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Southwest governors insisted on Sunday that the Western Nigeria Security Network (WNSN) Operation Amotekun has come to stay.
The security outfit, launched on January 9 to give cover to the zone, was declared illegal by the Federal Government.
Reiterating the position of the governors on Sunday, Ondo State Governor Rotimi Akeredolu said they would not “capitulate to blackmail either from within or outside the region but ready to pursue the Amotekun security scheme through all permissible political and legal means.”
Akeredolu (SAN) is the Chairman of the Southwest Governors’ Forum. He made this position known through a statement by Commissioner for Information Donald Ojogo.
Senior Advocate of Nigeria Afe Babalola, said attempts by the Federal Government to scuttle the initiative would fail because it is constitutional.
His position tallies with that of other legal giants like Prof. Itse Sagay (SAN) and Olisa Agbakoba (SAN).
Akeredolu explained that Amotekun was initiated to complement the efforts of conventional security agencies that appear to have been hampered by the absence of local intelligence gathering.
According to the statement, Amotekun will, when fully operational, serve the purposes of local information and intelligence gathering for the Police, Army and other conventional security agencies.
The statement said: “The concerns expressed by individuals, agencies of government and several stakeholders are noted without bias. Where possible, the inexorable efforts of the Southwest governors will be deepened through relentless interface.
“As such interface and engagements continue, Governor Akeredolu finds it pertinent to say that the on-going discourse on the issue of Amotekun must not be misguidedly used as a platform to ventilate personal or group views aimed at oiling primordial sentiments and grievances. Ethicizing the current situation is even more unhelpful. There should be no reason for such.
“This is more so that the Amotekun scheme is not targeted at any non-Southwest ethnic group just as its benefits are to be reaped by all Nigerians irrespective of ethnic or religious placements.
“ Under circumstances of the nature of Amotekun, the choices are numerous. They range from prevarication and pretence; partisanship and sycophancy as well as moderate and complimentary steps not inimical to the corporate existence of our nation, Nigeria.
“ The Southwest governors have chosen the later. In unequivocal terms too, each of the choices has a consequence, if not consequences.
”Unfortunately, the steps of Southwest governors have unwittingly had to contend with forces of conspiratorial silence and unpretentious moves of sabotage. Each has a right to choices; but certainly, no one individual can circumvent the consequences of whatever choices he or she makes in life.”
It added: “Fears and apprehensions have been expressed in many quarters that his (Akeredolu’s) role in the formation of Amotekun could mar his second term chances. This is far from the truth because Akeredolu is on the path of national cohesion through collaborative internal security.
“The decision taken in respect of Amotekun was in the interest of the entire nation. The political insinuations and blackmail are the required ingredients needed to make it credible. But such will not discourage the governor in any manner.”
Babalola, an elder statesman and founder of Afe Babalola university, said those kicking against Amotekun were ignorant of the provisions of the 1999 Constitution and the previous ones.
Babalola faulted Malami, saying sections 24, 40, 45of the 1999 Constitution impose clear responsibility on citizens to ensure security of their lives and property.
The SAN said it was unfortunate that Malami relied on Article 45 second schedule of the Constitution (amended), that gives to the Federal Government the exclusive power to manage the police.
Babalola defended the Southwest governors, saying they only responded to the yearnings of the people of the geopolitical zone for improved security since the central police system had failed to safeguard them and their property.
He pointed out that kidnapping, armed robbery, herdsmen/farmers clashes and other security challenges prompted the formation of Amotekun as a regional response to stem the developments.
The legal giant argued further that the governors had the right to protect their people because that was the ultimate responsibility of responsive governments.
He said: “Amotekun is a protective and supportive outfit established by the governors of the Southwest. It has its roots in the 1999 Constitution and the constitutions before it – 1960 and 1963.
”Section 24 of the constitution provides that ‘it shall be the duty of every citizen to make positive and useful contribution to the advancement, progress and well-being of the community where he resides’. Well-being means security of life and property, etcetera. How many Nigerians realise that they have a duty to assist and to protect the interest of their community and themselves.
”And Section 40 goes further that ‘every person shall be entitled to assemble freely and associate with other persons, and in particular, he may form or belong to any political party, trade union or any other association for the protection of his interests’.
”When you put these two together, it shows that all of us have the duty to associate whether as Yoruba or as state people to ensure that lives and properties are safe. The Amotekun outfit has its roots in the Constitution. It is constitutional, it is legal and proper.”
He added: “If this outfit had been established about 10 years ago, we would not have these issue of kidnapping, killing and other security challenges. We won’t have those who go to the farms to kill people because they would be fished out. That is why the Constitution says that such outfit should report to the police.
”What I have just said is that it is to support the police and support the government in their duty to ensure that there is peace, safety of property and lives. It is a good idea. It is belated but it is lawful and constitutional.
”All that the AGF said is that Article 45 of the Constitution, second schedule gives to the Federal Government the exclusive power to manage the police, he did not say that sections 20, 40 and 45 are abrogated. They cannot abrogate it.
”The sections I have quoted are superior to the schedule he is talking about and in any event, the governors have not set up a parallel police outfit. What they have done is to set up a supportive and protective organ to assist the police and in their communiqué, they said it would report to the police.
”The law says you can join together in association to assist the police. How can the police or any government be angry about this.
”In my opinion, the act has been done. Amotekun has been launched, let them go on. What the state governors have done is legal, so why should they bother? Let them (Federal Government) try to go to court. They will meet the governors there. All what they would have to do is to show them sections 24, 40, 45 of the 1999 Constitution.
”It is a case that must fail if they go to court. They have not set up a parallel police outfit. No. the Constitution says it is your duty to protect the interest of yourself and others and join together in doing so. So simple. The case will be so easy to win.”
Yoruba youth groups under the umbrella of Yoruba World Congress (YWC) are planning a support rally for Amotekun in the capital cities of the six Southwest on Tuesday.
A renowned historian and YWC convener, Prof. Banji Akintoye, who made this known, also said the rally would take place in Ilorin, Kwara State.
”We the Yoruba nation, we are going to speak up. By Tuesday (tomorrow), there will be masses of people in the streets in the seven capital towns of Yoruba people, “ he told officials of the Development Agenda for Western Nigeria (DAWN) Commission when he visited their office in Ibadan at the weekend.
The DAWN commission, a body in charge of championing the development of the Southwest geopolitical zone, coordinates Amotekun.
He explained that Ilorin was added because Kwara is a largely a Yoruba state.
Akintoye said there was need for the Yoruba to rally round the six governors since Amotekun was a good initiative by them.
He urged the DAWN commission, being the body in charge of championing the development of the region, to coordinate the implementation of the security network.
His words: You are the coordinating agency for Amotekun; don’t leave the governors for those people that have personal agendas to tear at them. Our governors are doing a good job now; we owe them the duty of standing up for them.”
The Director-General of DAWN Commission, Seye Oyeleye, said Amotekun was not meant to protect Nigeria but ”the people living here(Southwest), whether you are Ibibio or Efik or Igala.”