On Tuesday night, former Governor Ibikunle Amosun issued a rebuttal to a PREMIUM TIMES story that detailed how he stored arms and ammunition at an illegal armoury at the Government House, Abeokuta.
The report, which was based on independent accounts of top national security sources, said Mr Amosun kept armaments in his official lodge in contravention of extant firearms regulations.
Mr Amosun, now a senator, had called up Ogun State police commissioner, Bashir Makama, and handed over the arms to him at an event inside the Government House on May 28 -- barely hours before the end of his eight-year tenure.
At the event, Mr Amosun said he procured arms and ammunition to check widespread insecurity in his state of 3,751,140 residents, according to the 2006 census. He said he decided to keep them at the Government House Armoury to ensure they were not allocated indiscriminately by security agencies.
Our report further highlighted the concerns of national security officials, who said it was troubling and illegal for a civilian governor to stockpile such a large cache of deadly weapons for such a long period without being detected.
Although our report was based on details provided by security sources, the handover event itself was reported by New Telegraph, Western Post and even the state-run OGTV between May 28 and 29 when it occurred, and they all cited Mr Amosun as saying he handed over four million bullets, 1,000 AK47 rifles, 1,000 bulletproof vests and one APC to the police.
Also, the reporters and other persons present at the event did not see the arms cache. They only relied on Mr Amosun's claim that it contained 1,000 AK47 rifles, four million bullets, etc. The items had been loaded unto four trucks which were later driven to the Ogun State Police Command Headquarters, Elewe Eran, Abeokuta.
Mr Makama also told The Nation on Tuesday that Mr Amosun told him there were four million bullets in the trucks, but he only found just over one million after they were counted.
An effusive denial
Even though Mr Amosun declined daily requests for comments from PREMIUM TIMES for over five days, he circulated a denial a day after our story was published and sparked nationwide uproar.
The senator's 11-item response, signed by his spokesperson, Rotimi Durojaiye, and published on his Twitter handle, is reproduced below in full. The rebuttal has however triggered some questions which Mr Amosun needs to answer satisfactorily if his story is to hold water. The questions are presented below the governor's response.
MR AMOSUN'S REBUTTAL
1. The above story by Premium Times, an online News portal, represented everything but the true and factual accounts regarding a routine exercise that took place at the Ogun State Governors Office, Abeokuta in the morning of Tuesday, 28 May, 2019 as part of Handing Over processes and formalities from the then out-going to the in-coming Administration. It is rather interesting and ironic that a routine, bona fide and patriotic disposition of the Senator Ibikunle Amosun, CON, FCA has been so savagely twisted in a premeditated effort by Premium Times and its sponsors to stand logic on its head. It is important to clarify that NOT A SINGLE AK 47 RIFLE was handed over at the event.
2. Senator Ibikunle Amosun would have loved to ignore this report for the simple reason that it is a matter for the remit of the Police and Security agencies. But, that course of action will appear disrespectful to well-meaning Stakeholders and inquirers on the matter. Secondly, the good people of Ogun State and Nigerians at large deserve to know the exact circumstances of the Handing -Over of these security items.
3. It is important to stress that this was not the first time that Senator Amosun, whilst in office as Governor and former Chief Security of Ogun State would be handing over security assets to the Police. The particular exercise of 28 May, 2019 was done openly in the full glare of the public and the media to ensure accountability, guarantee transparency and judicious use of the assets.
4. In May 2011 when Senator Amosun assumed office, the biggest challenge that confronted Ogun State was insecurity. Political assassinations, unnatural and unexplained deaths were prevalent. In Ogun East for instance, which comprised of 9 of the 20 LGAs at the time, the entire business and financial institutions architecture had become comatose as no bank or such institutions could open for business in the entire Senatorial district.
Cultism, Kidnapping for ransom, violent crime and tertiary institutions related criminality stank to high heavens. Ogun West was totally ravaged by cross border banditry, unbridled smuggling and economic sabotage. Ogun Central, though relatively calmer, had its fair share of the very low security index that our State had sunk at the time.
No resident, in good conscience, could sleep at night with two eyes closed. In the World Bank Ease of Doing Business, 2010, Ogun State was ranked as Number 35 out of 36 as industries and corporations fled the State in droves. Senator Ibikunle Amosun took the firm view that nothing would thrive in an atmosphere of insecurity. He therefore decided, that early, to confront the myriad security challenges headlong and thereby open up Ogun State to private investment under a secured environment.
5. The SIA administration convened a security Parley amongst all stakeholders. The Parley gave rise to the Ogun State Security Trust Fund (STF) under the leadership of a former Nigerian National Security Adviser. The deliberations and recommendations of the STF and the far-reaching initiatives of Government have delivered consistent peace of mind, economic prosperity and social progress for all within the borders of Ogun State and even beyond since 2012.
We note with immense pride that the same Ogun State, generally regarded as a back-water State in terms of security rallied round strongly to emerge as one of the most peaceful and the best place to work and live in Nigeria.
6. The SIA administration sought help from the then President Goodluck Jonathan led Federal Government. First, we sought and got approval to set up "OP MESA" for Ogun State. We followed this up with the specialized QRS unit.
We committed substantial funds into procurement of hard and soft ware, and, myriad security assets to decisively combat our security challenges. We got all necessary approvals from the Office of the National Security Adviser to procure the 13 units of Armoured Personnel Carriers (APCs), the 1000 units of AK 47 rifles, 2 Million rounds of ammunition,1000 units of Bullet proof vests and 500 bullet proof helmets and other security communication gadgets.
Ogun State not only got approval to import these essential assets, the Federal administration under President Goodluck Jonathan, gave all requisite approvals to assist the State.
The Federal Government through the Office of the National Security Adviser (NSA) issued the State the End User Certificate Serial Number 000001123 dated 5th of March, 2012. The Federal Ministry of Finance also granted Import Duty Exemption Certificate through a letter from the Honourable Minister of Finance and Coordinating Minister of the Economy with Reference Number BO/R.10260/S.4/T.4/22 dated 10th April, 2012. Indeed the supplier was an accredited agent of the Nigeria Police
Force nominated for the job by the Force who also monitored and supervised the transaction. The security materials were cleared through the Murtala Muhammed Airport and confirmed through Nigeria Customs Memo NCS/MMAC/012/S.1. The materials were publicly handed over to the Inspector General of Police MD Abubakar on 22nd April, 2012 wherein he acknowledged that "I have served in all six geographical zones of this country. I have never seen the kind of equipment you are donating to security agents today. This is the first of such maximum donation I have ever seen since I have been serving as a police officer".
7. We would like to educate Premium Times that there are strict procedures for the purchase, handling, storage and documentation of security merchandise. We are satisfied that extant approvals, regulations and protocols were observed and complied with in this instance. Without going into the details and thereby breaching conventions, suffice to say categorically that the AK47 rifles were supplied directly to the Nigeria Police, Ogun State Command.
The rest of the merchandise were securely kept in the approved designated armoury within the Government House precincts under police surveillance as it obtains in most Government Lodges, to guarantee exclusive use of the materials in Ogun state. These are not matters for the public.
Premium Times is advised to approach other States where such conventions and protocols exit. The suggestion that the security assets were quickly handed over to the Police in order that the new administration will not know about it is laughable because the current Governor of Ogun State, Prince Dapo Abiodun, MFR was the main supplier of some of the assets in question, notably, the Armoured Personnel Carriers (APCs).
8. We say with pride that our substantial investment and commitment to security paid off. Ogun State won several international and local security awards. Companies returned to our shores in even higher numbers.
Thankfully, under Senator Amosun's watch, Ogun State did not record any unexplained death or political assassination throughout. Notably, Ogun State holds the record as one of the most peaceful States during the 2019 general elections and is now the investors destination of choice and industrial capital of Nigeria.
9. As a Governor who understood and took the responsibilities of his office seriously, Senator Amosun was mindful to account for and properly hand over the remainder of the security items to the Police and the new Administration.
On 28 May, 2019, the last of the APCs, and all other security assets under the custody of Ogun State Government were passed over to the Police in full glare of the media and general public. We believed that was the surest way to prevent these assets getting into the wrong hands.
10. We assure our well wishers, Stakeholders and residents of Ogun State that we did what was best in their interest as the Chief Security Officer of the State.
All contrary insinuations, twisting of facts and deliberate misinformation should be discarded. We encourage Premium Times and all genuine inquirers to approach the Police , Regulatory and Enforcement agencies for any other details they may want.
11. It is interesting to note that a public outing held on 28th May 2019 is generating so much interest three weeks after the event. ===========================
THE QUESTION MR AMOSUN NEEDS TO ANSWER
PREMIUM TIMES has now raised questions about what Mr Amosun's denial, despite its lengthiness, failed to address: the legal basis for his deliberate storage of controlled weapons in an armoury tucked inside the Government House.
1. According to the Office of the National Security Adviser (ONSA)'s guidelines for procuring arms and ammunition in Nigeria, "end-user certificate requests for arms and ammunition must be made by approved security agencies on behalf of themselves or their qualified vendor."
Might Mr Amosun be willing to tell Nigerians whether or not himself or Ogun State is an approved security agency in Nigeria?
Only an approved security outfit is allowed to import arms and ammunition into Nigeria. Alternatively, the ONSA guidelines permit security agencies to seek end-user certificate on behalf of a qualified arms contractor, who will then procure the shipment and immediately hand it over directly to the security agency on whose behalf the equipment were imported.
Under item six of his statement, Mr Amosun confirmed this procedure, writing: "Indeed the supplier was an accredited agent of the Nigeria Police Force nominated for the job by the Force who also monitored and supervised the transaction."
If as Mr Amosun claimed the contractor got end-user certificate to import the weapons on behalf of the police, how then did the large cache find its way to Mr Amosun for prolonged storage at Government House?
2. Part II Section 3 of the Firearms Act said: "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 licence granted by the president acting in his discretion."
The categories of firearms prohibited under Part I of the Firearms Act Schedule include artillery, apparatus for the discharge of any explosive or gas diffusing projectile, rocket weapons, bombs and grenades, machine-guns and machine-pistols, military rifles, namely those of calibres 7.62 mm, 9 mm, .300 inches and .303 inches, revolvers and pistols whether rifled or unrifled (including flint-lock pistols and cap pistols).
According to Encyclopaedia Britannica AK47 is a gas-operated, 7.62 mm assault rifle.
Might Mr Amosun be willing to tell Nigerians whether or not he received approval from former President Goodluck Jonathan to store arms and ammunition at Government House?
3. Although Mr Amosun claimed he gave the guns to the police since 2012, he admitted keeping the ammunition in his possession until his last day in office. The police commissioner also admitted receiving the ammunition from the former governor.
But this is what Part II Section 8 (1) of the Firearms Act stipulated about ammunition: "No person shall have in his possession or under his control any ammunition in respect of any firearm referred to in the Schedule to this Act except in accordance with the terms of a licence or permit granted to him and in force in respect of such firearm."
Might Mr Amosun be willing to prove to Nigerians that he had a valid licence or permit to keep AK47 until May 28, 2019? For him to be able to legally keep AK47 ammunition, the senator will have to prove that he had a valid licence or permit to be in possession of AK47.
4. Under item seven of his statement, Mr Amosun said he kept the weapons in an "approved designated armoury within the Government House."
The Firearms Act made provisions for the establishment of only two categories of armoury: registered dealer's armoury and public armoury.
Part III Section 10 of the Firearms Act recognised two types of armouries -- a registered firearms dealer armoury and a public armoury.
Part III Section 13 of the Firearms Act said: "The President may, by notice in the Federal Gazette, establish or recognise public armouries for the deposit of firearms and ammunition and prescribe the officers to be in charge thereof."
Might Mr Amosun be willing to provide Nigerians with either his licence designating him as a registered dealer in armoury or a presidential gazette that authorised him to establish a public armoury at the Government House or that recognised the Government House in Abeokuta as a public armoury?
5. Were the police not aware that Mr Amosun had an armoury at the Government House for a protracted period of time? If they were, were they not aware that such was in violation of the country's Firearms Act?
Mr Amosun said police nominated the contractors, any reason why the police did not immediately take possession of the delivery as they have done for so many years across so many states that have supported them with equipment?
6. Mr Amosun said at the event that he procured between two and four million bullets. In his statement, he said he procured two million bullets. Accepting that Mr Amosun procured two million bullets, why did the commissioner only find over one million? What happened to the rest?
7. Mr Amosun said he handed over the AK47 rifles and some vehicles, including utility trucks and APCs, to the police after the equipment arrived, who authorised him or Ogun State to keep the rest in an illegal armoury?
8. Might Mr Amosun be willing to clarify whether or not it is legally permissible and logical for arms or ammunition to be lawfully acquired in 2012 for an urgent security crisis and then warehoused at the Government House for seven years before, only to be turned over to the police conveniently a day before he left office?
9. In a video recorded after the handover on May 28, Mr Amosun said he personally monitored the equipment and only gave approvals and keys to the police whenever they needed weapons.
Do the police have a record showing the number of times they went to Mr Amosun to collect weapons on 'take-as-they-need' basis over the last seven years?
10. Finally, under item seven of his statement, Mr Amosun said most government lodges maintain designated armouries. His claim suggests more than half of Nigeria's 36 governors operate illegal armouries. Might the former governor be willing to mention some of the lodges in the interest of national security?