•Operation unlikely even with states reaching legal framework
•What S/West states may do to legalise it
By Soni Daniel
Amotekun: Although the nation’s constitution puts security and defence on the Exclusive Legislative List, meaning that only the Federal Government has the power to make laws regarding security, the current skirmishes across the country, have provided fillip to those calling for immediate decentralization of the security apparatus in the country to enhance effectiveness and reduce the colossal loss of lives and property to criminals.
The appalling security scenario has also provided the South-West governors with a weapon to forge ahead with a long conceived but controversy-riddled ‘Operation Amotekun’, which according to the leader of the governors, Chief Rotimi Akeredolu, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria and Ondo State governor, is not a regional army but a child of necessity brought about by the prevailing security challenges across the land. The governor may be right going by the insecurity in the land but Attorney General of the Federation insists that the position of the Constitution of Nigeria differs substantially with what they have begun to do.
‘Operation Amotekun’ has already been launched with its branded vehicles, operational guidelines released and operatives recruited with a view to launching out in a massive way that has the capacity to trigger national emulation.
Crossing the red line
However, the Presidency, which appears perturbed by the likely ripples to be generated by the action of the South-West governors, pointed out to them in a meeting last week the red lines the leaders might have crossed even without weighing the implications. First, at the meeting presided over by Nigeria’s Vice President, Yemi Osinbajo, a professor of law, the government drew the attention of the Amotekun protagonists to the need to fine-tune a legal framework to legalise the operation of the paramilitary group. Then, the government left them reeling with the feeling of accomplishment that once the six states’ Attorneys-General and their respective houses of Assembly affirm a law establishing Amotekun, and domesticating same across the region, they were good to go. In fact, at a media briefing shortly after the meeting with the Presidency, Governor Akeredolu was so convinced that the operation was as good as established since the speakers and the attorneys of the six states were on their wings to rubber-stamp whatever piece of legislation was needed to make the security outfit with the symbol of a lion to come to light.
“We want to have a robust Operation Amotekun,” Akeredolu said while addressing some editors in Abuja, last Thursday, although he admitted that no final approval had been obtained from the Federal Government to launch out as planned.
The governor explained that although each of the six states is to have its own command, control structure, and bases, the need to share intelligence and certain security equipment was what gave rise to the concept of regional integration of Amotekun.
According to him, the governors and the Presidency merely had ‘a fruitful’ discussion on what to do in order to give life to the operation, which was at variance with the widely reported ‘FG, Southwest governors agree on Amotekun’, which flushed the front pages of major newspapers the following day.
However, the position of the law seems to be that only the Federal Government is vested with the power on matters relating to defence, arms and ammunition as clearly delineated in Second Schedule (Legislative Powers) Part 1 of the 1999 Constitution. Section 3 of the First Part of the Constitution clearly states: “If any other law is inconsistent with the provisions of the Nigerian Constitution, the constitution shall prevail, and the other law shall to the extent of the inconsistency be null and void.”
Thus, if any state or group of states bands together to float a regional security outfit as Amotekun, without first getting the Constitution amended to make states to legislate on security matters, the Federal Government would simply brand such operation as illegal as has already been done by the Attorney General of the Federation, Abubakar Malami, after the operation was launched.
Steps not taken
The first step the promoters of Amotekun needed to have taken to legalise it would have been to mobilize their representatives in the National Assembly to amend the Second Schedule (Legislative Powers) Part 1 of the Exclusive Legislative List, which contains the issues of Arms, Ammunition and explosives, Defence, Army, Navy, Air Force, including any other branch of the armed forces of the federation, police and other government security services established by law.
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Such amendment, according to legal experts, would have automatically removed the issues relating to security and defence from the Exclusive Legislative List to the Concurrent List to empower states as well as the Federal Government to make laws relating to defence and security of Nigeria as opposed to the current status of the law, which only allows the Federal Government to control the two critical areas despite the overwhelming security challenges staring us in the face.
Need for constitution amendment
It is not likely that without amending the Constitution as it is any state or region in the country can validly proceed to establish any security outfit to carry arms and ammunition and begin to operate either as a federal police, army, navy or air force or even paramilitary agency in the country.
This is the hurdle the promoters of Amotekun would have to cross to operate the outfit.
The AGF, Abubakar Malami points out: “This arrangement called Amotekun is not backed by any law either at the State or Federal Government level. Amotekun, therefore, remains unconstitutional and illegal as already indicated.”
Although many legal luminaries have said that there is a lacuna which can accommodate states to float their security outfits to deal with emerging challenges, the AGF insists that there is no provision in the Nigerian constitution for regional or state militia in the country.
The AGF pointed out that any state law on security would be inconsistent with the Constitution since security is an exclusive legislative item. “The fact remains clear that our constitution recognizes the federal, state and local government as federating units.
“The implication is that there is no room for regional or zonal arrangement in law-making and nobody can impute into the constitution what is not expressly stated therein,” the AGF explained.
The Speaker of the House of Representatives, Mr. Femi Gbajabiamila, appears to have a better understanding of the legal implications of states and regions setting up regional security interventions without amending the constitution to accommodate such entities and he has called for the immediate amendments of the law.
As the lawmakers resumed from recess on Tuesday, Gbajabiamila, who has been in the NASS since the advent of the current democratic process, stressed the need to urgently come up with appropriate law to back local and state efforts to tackle insecurity in the country.
The speaker said: “What I also know is that whichever approach we seek, we are obligated to work within the limits imposed by the constitution to which we all swear allegiance.
“I am certain in the knowledge that doing nothing is not an option. We have a responsibility as legislators to support the best efforts of those who act with noble intent to protect our citizens.
“I, therefore, call on the Leader of the House of Representatives and the Minority Leader to take active steps to bring to the floor, appropriate amendments to the constitution that will ensure that these and other righteous interventions to protect the lives and property of our citizens are firmly in compliance with the laws of the land.”
Whichever way the law goes, it remains to be seen how soon state or regional interventions can be appropriated to complement Federal Government’s efforts against rising security challenges in the country and give the needed sense of protection and comfort to troubled Nigerians.
Like a thunder from the blues, the nation suddenly smarted from its slumber, found its voice and rallied a consensus to take swift action to deal with the deteriorating security situation in the country. And, they are right! The truth remains that while the nation wallows in its somnolence, malevolent elements are having a field day, sweeping through the landscape with open claws, devouring some, maiming others and unleashing unimaginable violence on other innocent Nigerians.
Many other Nigerians have been taken into bondage while others have been abducted for ransom, killed on rituals for cash and other savage reasons. As it has emerged, all over the nation, there are heart-rending stories of brutality being unleashed on the people with seeming unmitigated frustration boldly written on the faces of the community people, the victims and even the security agencies, which appear overstretched by the atrocities being viciously waged by both local and external enemies of Nigeria, who appear to be on the prowl with the sole aim of bringing Nigerian down, dismembering it or leaving it with a scar and a dirge.
As the killings, kidnappings and a general sense of mayhem run through the landscape, Nigerians-big and small- have been lamenting and venting their anger and disappointment on the leadership, which before now doubted talks and media reports on the level of insecurity but now appears taken aback by the bedlam.
“I was taken aback by what is happening in the North-West and other parts of the country,” President Muhammadu Buhari, this week told a high-powered delegation from Niger State led by the Governor, Abubakar Sani Bello, which visited the President to seek his intervention in the mindless killings in the state orchestrated by bandits and other violent elements.
“During our campaigns, we knew about Boko Haram, but what is happening now is surprising. It is not ethnic or religious but it is one evil plan against the country,” Buhari lamented before admitting that “If we don’t secure the country, we will not be able to manage the economy properly.”
Beyond the boldness of the known Boko Haram terrorists in capturing hundreds of schoolgirls from Chibok, burning to ashes boys from Yobe Science School, and taking away for years many others whose names are not made public, the terrorists have openly launched fierce battles with the military all in a brazen attempt to take over and occupy territories where they were driven out after some months of occupation in Borno, Yobe and Adamawa states.
But as the military continue to drive them away from their comfort zones, the terrorists have manifested other forms of savagery: Openly murdering the Christian Association of Nigeria, CAN, Chairman in Michika Local Government of Adamawa, Rev. Lawan Andimi, slaughtering of University of Maiduguri Student of Plateau State origin, Daciya Dalep, who was captured by the terrorists as he went to report to school. As in the case of Andimi, the terrorists rejected any form of ransom and brutally murdered the young man and went ahead to post the video of the cruel act online without any form of shame or remorse.
As if the terrorists’ unceasing attacks were not enough, the inexplicable invasion of communities by bandits in the North-West and the rampant molestation of communities in the North-East, North central and the Southeast, actively added salt to injury. Common are also the stories of herdsmen attacks on villages and farmers in many parts of the country, resulting in deaths. The herdsmen have also been battling rustlers. Deaths have followed these clashes.
Nigerian lawmakers who also appeared insensitive to the problem in the land have suddenly started reacting to the problem of insecurity in the country. They have regained their voices and national discourse now reigns at the plenary.
But the floodgate of diverse opinions, which in the main disparaged the Executive branch of the government as insensitive to the plight of the victims of insecurity, was the Senate President, Ahmed Lawan, who vilified the centralisation of security apparatus, saying that it had woefully failed the nation. His voice could not be lost: The Senate headed by him has severally been disparaged as being an extension of the Executive and a ‘rubber stamp’ National Assembly, which cannot bark and bite the Presidency.
But as the Number Three man on the nation’s scale of power, the speech by Senator Lawan, meant so much to the opposition, who latched on the momentum to unleash their long held opinion on worsening insecurity in the land.
Lawan, said the over-centralisation of the security apparatus in the Federal government could no longer guaranty the security of lives and property of Nigerians and therefore called for concerted efforts at the state and regional levels to arrest the situation.
Lawan said: “We have had series of engagements before but the escalation now has made it mandatory that we have a definite position as a government because we just cannot play politics with security issues.
“We believe that the security architecture should be restructured. The present system does not appear to give us the type of outcome we need. Whether it is the federal, state or local government; even the traditional rulers or others, the most important thing is to secure the lives and property of Nigerians and we must do that.
“Apparently and obviously, all hands must be on deck to ensure that we bring back a better security situation like we had before.
“At Present, the story is not good in many areas, so much is happening that is destabilizing our communities, killing of our people and we believe that we owe Nigerians the responsibility to intervene and work with the executive arm of government, actually to work together with other tiers of government, the states and local governments to ensure that we change the way we approach security issues in the country.
“The present arrangement is not working effectively and efficiently and we have to do something and this time around, there shouldn’t be buck passing, we have to be forthright, we have to say it as it is, and we have to do it as it is required,” the number three man said.
Lending a voice to the debate, Senator Enyinnaya Abaribe, from Abia, threw his fist to the air with his bromide against the All Progressives Congress, APC administration, warning it to resign having failed to provide security for the nation and her people.
Abaribe, apparently seethed with anger said: ”Because we have to get to the root of this matter I can only say one thing; those who live by propaganda will die by propaganda,” chiding the administration for claiming that the dreaded terrorists group had been defeated.
The Senator, apparently mocking the administration quipped sarcastically: ”Boko Haram has been defeated; Nigeria is now safer; everything that was being done to make sure that the hard work that was supposed to be done in securing Nigeria was not done because certain people did not do their work but preferred to cover the eyes of Nigerians with propaganda and trying to find all these excuses for non-performance have now come to stare us in the face.
“Nigeria did not elect the IGP; we did not elect the chief of staff, we did not elect the joint-chiefs or national security adviser, we elected the government of APC in 2015 and re-elected them in 2019. The reason we re-elected them is that they continued to tell us that they had the key to security.
“When you want to deal with a matter, you go to the head. So, we will go to government and ask this government to resign because they can no longer do anything,” the politician fumed.