Abuja — The Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Mr Abubakar Malami, SAN, yesterday, insisted that the South West anti crime outfit, Amotekun, was illegal.
He reiterated the position before going into a meeting with Vice President Yemi Osinbajo and governors of the South West states, who after the meeting, agreed that a legal framework should be put in place for Amotekun.
Meanwhile, Afenifere, pan-Yoruba socio-cultural organisation; Leader of the World Yoruba Congress, WYC, Emeritus Professor Banji Akintoye and National President of Agbekoya Farmers' Association, Aare Aremu Okikiola, reacting to the position of the AGF, urged South West governors not to back down, insisting that Amotekun has come to state.
Vice President Yemi Osinbajo met with the South West Governors and the AGF, as well as the Inspector General of Police, IGP Mohammed Adamu at the Presidential Villa, Abuja after the expanded National Economic Council, NEC, meeting.
It will be recalled that the AGF had declared the regional security initiative of the South West governors aimed at curbing security challenges in the zone as illegal, while President Buhari recently announced that his administration was coming up with community policing to fight the insecurity in the polity.
Osinbajo, after the meeting said, it was "fruitful and unanimous resolutions were made on the way forward at a meeting today (yesterday) with South West Governors, the Attorney General of the Federation and the Inspector General of Police over the controversy surrounding the Amotekun Initiative.
"The meeting was at the instance of the governors who had asked to see President Muhammadu Buhari. It was agreed that the structure of Amotekun should also align with the Community Policing strategy of the Federal Government."
We agreed on forming legal framework for Amotekun -- Akeredolu
Briefing State House correspondents, yesterday, after the meeting, Chairman of the South West Governors and Governor of Ondo State, Mr Rotimi Akeredolu said, the meeting agreed on the way forward and a legal framework would be established to back the initiative.
He said: "We held a very fruitful discussion, the governors of the South-West were there. The meeting was presided over by the Vice President, the AGF was there and the Inspector General of Police.
"We have rubbed minds and all of us have agreed on the way forward. The most important thing is that we are going to have the legal framework to back this Amotekun. And this legal framework is going to be one in which all of us will look at and we will be sure that it goes without any hindrance."
On whether the agreement meant that the establishment of the outfit would be put on hold until the legal framework was developed, he said the regional outfit would remain.
He said: "No. What I believe about our resolution is that Amotekan is there, you know the Federal Government is starting community policing. In essence really, it is about community. So, we are going to work together to see the community policing and Amotekan work in a way."
Also asked why there was no such consultation before the launch of the outfit, he said that there were consultations before Amotekun was launched.
He responded: "No, no, no, there were consultations, don't say there were no consultations. There were consultations because, we held discussions with the IG then and what has developed is what has led to this, not that there were no consultations.
"We just felt that with all these noise outside, it was better for us to sit down. Remember that immediately the noise started, I said that we were going to explore political solutions and all of us are here, my colleague, the deputy governor of Oyo State who is of the PDP, all of us are here. So, we have looked at both political and legal solutions to it and all of us will do it."
On what he will tell those protesting that government was trying to stop it, he said: "No, the government is not trying to stop it. The Attorney General has spoken on that, I'm sure you have all read the statement that he was misinterpreted. So, it's so clear, there was no time that government wanted to stop Amotekun and the AGF haven spoken, it's all about us, so there is no problem."
The AGF, who was asked on the outcome of the meeting simply said: "His Excellency, the Governor of Ondo State, Akeredolu will address you."
Further asked to set the record straight, he said: "The record has been set straight by His Excellency, I have nothing to add."
The meeting fruitful -- Osinbajo
The spokesman of the Vice President, Laolu Akande in a statement said that the meeting was at the instance of the South West Governors, who had asked to see President Buhari over the controversy surrounding the Amotekun initiative.
"However, due to the President's foreign engagement, he asked the Vice President to host the meeting. The meeting was very fruitful and unanimous resolutions were made on the way forward.
"Having regard to the need for all hands to be on deck in addressing the security concerns across the country, it was agreed that the structure of Amotekun should also align with the Community Policing strategy of the Federal Government.
"It was also agreed that necessary legal instruments would be put in place by each of the states to give legal backing to the initiative and address all issues concerning the regulation of the security structure."
The governors at the meeting were Chairman of Nigeria Governors Forum, NGF and Ekiti State Governor, Dr. Kayode Fayemi; Governor Gboyega Oyetola of Osun State as well as deputy governors of Lagos, Oyo and Ogun states. Also present at the meeting was the Inspector General of Police, Mohammed Adamu.
Nigeria's constitution makes no room for regional army --Malami
For the second time in about two weeks, Attorney General of the Federation, Malami has declared Amotekun, as an illegal entity not known to the constitution of Nigeria and which can never be allowed to stand.
Malami, who was at the meeting yesterday between the Vice President and South West governors, which also had in attendance the Inspector General of Police, Adamu, had before the meeting, maintained that no level of sentiments would make the Federal Government to abandon the path of rule of law and trade of illegality in the administration of Nigeria.
Malami was yet to retract the statement at press time.
It will be recalled that he had first on January 14, declared Amotekun illegal.
The minister, yesterday, in a statement by his Special Assistant on Media, Dr. Umar Gwandu, said: "No amount of effort to hide the truth will work. People could be carried away by sentimental or emotional inclinations, but truth remains apparently palpable. The bottom line is that the current Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria does not accommodate formation of regional security architecture.
"This is a fact which is undisputable and undeniable. Mr Falana (Femi) was prevaricating and circumlocuting using evasive techniques when he was asked by the media to justify the presence of lacuna within the law which could establish or protect the concept of regionalism in any operation in the country.
"This arrangement called Amotekun is not backed by any law neither at the state nor at the Federal Government level. Amotekun, therefore, remains unconstitutional and illegal as already indicated.
"The Federal Government appreciates that legally-minded Nigerians have started to eschew emotions by offering legal comments on the matter as against being carried away by other inclinations. The Office of the AGF and Minister of Justice is committed to the rule of law and a constitutional democratic Federal Republic of Nigeria," Malami said.
S/West governors must not back down on this -- Odumakin
Reacting to Malami's recent statement, spokesman of Afenifere, Mr Yinka Odumakin urged the South-West governors not to back down on the initiative.
He said: "It's unfortunate because after we saw a statement credited to Malami that he was misquoted, we thought that they are serious about resolving this matter. If they still insist that Amotekun is illegal, then it is clear that they are not interested in negotiated settlement on this matter and they believe they can keep us as our masters.
"They have Hisbah, they have an area that has civilian JTF and they are saying that we cannot have our Amotekun. It is not convenient and we have to get to the bottom of this. My advice to the governors is that they must not back down on this.
"We are not going to trouble other people like the way Boko Haram is doing or Miyetti Allah. We just want to protect ourselves and those who live with us. We cannot be vulnerable the way we are for them to be kidnapping us, rapping our women, and doing nothing. It's not an option."
Amotekun as our agent of defence --Akintoye
Leader of the World Yoruba Congress, WYC, Emeritus Professor Banji Akintoye, disagreed with the AGF, saying Amotekun has come to stay.
Akintoye said: "We the Yoruba have the instrument for defending our properties, our towns, villages and farmlands against any external aggression. We cannot lie down and wait until we are overrun and destroyed. So, we have Amotekun as our agent of defence. If the AGF, Malami, feels it is illegal, let him go to court and the Yoruba will meet him with full legal strength. We already have the instrument with which we will use to defend ourselves."
Our governors must not back down on Amotekun --Agbekoya
Also, National President of Agbekoya Farmers' Association, Aare Aremu Okikiola, warned the South West governors not to back down on Amotekun, saying the group was ready to protect the region from marauding herdsmen who terrorise the zone.
The Agbekoya leader said: "Whether the Federal Government likes it or not, Amotekun has come to stay. It is an outfit that will protect the South West from marauding herdsmen. It is unfortunate that the South West governors are foot-dragging on the matter and allowing the Federal Government treat them like kids.
"When Hisbah and the civilian JTF were to be set up in the North, did the Federal Government raise any eyebrow? So, why are they against Amotekun in the South West? The secret there is that Miyetti Allah Cattle breeders know that most of their members are criminals and are the ones perpetuating evil in the South West, that is why it is opposed to Amotekun.
"Their leaders are afraid that their secrets will be leaked if Amotekun is allowed to see the light of day. Amotekun will protect the farmers especially in the South West from these marauding herdsmen who go about destroying farmlands, maiming and raping women in the forests. Our governors must not allow themselves to be intimidated or harassed by the Federal Government. If the governors are not ready or want to back down, we the Agbekoya Farmers are ready to protect the South West from these marauding herdsmen."
Also, Special Adviser to Governor Akeredolu on Security Matters, Alhaji Jimoh Dojumo, said that the insistence of the AGF that Amotekun is illegal was unfortunate.
He said: "It is clear that the AGF is acting a script but we are not perturbed. We are determined to push this through no matter what. On Amotekun we stand and it will surely come to reality.
"What am sure of is that Amotekun is an idea that its time has come and there is no going back. The AGF is not a court of law, so why is he speaking as if he is the court and talking as if what he says is the final?
"The facts remain that the AGF is not a law court, so whatever he says is not final. It has come to the open now that he is acting a script. We assure our people in the region that the governors would not back down on this concept."
Enact laws for Amotekun now --Falana tells S'West govs
On his part, activist and lawyer, Mr Femi Falana SAN, said: "The governors in the South West zone launched Amotekun at Ibadan, Oyo State on January 10, 2020. The Police authorities endorsed Amotekun while the Attorney-General of the Federal has questioned its legality. Even though I had cause to join issues with Mr Malami over his legal opinion on the security outfit, I was compelled to call on each of the South West governors to forward a bill to the houses of assembly of each state for the formation of Amotekun.
"In the absence of an enabling legal instrument for the establishment, structure, functions, control, funding and operation of Amotekun various interest groups in the country have continued to express divergent views on the needless controversy that has trailed the official inauguration of the security outfit.
"On their part, the South West governors have been assuring the Federal Government that Amotekun is not a regional paramilitary organisation but a zonal security outfit being set up to assist the Nigeria Police Force and other security agencies in combating incessant killings, kidnapping, armed robbery and other violent crimes that are on the ascendancy due in the region due to the negligence of the federal government to effectively police the country.
"Apart from those who are strenuously opposed to Amotekun the concerned people in the South West zone who have embraced the security initiative are entitled to know the law setting it up. Therefore, the Attorneys-General in the states in the South West zone should be saddled with the urgent responsibility of ensuring that the enabling laws for Amotekun are enacted by the respective houses of assembly without any further delay. The Lagos State Neighbourhood Watch Law coupled with the Lagos State Security Trust Fund Law may be modified or adopted for Amotekun. Once the laws are enacted, the Federal Government will be at liberty to test the constitutional validity of Amotekun in the Supreme Court."