The controversy over the legality or otherwise of OperationAmotekun, a South-west security initiative by governors in the region, may have been laid to rest as both the federal government and the affected state governments reached a truce Thursday.
The position was reached some 24 hours after the national leader of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu broke his silence Wednesday on the controversy generated by the establishment of the security initiative.
Tinubu, had while commending the initiative, faulted the hasty response of the Attorney General and Minister of Justice Abubakar Malami, SAN, who declared the governors’ action an illegality.
While in another breath the former governor attempted justifying the rationale behind Malami’s action, he did not also spare the governors for not meeting with the AGF before consummating the idea, just as he also faulted the regional command structure ofAmotekun.
But in a statement after a meeting between the governors and Vice President Yemi Osinbajo Thursday in Abuja, Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity in the Office of the Vice President Laolu Akande said the two parties agreed that necessary legal instruments should 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.
In the meeting which also had AGF Malami, attorneys general of the affected states and Inspector General of Police Mohammed Adamu in attendance, the statement said parties agreed to align the structure of Amotekun with the community policing strategy of the federal government.
“Vice President Yemi Osinbajo met today with South-west Governors, the Attorney General of the Federation and the Inspector General of Police.
“The meeting was at the instance of the Governors who had asked to see President Muhammadu Buhari over the controversy surrounding the Amotekun Initiative. However, due to the President’s foreign engagement, he asked the Vice President to host the meeting.
“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,” he said.
Also, Governor Rotimi Akeredolu of Ondo state, told journalists after the meeting that there was misconception about theAmotekun security initiative of the south-west.
He said the security outfit was never declared illegal by AGF Malami.
“Well, we‘ve held a very fruitful discussion. Governors of the South-west were all there. The meeting was presided over by the Vice President and the Honourable Attorney General of the Federation was there and the Inspector General of Police.
“So, we have rubbed minds and all of us have agreed on the way forward and the most important one is that we are going to have the legal framework to back this Amotekun and the legal framework is going to be one in which all of us will look at and will be sure that it goes without any hindrance.
“What I believe, our resolution is that Amotekun is there. You know the federal government is starting community policing and in essence, Amotekun is about community policing. So, we are going to work together to see the community policing andAmotekun work in a way.
“The Attorney General has said he was misinterpreted, so it’s so clear there was no time the federal government wanted to stopAmotekun,” he said.
On whether the South-west governors did not consult before floating the security outfit, the governor said: “There were consultations because we held discussion with the Inspector General of Police then and what has developed is what led to this meeting. We just felt that with all this noise out there aboutAmotekun, it is better for us to sit down.
“You remember, immediately the noise started, I said we are going to explore political solution and all of us are here, even my colleague the deputy governor of Oyo who is a PDP member, all of us so we have looked at the political and legal solution to it and all of us will do it.”
And while an official position was being awaited on the meeting, a statement claimed the AGF was still insisting Amotekun remains anillegality.
This was however denied on AIT Television by AGF Malami last night.
But the statement signed by his Special Assistant on Media, Dr Umar Gwandu, a copy of which was obtained by BlueprintThursday, quoted Malami as insisting no going back on federal government’s position on Amotekun.
The statement said: “No amount of effort to hide the truth will work. People could be carried away by sentimental or emotional inclinations, but the truth remains apparently palpable.
“The bottom line is that the current Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria does not accommodate the formation of regional security architecture.
“This is a fact which is undisputable and undeniable. Mr Falana was prevaricating and circumlocuting using evasive techniques when he was asked by the media to justify the presence of lacuna within the law which could establish or protect the concept of regionalism in any operation in the country.
“This arrangement called Amotekun is not backed by any law neither at the State nor at the Federal Government level.”
“The Federal Government appreciates that legally-minded Nigerians have started to eschew emotions by offering legal comments on the matter as against being carried away by other inclinations.
“The Office of the Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice is committed to the rule of law and a constitutional democratic Federal Republic of Nigeria,” the statement added.
In a reaction to the AGF’s earlier position tagging Amotekun an illegality, Senior Advocate of Nigeria Mike Ozekhome said the security outfit is legal.
He said the community policing initiative should be applauded because it did not offend Section 214 and 215 of the 1999 constitution (As amended) that established the Nigerian Police.
“Amotekun is created to protect solely the people of South-west against external aggression.
“I do not see any constitutional logjam in all of these, but if the federal government sees it as such, they should invoke the constitutional jurisdiction of the Supreme Court of Nigeria to enable the Justices to determine the legality or otherwise ofAmotekun,” he said.
Asked if the governors could go to court, Ozekhome said: “It is not for the states to go to court. The state governors should hold on to it. As the chief security officers of their states, they have a duty to protect their territories. For the avoidance of doubt, it should be known that as federating units, all the states are equal as coordinate units with the federal government on matters of security regarding their territory.”