Amotekun: South-West not against Buhari, says Akeredolu

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THE Chairman/ Coordinator of the new security outfit in the South-West, Governor Oluwarotimi Akeredolu declared on Friday that the launch of Operation Amotekun was not a vote against President Muhammadu Buhari or an attempt to undermine his government.

He said the six governors in the zone would soon have an audience with the President as a follow up to their Thursday discussion with Vice President Yemi Osinbajo on the matter.

That meeting brought about a deal between the federal government and the SouthWest governors on the security arrangement.

The governors were asked to forward a bill to their  state assemblies to give legal teeth to the outfit.

Eminent lawyers –Dr.Olisa Agbakoba and Mr.Femi Falana- both of them senior advocates,yesterday welcomed the deal.

Akeredolu, speaking in an interview with select editors in Abuja, said Operation Amotekun was not designed to return regionalism to the country or lay foundation for the secession of the South-West from Nigeria.

He said he cannot be a party to any cause capable of breaking up Nigeria as he is married to an Igbo woman.

He said with the deal reached by the Federal Government and the South-West governors, the Nigeria Police will train Amotekun operatives.

He said Operation Amotekun will not have a single command structure.

There is no cause for alarm over Amotekun,he insisted.

He said: “Why not? We will meet with him (President Muhammadu Buhari)  when we have the opportunity. I can tell you, we met with the Vice President and the intent was to see the President.

“We wanted to talk to him to discuss with him. But he said he was going to be in England and because of time why don’t you meet with the VP before he would come.

“But by the time the VP asked us to come, I told him that most of our colleagues who were in the UK would  be coming back on Thursday   morning that we cannot meet him until then.

“That was why he now fixed it for Thursday after the National Economic Council (NEC),  because a few of my colleagues were in England. They came back and two of them could not come. Ogun and Lagos couldn’t return but they sent their deputies. That was what happened. So, why not? The president will hear us. He is somebody that understands us when we meet.”

The governor said the launch of Operation Amotekun was not against the President by the South-West.

He said: “This (Amotekun) has nothing to do with the president. It is just only that the Attorney-General of the Federation decided to say something. And I felt he would have been more circumspect not to say it. He knows me very well. He knows Governor Kayode Fayemi very well.

“Maybe he would have said ‘learned silk or my president’ because that is what he calls me, can you call your people and let’s discuss this thing. Everything would have been discussed as we did yesterday (Thursday). But I don’t know why he went out the way he went out. There is no problem . We are not having any problem with the Federal Government. We will sort everything out.”

Asked if the President was consulted before the launch of Amotekun, Akeredolu said since  the Inspector-General of Police, Mohammed Adamu was part of talks on Operation Amotekun, the governors felt the Federal Government was fully in the picture.

His words: “The governors were elected for a purpose, and we are chief security officers of our own states too. But our own understanding was that if we have held discussions with the IG, he is representative enough for the Federal Government. So, in the discussion with one of us, that is Ekiti State Governor, John Kayode Fayemi, the IGP said well, he was not opposed to it but it was the reaction of our people later that he now felt, what are they trying to do? We told them that the reaction later was a reaction to what the Attorney-General of the Federation said. I told him that what the AGF said was what we are reacting to. He said it was illegal. So we have been able to sort that one out.”

Akeredolu also gave an insight  into what transpired at the meeting with Vice President Osinbajo and why the session was important.

He added: “We had very fruitful discussions. And those of us who were there, you know them. We had the Vice President, who presided over the meeting. We had the governors from the six states, making up Western Nigeria there. Some of them were represented by their Deputy Governors. The IG and the Attorney-General of the Federation (AGF) were there.

“We went through all these because it is important for us to clear a few things. Like in Ondo State, the Amotekun vehicles are to have policemen and soldiers for us to work together, because there is no way you go on. We don’t want a situation whereby you are not entitled to carry gun and you now go on to carry gun.

“Even for the launch in Ibadan, all the security apparatchik had agreed to go until they had a signal from Abuja or from anywhere and they said no, you don’t have to go. So what I am trying to say is that from the onset we are to work with the security agencies.

“There is no way we can do this on our own; we are to work with them but have our people embedded in every of the vehicles. We are to have our people only on the bikes. We will not bring bikes to Akure or Ibadan. All of us that bought bikes  are trying to complement the efforts of the police because they don’t know the terrain. These bandits when they rob people and they run into the forest we want to use our people to pursue them and give information to the police and others. So we have to work together.

“From our discussion yesterday (Thursday), it was clear that one of the issues the police were concerned about was that they were about launching community policing, and that is a good idea to us, but we should find a way to work together. And we are not opposed to it. It is about community policing.”

The governor said Operation Amotekun will accommodate community police strategy.

He said: “That is why we say that the structure of Amotekun we are going to fine tune it to accommodate the community police strategy of the Federal Government. Our lawyers, attorneys-General and state Houses of Assembly speakers had been working before the launch. And we made it clear that we had to make the launching.  Our lawyers had been working. Our speakers of all the states Houses of legislature, the SSS were part of it.

“We have all agreed, the laws will be similar. The laws are being prepared by the Attorneys- General -all of them out together. When it is out,  everybody will go ahead and back to their legislature and domesticate it. So, this is it. You will go back to your House of Assembly and domesticate it.

“The only thing we want to do really is that maybe we want to put the law in place first while  other things are going on

Akeredolu said the Nigeria Police will train Amotekun Militia for effective collaboration.

He said: ”Part of the training, luckily, is that most of these our people will be trained by the police. If they call them constabulary or so, those who guard palace, guard Oba and others. They can even wear  police uniform. So, we must have a way to get them protected. Training is going on. It is coming up in a robust manner.”

He said Operation Amotekun will not have a single command structure.

He said the states will however share intelligence and cost of expensive security equipment.

He said: “The command structure is not a single command structure. It is one in which every state will have its own command. And we can now reach out to each other. That is all.

“We came together so that we could share  the cost of some very expensive equipment. We are talking about trackers of about N500million. I said okay why not put Ondo putting N250million and  Ekiti another N250million to use it. Osun and Oyo can share. Lagos is big, it can buy its own. But those of us who do not have that much we can share. That is the essence of Amotekun. The essence of the region in it is cooperation. I don’t think there is anything wrong with that. “That is why we keep having meetings of Arewa. You have meetings of Ohaneze. You have meetings of those in the South-South. Everybody knows that we have been having our own meetings. We have DAWN development agenda for Western Nigeria. We have Oodua with all of us coming together there. There is also nothing wrong for us to come together for security of lives and property of our people. That is all.

He clarified that Operation Amotekun is not a regional agitation tool to break up Nigeria.

But he said it is still important to pursue the restructuring of the country.

He added: ”I, in my speech at the launch of Amotekun, I was very clear that we are not Para-military, and that it is collaborative, and that all we want to do is to make sure in the forest and others we have men, who can go into them to arrest these bandits and help the police in their work. I remember I said something there. Some people say well, this nation has come to stay. If only for one reason, for my sake, it will stay.

AK49 wielding bandits that are running the kidnap and homicide industry in Nigeria. The time to act is now. We delay at our peril.”

“I remember I said so. If you go and get the tape, I said it must stay. So, my wife that is Igbo, you want to leave this country, where will my children go? So, this country, I believe in this country totally.

“In future you will now say we are committed to restructuring this country. We are not going to say because of Amotekun say no. This country must be restructured. We have said so openly. In the APC, it is there and it is part of our manifesto. Restructuring was stated clearly that we will do it. Why we have not done it, nobody knows. But  we have to. But there have been some efforts to restructure. We can give it to the President and let him take the credit. There have been efforts at restructuring in one way or the other.”

Responding to another question, he explained that Operation Amotekun would  not be used for political purposes.

“At the launch if you can get my speech there, I said so. We cannot  use Amotekun for political purposes.

“And I said so that Amotekun men must not be found anywhere where they are having elections or politics. No! You cannot politicize Amotekun. The people who have this fear they are making us believe today that the police, since it is federal the Federal Government can abuse it. That is why when people say they do they don’t want state police, I laugh. We cannot have the command in Abuja to cover the whole of this country. It is not possible. It is not working. There is need for us to have state police.

“Some of us have even said so that to add to this you must devolve it to the states. They have reasons. The reason is very clear. You can say some people can abuse it. I am not saying that people cannot abuse it just as the federal can abuse the police we have now. They have gone to governors who are enjoying immunity and gone to their houses to search them. So what are we saying?

“So, anything can happen but let us start. If we have this and the  governors abuse it, will they be there forever?  Someone will come and do the right thing. And when Amotekun takes its roots all of us will be happy.”

Falana, Agbakoba back Fed Govt, Southwest deal

Senior lawyers on Friday threw their weight behind the deal between the Federal Government and the SouthWest governors on the Western Nigeria Security network.

They welcomed the Federal Government’s agreement that states can give legal backing to Amotekun legislatively through each state’s House of Assembly.

Those who spoke with The Nation included Senior Advocates of Nigeria (SANs) Dr Olisa Agbakoba and Femi Falana.

Lagos lawyer Jiti Ogunye also weighed in on the deal in a post on his Facebook page last night. According to him, Nigeria state policing should succeed a mere “intelligence gathering” Amotekun.

Reacting to the development, Agbakoba expressed satisfaction with the Amotekun deal.

He observed that it was a step towards proper distribution of legislative powers between tiers of government in Nigeria.

Agbakoba said: “The seeming challenge (of Amotekun) has proved a test for our brand of federalism where many suggest devolution of powers to federating units, namely the states, as the way to strengthen our democracy.

“On the other hand, some also say that there is nothing wrong with our democracy and the real challenge is governance and development.

“In the midst of the tussle about the perfect form of federalism for Nigeria, come the issue of Southwest security network and the question whether the Southwest governors have legislative competence on the subject.

“The initial comments by the Attorney-General of the Federation are no longer necessary, as he rightly, in my view, asserts that the governors indeed possess legislative competence provided they enact legislation to give effect to Amotekun.

“I believe that notwithstanding the statement attributed to the Attorney-General of the Federation, the Federal Government and Southwest governors have resolved the matter satisfactorily. But there are lessons and implications.

“We need to work a lot harder to distribute legislative powers between tiers of government in Nigeria.

“This is why I have called for cooperative federalism and the resolution by the Federal and Southwest governors is a perfect example of the efficacy of cooperative federalism.”

For Falana, Malami was wrong to have “unequivocally asserted” that Amotekun was illegal, in the first place.

He said: “Of course, Mr. Malami knows that I do not agree with him that Amotekun is illegal simply because the enabling law has not been enacted.

“The fact that the office of the special assistant to the Attorney-General of the Federal Government and Minister of Justice on media is not a creation of the Constitution does not make it illegal!

“On a more serious note, I was not surprised that the Federal Government was initially opposed to Amotekun.

“Like Amotekun, the Sharia State Police called ‘Hisbah’ was ferociously attacked by the Federal Government.

“… Apart from declaring the Hisbah illegal and unconstitutional, the Police arrested the commander-general of Hisbah and his deputy in Kano and took them to Abuja where they were detained.

“When the harassment of the Hisbah by the police continued unabated, the Kano State Government approached the Supreme Court to test the constitutional validity of the Hisbah Law.

“Curiously, the Supreme Court struck out the suit for want of jurisdiction on the grounds that there was no dispute between the the Federal Government and the Kano State Government on the existence and operation of Hisbah. See Attorney- General of Kano State v. Attorney-General of the Federation (2007) 6 NWLR (Pt 1029) 164.

“Even though the suit was struck out on technical grounds the Police stopped further harassment of the Hisbah. Since then other state governments have set up similar security outfits to enforce Sharia Law or protect the general public from kidnapping, armed robbery and other violent crimes.

“I have called on the Southwest state governments to enact the necessary laws to back the establishment of Amotekun in order to institutionalise it as I believe that it has come to stay.

“It is indisputable that the six states in the Southwest zone have no joint parliament. Hence, I have called on each state house of assembly to enact a law for the establishment of Amotekun.”

Falana also argued that although the Southwest states have different assemblies, that did not prevent an interstate operation of Amotekun.

He said: “Since the six states have been grouped together and recognized as the ‘South West zone’ by the Federal Character Commission Act (Cap F7) Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 2004, they are not precluded from collaborating in securing the life and property of every person living or visiting the region.

“After all, the Federal Government has never challenged the legality of the Odua Investment Company Limited, the economic union of the six states in the South West zone.

“Finally, instead of apologizing for misleading the nation on the legal status of the security outfit the Attorney-General has decided to attack me without any justification.

“Notwithstanding such unwarranted attack, I am of the view that the belated volte face of the Attorney-General on Amotekun is a welcome development.”

But Ogunye, faulted any deal that would restrict Amotekun to just “toothless intelligence-gathering.”

He argued that if Amotekun would not be allowed to operate as its creators intended for the tackling insecurity, then the option of total police reform to include state policing should be on the cards.

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