Senior lawyers to AGF: You got it wrong on Amotekun

…say security not exclusive to FG

 

 

Emmanuel Onani

Abuja

 

 

S

ome senior lawyers have faulted the position of the Attorney General of the Federation (AGF) and Minister of Justice, Mr. Abubakar Malami (SAN), on the establishment of Operation Amotekun by South-West governors.

New Telegraph recalls that, a few days after the launch of Operation Amotekun – a security outfit designed by the governors of the six states – Lagos, Ogun, Oyo, Ondo, Osun and Ekiti, to curb the spate of kidnapping and other violent crimes in the region – the AGF had issued a statement wherein he had described the initiative as illegal and offensive to the dictates of the constitution.

 

 

Malami said that “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.”

However, three Senior Advocates of Nigeria (SANs) – Chiefs Solo Akuma, Mike Ahamba and Mike Ozekhome, as well as a senior lawyer, Mr. Wahab Shittu, who spoke in separate interviews with our correspondent, said nothing could be farther from the truth.

 

 

While insisting that security management was not exclusive to the Federal Government, the lawyers submitted that Amotekun was legal, and must be allowed to stay.

Speaking on the controversy surrounding Amotekun, Akuma said the AGF got it wrong as, according to him, the constitution had made provision for even an individual to secure himself against attack.

He said: “If you look at security and defence, you may discover that there is a difference. Because, when you look at the issue of security, it encompasses the power vested in you by the constitution itself as a person in securing yourself. And in doing so, you have to adopt measures that are illegal.

 

 

“The AGF is talking about defence in relation to those areas covered by the Army, Police, Air Force; those are the areas he has in mind.

“He got it wrong, absolutely. Because, if you look at section of the constitution, it said the responsibility of government is for the security and welfare. It refers to government. And, there are three tiers of government: the federal, state and local governments. It is not only left for the Federal Government, neither is it left to the state government.”

 

 

In aligning with Akuma, Ahamba drew parallels between Amotekun and vigilante groups across the country, saying the fact that the security outfit enjoyed patronage did detract from its legality.

“There is a difference (between security and defence). As far as I’m concerned, there is a difference and there is also similarity,” Ahamba said.

Asked if both defence and security were listed in the Exclusive List, he said it was “defence.”

 

 

According to him, “it (Amotekun) need to be tested in a court of law, because I don’t see what they (South-West governors) have done so far that is illegal.

“We have vigilantes all over the place. That (Amotekun) is collectively organised, doesn’t make any difference to me.

 

 

“It’s only when they start doing what is wrong, then security agencies can do something.

 

“If police and others had been policing and protecting poor natives from assault, nobody will think about Amotekun. As of now, they have not done anything wrong; they should be left alone.”

 

On his part, Ozekhome predicated his argument on the fact that each state was recognised as a “federating unit” by the constitution, hence had the power to initiate complementary security measures such as Amotekun.

“I think the Attorney General, Abubakar Malami (SAN), this time, has missed the point entirely,” he said.

He added: “Sections 214 and 215 of the constitution provide for a behemoth, a very unwieldy Nigeria Police Force, which is supposed to police all nooks and crannies of Nigeria, but which does not have the capacity.

“Every state is a federating unit in Nigeria and each state governor is the chief security officer of a state, in accordance with the same provision of Sections 214 and 215 of the constitution.

 

“That means that the constitution recognises the fact that although there is a central police, although there is a Commander-in-Chief, every state has to have its own borders secured from external aggression, because the country, the Federal Government, cannot do it all alone

 

“Operation Amotekun is, therefore, an intervention by the South-West states, to secure their borders. And, if you check the constitution under section 1 up to 2, you will see that the states of Nigeria and local government areas, are clearly stated.

“Each state is a geographical entity, in its own right. That is why you have boundary demarcations and limitations.”

Also, Shittu said it was not for nothing that governors were referred to as “chief security officers” of their respective states.

 

He said: “Well, my perspective is that security is a collective enterprise; it is not within the exclusive territory of any tier of government.

“If you look at the fact that governors are the chief security officers of their states, it means they owe the responsibility of ensuring security in their various jurisdictions, while the Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces and the chief security of the nation, is the president, with responsibility to oversee security throughout the country, subject to the power of the states also collaborating in that respect.

 

 

“So, if you look at it from that context, the word security and defence, as contemplated in the constitution, can be said to be used interchangeably.

 

“But in my view, security is wider than defence, because security also embodies national interest.”

He argued further: “So, I think the Attorney General (of the Federation) cannot be right to say states do not have responsibility over security.

“They do have, and that is why specifically, security votes are allocated to states, to take care of security matters.

 

 

“If you look at that against the raging controversy over Amotekun, then you see that the attorney general, again, is wrong, because you cannot say that states are not entitled to deploy extra-ordinary measures in order to tackle terrorism, kidnapping and insurgency; these are situations not contemplated by the constitution.”

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