By Chiamaka Nwaiwu

1). WHAT IS OPERATION AMOTEKUN ?

AMOTEKUN is a security outfit launched by Governors of the six south-west states. On Thursday, January 9 2020, the Governors of Nigeria’s six south-west states of Ogun, Osun, Oyo, Ekiti, Ondo and Lagos launched this network called ‘OPERATION AMOTEKUN’ in Ibadan, Oyo state.

‘AMOTEKUN’ is the Yoruba word for Leopard. It is a security outfit which seeks to complement the police and other state security outfits in the south-west and not replace them. The Governors of the south-west have stressed that this is not an attempt to achieve a ‘state police’ through the back door. According to the Governor of Ekiti State, Kayode Fayemi:

AMOTEKUN’ is a complement that will give our people confidence that they are being looked after by those they elected into office.

So we do not want this to create fear in the mind of anybody as we are not creating a regional police force and are fully aware of the steps we must take to have a state police.”

2). WHY IT WAS ESTABLISHED

OPERATION AMOTEKUN was established to tackle the insecurity of lives and properties that have occurred in recent times in the south-west states. Governor Kayode Fayemi stated:

“As elected leaders, our primary responsibility, according to Section 14(2) of the Nigerian Constitution 1999 (as amended) is the security and welfare of the citizens.

That was what informed the Governors coming together to fashion out a way to complement the work of the mainstream security agencies overstretched in their efforts to arrest the menace that have afflicted the entire country.”

The outfit is set to enhance the efforts of the government in tackling security challenges across the zone and the nation as a whole.

3). THE MODE OF OPERATION OF AMOTEKUN

The AMOTEKUN personnel will be locally sourced and will be well trained by professionals’ and security experts. Each of the six south-west states have procured 20 trucks and 100 units of motorcycles for its operation. The personnel will sport uniforms and will not rely heavily on charms and machetes on the job. It would essentially work as a joint task force with the mainstream security.

4). OPERATION AMOTEKUN AND THE CONSTITUTION: IS IT IN CONTRAVENTION?

Section 4 (3) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 (as amended) – hereinafter referred to as ‘The Constitution’ states:

The power of the National Assembly to make laws for the peace, order and good government of the federation with respect to any matter included in the Exclusive Legislative List shall, save as otherwise provided in this constitution, be to the exclusion of the Houses of Assembly of States.’

The Second Schedule to the Constitution lists items that are in the exclusive list and particularly, Item 45 states – ‘police and their government security services established by law.’

It is no doubt that the Constitution clearly provides that the power to make Laws on matters of police and other security services lies with the National Assembly and not the House of Assembly of the States.

However, this is not in dispute. The powers of the National Assembly and the Federal Government is not challenged in any way by the establishment of AMOTEKUN. AMOTEKUN is not a law enacted by the House of Assembly of the States; it is merely a local security outfit set up to tackle the increasing loss of lives and properties of the south-west people. The establishment of this security outfit has nothing whatsoever to do with the Federal Government. It does not challenge the powers of the Federal Government to make laws in relation to the security of Nigerians.

The word ‘OUTFIT’ is an informal word meaning a group of people undertaking a particular activity together.

Section 214 of the constitution states:

‘There shall be a police force for Nigeria, which shall be known as the Nigeria Police Force, and subject to the provisions of this section no other police force shall be established for the Federation or any part thereof.’

Again, AMOTEKUN is not a police force nor was it established to operate as a police force. The concept of this security outfit is misunderstood. As the Governors have reiterated, AMOTEKUN is there to complement the police force which have been very short coming in their responsibility to combat the insecurities in the states. The word ‘COMPLEMENT’ means to suit, harmonise and accompany. There are several examples to this effect:

-The murder of the daughter of the Afenifere leader, Reuben Fasoranti by suspected herdsmen along Ondo-Ore roadin July, 2019

-The kidnap of the former secretary to the Government of the Federation,Olu Falae by herdsmen in Akure, Ondo State.

From these examples and many others, it is clear that AMOTEKUN was not established without paramount reason. The lives of people in the states are in danger and it is clear that the Nigerian Police do not see this as a growing concern in the country.

5). IS THIS NOT ALLOWED IN OTHER PARTS OF THE COUNTRY?

Assuming without conceding that the establishment of AMOTEKUN is in contravention of the Constitution, the Federal Government would in accordance be on the same boat.

It is common knowledge that some police forces, other than the Nigerian Police force, have been established and operating in some parts of this country; The ‘CIVILIAN JOINT TASK FORCE’ (JTF) operating in Yobe and Borno States is constituted by 26,000 well-armed volunteers who have been assisting the armed forces to combat terrorism in the north-east region; The Kano State ‘HISBAH’ Corps operating as a police force and responsible for the enforcement of Sharia.

This only goes to suggest the insincerity and two-faced nature of the Federal Government. What exactly makes AMOTEKUN illegal and HISBAH & CIVILIAN JTF legal?

6). POWER OF THE STATE GOVERNMENT TO HANDLE DEFENCE AND SECURITY MATTERS IN THE STATES

Section 14 (2)(b) of the Constitution states:

‘It is hereby, accordingly, declared that –

The security and welfare of the people shall be the primary purpose of government.’

Section 318 of the Constitution states:

‘government’ includes the Government of the Federation, or of any state, or of a local government council or any person who exercises power or authority on its behalf.’

The Governor of a State is the Chief Executive Officer of that state as provided above. The primary responsibility of a Governor of a State is the security and welfare of the people in that state thereby making him the Chief Security Officer of that state.

The State Governors of the south-west region have not acted ultra vires nor have they exceeded the power and responsibility given to them under the constitution.

In the face of the growing insecurities in the south-west, there was a need to take action to defend the people of these states and as such the six State Governors considered it necessary to set up AMOTEKUN to maintain and secure public safety and public order within the states.

6). THE POWER OF THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT TO DECLARE AMOTEKUN ILLEGAL?

Section 215 (2) of the Constitution states:

‘The Nigerian Police Force shall be under the command of the Inspector-General of Police and any contingents of the Nigerian Police Force stationed in a State shall, subject to the authority of the Inspector-General of Police, be under the command of the Commissioner of the Police of that State.’

The Nigerian Police force which is established by the constitution and vested with functions listed under Section 4 of the Police Act 1967 is commanded by the Inspector-General of Police. This means that matters relating to the responsibilities and functions of the Nigeria Police, particularly the issue of security is commanded by the Inspector-General of Police.

The Attorney-General of the Federation, according to Section 150 of the Constitution is the Chief Law Officer of the Federation and a Minister of the Government of the Federation. Its powers include:

 a). To institute and undertake criminal proceedings against any person before any court of law in Nigeria, other than a court-martial, in respect of any offence created by or under any Act of the National Assembly;

 b). To take over and continue any such criminal proceedings that may have been instituted by any other authority or person; and

 c). To discontinue at any stage before judgement is delivered any such criminal proceedings instituted or undertaken by him or any other authority or personSection 174 of the Constitution

As stated above, the Attorney-General of the Federation is the Chief Law Officer of the Federation. Its functions are in relation to instituting, taking over and discontinuing criminal proceedings in court. In no way does his responsibility include dictating matters on national security nor declaring security services illegal.

It is the responsibility of the Inspector-General of Police, who commands the Nigeria Police and not the Attorney-General of the Federation to dabble on matters of security in the country.

The Attorney-General according to the constitution does not have such power or authority to declare AMOTEKUN illegal. It is clearly an abuse of power.

On Justice Abubakar Malami, Attorney-General of the Federation’s statement that the south-west Governors ought to have consulted the Federal Government first before the launch of AMOTEKUN, the Inspector-General of Police held a meeting prior to the launch with the south-west Governors and the Police endorsed the security initiative.

Thus, the State Governors have followed due process as provided under the constitution. It is the Federal Government that is wanting.

7). CONCLUSION

The declaration by the Federal Government, through the Attorney-General of the Federation that the security outfit ‘AMOTEKUN’ set up by the six Governors of the south-west states is illegal raised some issues for discussion. These issues have been discussed above, giving reasons as to why the security outfit is in fact Legal and not in direct conflict with the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 (as amended).

What are your thoughts on these issues ?