are here. So, we have looked at this solution to it now; both political and legal solutions to it and all of us will do it.”
He disagreed with the perception that the federal government wanted to stop Amotekun.
“No, the government is not trying to stop it. The Attorney-General has spoken on that. I’m sure you have all read the statement that he was misinterpreted. So, it’s so clear. There was no time that government wanted to stop Amotekun and the AGF having spoken, it’s all about us. So, there is no problem,” he said.
The launch of Amotekun had generated controversy across the country following reports that the AGF had declared the outfit illegal.
The declaration provoked anger in the people of the South-west, who staged peaceful protests across the zone in support of Amotekun on Tuesday, reiterating that there is no going back on the security network.
Osinbajo was believed to have been assigned by the federal government to reach an accord with the governors on the way forward for the network.
Yesterday’s meeting was attended by three South-west governors and three deputy governors.
Present at the meeting were Governors Kayode Fayemi (Ekiti), Rotimi Akeredolu (Ondo) and Gboyega Oyetola (Osun) while their counterparts in Lagos, Oyo and Ogun were represented by their deputies.
A statement issued last night by Osinbajo’s spokesman, Mr. Laolu Akande, said his principal met with the South-west governors, the AGF and the IG, at the instance of the governors whom he said had requested to see President Muhammadu Buhari over the controversy surrounding Amotekun.
Akande said following the president’s non-availability, he asked his deputy to preside over the meeting.
He said: “The meeting was very fruitful and unanimous resolutions were made on the way forward. 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.”
Malami Insists Amotekun Not Backed by Law
However, Malami had insisted earlier in the day that any security arrangement not supported by law was illegal.
In a statement by the Special Assistant on Media and Public Relations Office of the Attorney-General and Minister of Justice, Dr. Umar Gwandu, the minister reaffirmed this declaration, amidst reports that he had backed down on his position on Amotekun.
The minister, who was quoted as making his rebuttal during the Radio Nigeria programme “Nationwide Politics,” said the federal Government had already issued its stance through a statement rooted in the law and the constitution.
According to Malami, the regional security architectural arrangement by states is not tolerated by the Constitution of the Federation hence cannot be rooted in the constitution or in any of the extant law.
“The planning, execution, consummation of whatever security arrangement must be naturally grounded in law, rooted in the constitution and tolerated by the law,” he added.
On the issue of state governments making efforts towards legislation that would back the operation of Amotekun, the Attorney-General said that the federal government’s stance was anchored on the legality and constitutionality elements that should be factored into the planning, conceptualisation, consummation and execution of the operation.
“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 that the federating arrangement does not allow or tolerate a regional state house of assembly arrangement,” he said.
The Attorney-General said the federal government does not oppose a working arrangement with the institution established by the constitution for the provision of security and in this case with particular reference to the police.
He explained: “You cannot independently, unilaterally operate 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.”
In a separate statement he issued earlier yesterday, the minister said the new position of a human rights activist, Mr. Femi Falana (SAN), had vindicated the federal government on the contentious issue of Amotekun.
Falana had said the federal government was wrong in declaring the outfit illegal but Malami argued that F
alana in a new report was said to have advised the six governors of the South-west to create a legal backing for the activities of Amotekun.
South-west Speakers Back Amotekun
Meanwhile, the speakers of Houses of Assembly in the geo-political zone yesterday declared their support for Amotekun.
The Speaker, Oyo State House of Assembly, Hon. Adebo Ogundoyin, made the disclosure at a meeting of Conference of Speakers of South-west States Legislatures in Ibadan.
Present at the meeting were Speaker of the Lagos State House of Assembly, who is also the Chairman, Conference of Speakers, Hon. Mudashiru Obasa; Speaker of Ekiti State House of Assembly, Hon. Funminiyi Afuye; Speaker of Osun State House of Assembly, Hon. Timothy Owoeye; Ondo State House of Assembly Speaker, Hon. Bamidele Oleyeloogun; and Speaker, Ogun State House of Assembly, Hon. Olakunle Oluomo.
Others present at the meeting were representatives of the Development Agenda for Western Nigeria (DAWN) Commission, members from the state Houses of Assembly in the region, security advisers from the region and other concerned stakeholders.
Ogundoyin, in his welcome address, decried the statement credited to Malami that the security outfit was illegal, stating that the new security outfit was launched in a bid to complement the efforts of the police and other security agencies.