The Federal Government has declared the South-West security outfit, Operation Amotekun, illegal. The Attorney General of the Federation, Abubakar Malami (SAN), made the government’s position known in a statement on Tuesday by his spokesman, Dr Umar Gwandu.
But The PUNCH gathered that the South-West governors would in the next few days meet and might resort to legal action against the AGF’s pronouncement. Following serial killings and kidnapping allegedly by the Fulani herdsmen last year, the South-West governors, at a summit convened by the Development Agenda for Western Nigeria in June agreed to set up Operation Amotekun.
On Thursday, the governors inaugurated the security outfit, which would comprise the Oodua People’s Congress, the vigilante groups and local hunters.
The Nobel laureate, Prof Wole Soyinka, and groups, including the Ohanaeze Ndigbo; the Yoruba socio-political organisation, Afenifere, and Southern Kaduna Peoples Union, lauded the governors for setting up the security outfit. The PUNCH had earlier reported that intrigues among the governors and interference by the Federal Government were threatening the operation of the security outfit.
According to the report, some elements within the Presidency and the police high command are not favourably disposed to the regional outfit because they consider it as part of restructuring agenda which the South-West has been clamouring for.
On Tuesday, the Federal Government finally came out with its verdict on the outfit about one week after its inauguration. It said it was not carried along while the outfit was being put in place. The statement read, “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, 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. The law will take its natural course in relation to excesses associated with organisation, administration and participation in Amotekun or continuous association with it as an association.
“Finally, it is important to put on record that the Office of the Attorney General and Minister of Justice was not consulted on the matter. If it had, proper information and guidance would have been offered to ensure that Nigeria’s defence and corporate entity are preserved at all times.”
Malami noted that Nigeria was a sovereign entity governed by laws meant to sustain its corporate existence as a constitutional democracy. He said although the nation is a federation of states, the Federal Government superintends over matters of national interest.
He added, “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 Second Schedule in Item 17 deals with defence. This is a matter that is within the exclusive operational competence of the Federal Government of Nigeria. No other authority at the state level, whether the executive or legislature, has the legal authority over defence.”
The PUNCH learnt that one of the options the South-West governors were considering when Malami made the pronouncement was a legal action.