By Festus Ahon
DR Akpo Mudiaga-Odje, lawyer, human rights activist and one of the strong voices for the emancipation of the Niger Delta people from what he describes as endemic poverty and under development. He is the facilitator of the Niger Delta Democratic Union, NDDU, a group he has been using to champion the cause of the Niger Delta people. He has written several books on the challenges and neglect of the region by successive governments. In this interview, he spoke on Amotekun and the need for the South-South to set up a similar outfit in the region.
What do you think should be the position of the South-South region on Amotekun?
The establishment of the Regional Security body paradoxically labelled as “Amotekun” by the South-West states of Nigeria is a welcome development. There has been a very troubling issue of security with the very high rate of armed banditry and kidnappings in Nigeria, especially in the absence of war, in the South-West and South-South regions.
The unprovoked onslaught by herders and herdsmen against innocent citizens of this country, especially in the Southern and Middle Belt climes of Nigeria has become severely alarming and raised endemic panic across the country. Accordingly, the South-West states and their people are perfectly in order to protect the properties and lives of their people.
Does Amotekun have any constitutional backing?
The 1999 Constitution supports Amotekun. Section 45 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 (as amended) authorises such and indeed the state governments in the South-West should, under Section 4 of the Constitution, immediately pass their respective laws to give legal backing to Amotekun.
So, Amotekun to that extent is legal and constitutional, as what the Constitution prohibits is the establishment of a Police Force under Section 214.
For the avoidance of any scintilla of doubt, Amotekun is not a Police Force! It is just an organization of communal village security to complement the efforts of government in curtailing crimes in the nation.
In the case of Gani Fawehinmi vs Akilu (1989) 3 NWLR (PT 112) 685, the Supreme Court ruled that: “every Nigerian is his brothers’ keeper and that every Nigerian has a duty to stop the commission of crime and to also report the commission of same.”
Amotekun is therefore fulfilling the judicial admonition of the Supreme Court as well as fulfilling the provisions of Sections 4 and 45 of the 1999 Constitution, as amended.
Do you see the need for a similar outfit in the Niger Delta?
The South-South, nay Niger Delta, now is the time. We call on the governors and leaders of the South-South to urgently emulate the South-West and establish, by law, our own communal village security outfit to ward off the incessant attacks of herdsmen on our women, farms, as well as to curtail kidnappings attendant in our region. The Niger Delta nay South-South is the economic life wire of the nation.
We need to also protect our resources and the oil installations, including the pipelines and flow stations.
What is your charge to the governors of the South South in this regard?
We require unity in the Niger Delta to succeed. The South-South governors are enjoined by the Constitution, under Section 14(2)(b) to ensure that the primary responsibility of government at all levels is the “Promotion of Welfare and Security” of their people.
The South-South governors must rise above political party affiliations and differences if they are to establish this worthy cause.
The unity of the Niger Delta supersedes political pasturing and lineage. The ethnic nationalities of the Niger Delta deserve a well regulated and synchronized security group to complement the security agencies in stamping out the menace of these herdsmen and their accomplices. Just like the Amotekun which parades hunters, young boys from the Oodua Peoples Congress, OPC, and others. Our Niger Delta has enough boys who I label as freedom fighters and not militants, that can be employed in our security outfit to navigate the lands and waters of the region to protect our collective interests and lives as a people who have been consistently exploited as well as severely degraded and their resources callously sequestrated by the Nigerian State, thus putting the region in a state of arrested development and pandemic poverty.