…I’m yet to see the Bill — FPRO; what the Fireams Act says
…Ondo, Ogun, Ekiti, Oyo excos approve bill; Lagos, Osun keep mum
…Bill ‘ll get accelerated hearing — Ondo, Oyo speakers
…Amotekun beginning of restructuring—Victor Attah
By Dapo Akinrefon, Dayo Johnson, Evelyn Usman, Victoria Ojeme, Rotimi Ojomoyela, Adeola Badru & James Ogunnaike
THE Attorneys General of the six South West States have agreed that the operatives of the Security Network Agency codenamed Operation Amotekun, will be allowed to bear licenced arms subject to the approval of the Inspector-General of Police.
However, the Force Public Relations Officer, DCP Frank Mba, declined to state the kind of firearms the Amotekun personnel will bear.
I have not seen it (Amotekun Bill) I don’t know its content and I cannot speak on something I have not seen, he told Vanguard on phone, yesterday.
Section 18 of the Amotekun draft bill states that: (1) “The Ekiti State Amotekun Corps shall, subject to the approval of the Inspector General of Police have the power to bear licensed arms in the performance of its duties and as may be incidental to the operation of its objectives under this Law.
(2) The Ekiti State Amotekun Corps shall also have power to:
(a) collaborate with similar security agencies, particularly in Ogun, Lagos, Ondo, Osun and Oyo states in the enforcement of the provisions of this Law; and
(b) share intelligence, equipment and resources with similar security agencies, particularly in Ogun, Lagos, Ondo, Osun and Oyo states.
Fire Arms Act
According to the Fire Arms Act, only the President and Inspector General of Police are authorized to issue license for firearms.
Part Two of the Fire Act states: No person shall have in his possession or under his control any firearm of one of the categories specified in Part I of the Schedule hereto (hereinafter referred to as a prohibited firearm) except in accordance with a license granted by the President acting in his discretion.
No person shall have in his possession or under his firearms control any firearm of one of the categories specified in Part II of the Schedule to this Act (hereinafter referred to as a personal firearm) except in accordance with a licence granted in respect thereof by the Inspector-General of Police, which licenses shall be granted or refused in accordance with principles decided upon by the National Council of Ministers.
There are, however, insinuations that if the operational modus of Armotekun, in terms of issuing firearms to members is not in line with the federal government’s position, it may hit the brick wall.
Again, if its legislation clashes with that of existing federal legislation, there are fears that it could be rendered void to the extent of the inconsistency.
A senior security agent who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said, If their law runs foul of the firearms law, then it will be void to the extent of the inconsistency.” So, I wonder how they are going to get the license for those arms if they don’t bring their operational modus in line with the federal government’s position.
Ondo, Ogun, Oyo, Ekiti govts approve Amotekun
Meanwhile, the Ondo, Ogun, Oyo and Ekiti state governments have approved the proposal for the creation of Amotekun.
At press time yesterday, the Lagos and Osun state governments were yet to approve the Amotekun bill just as the Oyo State House of Assembly said it will consider the operational legal framework for the security outfit today (Thursday).
Operatives of the outfit cannot be sued
Meanwhile, as the Ekiti State House of Assembly considers the bill that would give legal backing to Amotekun Corps, an aspect of the bill stipulates that the operatives cannot be sued.
Article 34, Part IV, under Miscellaneous provisions in, states: Acts done in the course of duty by any member of the Board, staff of the Agency or member of the Ekiti State Amotekun Corps is, hereby, excluded from liability and shall not be sued in his or her personal capacity for any lawful act done in the course of duty.
It was gathered that the drafters deliberately inserted this section to insulate officials from the encumbrances of legal procedures in the course of discharging their duty.
Another part of the bill that gives enormous powers to Amotekun operatives is in article 36 under the title: Obstruction of Amotekun Corps Member in the performance of his duty.
This article stipulates: “Any person who willfully hinders, delays, obstructs or assaults a member of the Ekiti State Amotekun Corps in the course of the exercise of his lawful duties under this Law shall be guilty of an offence and liable on conviction to imprisonment for a term of one month or to a fine not exceeding N250, 000 or to both such fine and imprisonment.”
A security expert, Mr. James Ajulo, advised the lawmakers to whittle down the bill granting sweeping powers to the outfit.
It’s dangerous to insulate operatives from prosecution—Ajulo
Ajulo in a chat with Vanguard said: “Beautiful as this section of the bill may look, there is a need for the legislators to give the whole bill a holistic and specific review, to reduce these powers. Insulating them from prosecution has removed checks. When you give guns to people they need constant checks.
Ondo exco approves bill
After the approval by the State Executive Committee, the Ondo State Commissioner for information and Orientation, Donald Ojogo, said the bill will be transmitted to the State House of Assembly for legislative scrutiny and passage into Law.
Ojogo said: “In an exhaustive session of deliberations, Council took time to peruse every detail contained in the Bill that was presented by the Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice, Mr. Kola Olawoye, SAN, and now it is ready to be transmitted to the state House of Assembly for passage.
“The Draft Bill has six parts and 44 Sections. It is also gratifying to disclose that every apprehension or fear expressed has been adequately looked into.
“This is even as Traditional Rulers will now have roles to play in the operations of the security outfit pursuant to its passage into law by the State Assembly.
“Government finds it pertinent to reiterate that this laudable initiative is aimed at complementing the efforts of the Nation’s security agencies.”
Bill‘ll be given accelerated hearing —Ondo Speaker
The Speaker of Ondo State House of Assembly, Mr. Bamidele Oloyelogun, said the bill would receive accelerated hearing and passage.
Given the importance of the bill to the people of the state, Oloyelogun said the lawmakers would do the needful as soon as they get the bill from the executive arm of government.
Ogun excos approve bill
Also, the Ogun State Executive Council after an extensive deliberation that lasted close 10 hours and presided over by Governor Dapo Abiodun approved the bill.
At the meeting, the Governor went down memory lane on how he escaped unscathed exactly a year ago when loyalists of his predecessor pelted leaders of the All Progressives Congress, APC, in Abeokuta as the party’s flag was being handed over to him by chieftains of the party including President Muhammadu Buhari, Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, National Leader Asiwaju Bola Tinubu among other big wigs.
Abiodun, however, said he does not hold any grudge against anyone that played a part in the February 11, 2019 incident.
His words: “I have said often times that I do not bear grudge against anybody. You are all part of the scriptures that needed to be fulfilled. So, for all those who fought us, stoned us, intimidated us, harassed us, beat us, they all had their part to play so that the scripture can be fulfilled. Accordingly, we have forgiven them, more importantly; God has crowned us with a victory.
“I could not believe that in this state, in which I am a bonafide son of the soil, a state of many firsts, that such a show of shame was taking place before my very eyes, in front of the Number one and Number two persons in this country, I could not just believe it… that date, February 11, 2019 – for me marked the turning point in the process of us getting to this seat. It was a defining moment.”
Amotekun Corp Bill
Addressing journalists at the end of the Executive Council meeting, the Commissioner for Justice and Attorney General of the State, Mr. Adegbolahan Adeniran said the presentation of the bill before the state council followed the earlier approval by the Attorney Generals and Commissioners of Justice of the six Southwest states.
Adeniran said: “We presented the bill for the creation of the Ogun State Security Network Agency or what many call the Amotekun Corp Bill of 2020.
“Today, the Executive Council of Ogun State met and adopted a draft as amended of a bill for a law to establish the Ogun State Security Network Agency. This agency is the agency that will comprise of the Amotekun Corp and this bill will be transmitted to the House of Assembly before the end of this week.”
Why Amotekun personnel will bear arms
Similarly, the Oyo State Attorney-General and Commissioner for Justice, Prof. Oyelowo Oyewo, explained why a provision for the bearing of arms was included in the Amotekun bill.
The Oyo State House of Assembly has promised to consider the operational legal framework for the security outfit today. The Speaker, Mr. Debo Ogundoyin stated that Assembly would set a pace by giving speedy consideration to the bill when presented for enactment.
He also announced that the assembly would be holding a security summit soon to address the issue of insecurity, violence against women, children and other life-threatening issues in the state.
Speaking with Vanguard, Prof. Oyewo said that the provision for bearing arms for the Amotekun corps was in compliance with the extant law in Nigeria to bear arms and that it is seeking the President’s permit.
His words: “There is a law on bearing of arms, there is a provision in the Amotekun law that is in compliance with the extant law in Nigeria to bear arms, that is seeking the President’s permit. You can’t bear arms without a permit.
“Beyond arms, there are other security equipment that you don’t need such rigorous process to bear but when it comes to bearing of firearms, the firearms act and prohibition law make guidelines and these will be complied with in seeking the necessary permission.
“So, the Attorneys-General of the Southwest zone including Oyo, Ogun, Osun, Ekiti, Ondo and Lagos states came together with the intervention of DAWN commission that has been piloting the process, and we are able to have a draft model bill to be adopted by each of the states in accordance with their local circumstances and situations as the need arises.
“And this is not the first time, for example, the extant law in Ogun state relating to neighbourhood watch has provisions for bearing of arms. There are even other bodies like Joint Task Force, Hisbah in the North East that are bearing arms. So, the case of Amotekun is not a peculiar one.”
“We have a situation where this network is established to complement the police and security agencies in the light of the insecurity incidence not only in the Southwest but also all over Nigeria. It must be noted that the primary obligation for policing in the constitution is vested in the Nigerian Police but there are also constitutional obligations imposed on the state and governments at the local level to ensure the security of lives and property and this is what is taking place. It is a complementary security network outfit.’’
It’s the beginning of restructuring- Attah
Throwing his weight behind the outfit, former Governor of Akwa Ibom State, Obong Victor Attah, said that Amotekun is the beginning of the restructuring of the country.
Attah blamed the insecurity ravaging the country on lack of a proper system of governance adding that Nigeria abandoned the path of federalism agreed upon at independence and deviated into a unitary system that has failed.
He said: “We started this nation as a federal assembly of various regions, every region was to a very large extent autonomous and ensured that security was maintained and then suddenly we changed it to a unitary system. So that is the problem.”
Attah spoke in an interview with reporters, yesterday, in Abuja, on the sidelines of the conferment of the award of the Order of the Rising Sun, Gold and Silver Star by the Emperor of Japan on former Minister of Budget and National Planning, Sen. Udoma Udo Udoma, in recognition of his efforts in promoting trade and investment between Japan and Nigeria.
The former governor said: “It is a sign that when the time for an idea has come and one tries to resist it, the idea will manifest itself. Amotekun is the beginning of restructuring and it will continue. Nigerians better take warning and do it constitutionally and properly otherwise it will be total havoc and we can end up like Somalia.
“We must restructure this country back to a federal system otherwise we are going to end up with a lot of problems. In fact, I move on to say that there will be no Nigeria even to restructure if we don’t do it quickly.”
Amotekun’s unanswered questions – Efoziem, security expert
Speaking on the proposed use of firearms by Amotekun, Chairman, Chief Executive, Strict Guard security, Dr. Bone Efoziem, said if the Act Bill is signed into law, it gives legitimacy to the body as a legal segment of the security architecture of the nation. However, it also poses a legal threat to the federating unit. Now, don’t forget that the control of this body, its leadership will only be coming from a segment of the Nigerian nation, which is the South Western states. The recruitment, the appointment, the posting has no federal nature.
His words: “The question will be, to what extent will their roles be controlled and monitored? Which of the federal agencies will be playing a supervisory role over them? What are the limits of their authority in the use of arms, arrest and all other activities that will affect both indigenes and non-indigenes of the South Western states?
“If these people are going to act in that order, to a large extent, it will look like either a regional Army or a regional Police. Whichever you call it, the leadership is going to be regional in nature, the manning will be regional in nature. It is also a very difficult situation for us to deal with because if you say it is wrong, don’t forget it is in this same Nigeria that our constitution fully provides for penal code and provides for criminal code.
“Since such laws have been in existence, it has given room to a great extent to the existence of the Islamic Sharia laws and Sharia practices. It has given room to such a body as the Hisbah. Don’t also forget some of the South Westerners are Muslims and they also understand the activities of these people which can be likened to the Amotekun idea. The only difference is the proposed bearing of firearms and the legitimacy being given to that aspect of it.
“My worry is, for instance, the Nigerian nation has not given room or position for State Police. But if the act is signed into law for the existence and arming of Amotekun, what you have done is to establish what is even worse than a State Police because it has become regional in nature.
You are no longer talking about Lagos State Police as you have in USA, where the states have their own state police. In this case, you are looking at about six states having a particular force bearing firearms. What I am going to ask is, are they going to be under the control and command of the federal government by the reason of the Act? Or are they going to have that regional control?
How will the appointment of their heads and their commanders be, because they are going to have command structures being armed as every other service? Who is going to regulate appointments or dismissal of either their commanders or the Chief or their promotion? That will determine to whom their loyalty and obedience go to.’’