As controversy over the establishment of the Western Nigeria Security Network (WNSN), codenamed “Operation Amotekun,” subsided following the intervention of Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, MURITALA AYINLA takes a look at the developments in relation to the clamour for state police
There is relative calm in the air across the country, especially in the South-West geopolitical zone, following the agreement reached by the Federal Government and the six governors of the region on the establishment of the Western Nigeria Security Network (WNSN) codenamed “Operation Amotekun.”
The security intervention project called “Western Nigeria Security Network” (WNSN), initiated by the Seye Oyeleye-led Development Agenda for Western Nigeria (DAWN Commission), an offshoot of Odu’a Investment Company Limited, was specifically aimed at checkmating and tackling the myriad of insecurity challenges bedeviling the people of the region, particularly from the activities of banditry, terrorism, kidnapping, ritual killing, armed robbery, herdsmen and farmers’ conflicts, cybercrime and other crimes, threatening the lives and property in the region.
The legality questions, controversies
The inauguration of the joint security outfit popularly known as “Amotekun” on January 9, had sparked off reactions across the country as some sections of the country expressed concerns over its establishment. While the Federal Government through the Attorney–General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami (SAN) described the formation of the security outfit as unconstitutional given that there was no legal backing for the regional security outfit, others saw it as a political decision capable of undermining the unity of the nation. Yet a host of Nigerians, who also ethnicised and politicised the project, said the idea was aimed at restructuring the nation through a back door approach.
The Attorney-General of the Federation, insisted in a statement that the Western Nigeria Security Network is unlawful, quoting Article 45 of the Second Schedule of the 1999 Constitution (as amended), which gives the Federal Government exclusive powers over the police.
Malami, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), who is also Chief Law Officer of the Federation and Legal Adviser, called for the suspension of the project, but the six South-West governors and other legal luminaries like him argued otherwise.
Reacting to the AGF’s stance on Amotekun, Nigeria’s foremost human rights activist and lawyer, Mr. Femi Falana (SAN), said the Attorney-General of the Federation (AGF) has no power to proscribe any organisation in the country.
Falana said the Minister of Justice should approach the Supreme Court if he believes Operation Amotekun is illegal as he claimed, advising the South-West governors to ignore the minister’s statement and proceed with the security outfit by enacting necessary laws to back it up.
“In this case, the statement credited to the Attorney-General of the Federal Government is clearly diversionary and hypocritical. Hypocritical in the sense that the governments of Kano and Zamfara states have set up Hisbah Commission and just recently, the Hisbah operatives in Zamfara State arrested a police officer alleged to have been caught in the midst of three women,” the human rights lawyer said.
Other silk, such as Olisa Agbakoba (SAN) and Chief Afe Babalola (SAN) and a senior legal scholar, Prof. Itse Sagay (SAN) also explained to the Attorney-General of the Federation, the legality of the security outfit quoting the same 1999 Constitution.
Hence, the formation of the security outfit continued to generate reactions and counter-reactions from the different personality across the country, especially from the South-West region in addition to massive protests in support of Amotekun in the six South-West states, namely: Ondo, Ekiti, Osun, Oyo, Ogun and Lagos but it was not until Vice President Yemi Osinbajo brokered peace between the governors and Malami that a common ground was agreed on.
With the growing crisis and controversies generated by the creation of the security outfit, there was no doubt that urgent intervention was required to douse the tension, which analysts said was capable of threatening the nation’s unity.
At the meeting held behind a closed door for several hours, which was also attended by the Inspector-General of Police, Muhammed Adamu, Vice President Osinbajo was able to resolve the highly sensitive issue amicably while the worrying parties came to a logical conclusion on the matter.
It was learnt that the meeting which was at the instance of the governors who had asked to meet President Muhammadu Buhari over the controversy surrounding the Western Nigeria Security Network initiative. But due to the President’s foreign engagement in the United Kingdom, he asked his vice to host the meeting.
In a statement by the Senior Special Assistant to the Vice President on Media, Mr. Laolu Akande, the meeting was described as very fruitful as it lay to rest all the issues generating controversy between the parties.
According to him, “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 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.”
Also speaking on the outcome of the meeting, Ondo State governor, Mr. Rotimi Akeredolu (SAN), who is also the Chairman of South-West Governors’ Forum, said the meeting gave all parties ample opportunity to explain their positions and to agree on the way forward for security in the country.
Akeredolu said: “We have rubbed minds and all of us have agreed on the way forward. The most important one is that we are going to have legal framework to back this Amotekun. This legal framework is going to be one which we all are going to look at and will be sure to go without any hindrances.”
On whether Amotekun had been placed on hold pending the formulation and passage of the legal framework, the governor said: “No! What I believe is our resolution is that Amotekun is there. You know the Federal Government is about to start community policing. In essence really, it is about the community. So, we are going to work together to see the community policing and Amotekun work in a way.”
Commendation for Buhari/Osinabajo
Meanwhile, Nigerians have continued to react to peaceful resolution of the Amotekun, commending President Muhammadu Buhari for yet entrusting Prof. Osinbajo with the power to resolve the highly sensitive issue, saying that the Amotekun issue, if not handled intelligently, could lead to needless conflict and disunity.
They also commended the vice president for being a symbol of unity, maturity and stability in the country, saying that the Prof Osinbajo has always proven to be a dependable ally to the President.
Among prominent Nigerians who have commended President Buhari for entrusting Vice President Osinbajo with the task of resolving the issue amicably is prominent United States-based Nigerian and former Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) leader, Dr. Baba Adams, who said that President Buhari deserves commendation for allowing his vice to intervene and resolve the volatile issue.
The respected politician said Prof. Osinbajo has done an outstanding job again by saving the nation from falling into unnecessary conflict and calamity of disunity, urging the president to entrust him with more sensitive responsibilities.
His words: “Thank you for bestowing trust in the Vice President, Prof. Osinbajo (SAN) to provide the leadership on resolving the highly sensitive Amotekun issue. As in all other assignments, Mr. VP has done an outstanding job again and save the nation from falling into unnecessary conflict and calamity of dis-unity.
“This is the first salvo and we highly recommend you further empower or delegate the VP to resolve this issue, as not only in the South-West but the rest of the nation – as APC states such as Nasarawa have already expressed interest in implementing Community Policing, Local Government Area (LGA) and State Policing”
The call for state police
It was also on record that prior to the establishment of Operation Amotekun, Vice President Osinbajo had been an advocate of a community policing to strengthen the existing security apparatus in the state.
According to Prof. Osinbajo, the security challenges of the country were complex and nuanced that securing Nigeria’s over 900,000 square kilometers and 180 million people required far more men and materials than the nation has at the moment. Hence, he said that adoption of state police was the way to go in meeting security needs of the country.
Vice President Osinbajo, who said this at the 2018 National Summit, said that every Nigerian was entitled to adequate security by the government and that the security failures of the government were not deliberate.
“We cannot realistically police a country the size of Nigeria centrally from Abuja. As a people any killing undermines the security of the state,” he stated as he mentioned several killings that had taken place in different parts of the country in recent times.
He said the government had worked on some policy objectives, some of which needed legislative approval and cooperation of the judiciary.
“It requires a continual reengineering of our security architecture and strategies; this has to be a dynamic process,” he noted.