Home Features Operation Amotekun: Constitutional Implication of South-West Regional Security Initiative

Operation Amotekun: Constitutional Implication of South-West Regional Security Initiative

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Today, South-west states, namely Lagos, Ogun, Oyo, Ondo, Osun and Ekiti, will launch a security formation to tackle the problem of insecurity within the region.

This collaboration, tagged Operation Amotekun, is expected to complement the efforts of the regular police force in the area of combating kidnapping, armed robbery, as well as herdsmen and farmers contentions.

It is an attestation of the failure of the current security system at bringing about the needed safety of lives and property in line with the fundamental objectives and principles of state policy as captured in Chapter II, Section 14(2b) of the Nigerian Constitution.

The section states that “the security and welfare of the people shall be the primary purpose of government…”

There is a consensus that the security challenges Nigerians face have become overwhelming to the government. From the clashes between herdsmen and farmers to the heartless ritual murders arising from the wanton cravings for filthy lucre, there is no restraint whatsoever.

Armed robbery and kidnapping have become inseparable twins on the nation’s highways which have now been left only to the poor and hapless.

Armed police operatives take their positions every 200 metres and the army and other security outfits interlock the highways in a bid to stem the tide.

The approach is still porous. The people are yet to know safety in the midst of armed security men whose sight has become frightening to motorists parting with money at every checkpoint.

Scary scenario

In South-west Nigeria, the situation took a frightening turn since 2015 with the kidnap of former Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Olu Falae, by herdsmen right on his farm in Akure.

The news of his ordeal was well received by the president who ordered the Inspector General of Police (IGP) to rescue him unhurt. In spite of the involvement of the top echelon of the police hierarchy, the old man still parted with N5 million to regain his freedom. The criminals have been arrested and now standing trial.

After Mr Falae, many more have been kidnapped, terrorised and killed either on the highway, in the forest or even in their residences.

They count themselves lucky if they ever have the opportunity to pay ransom, but are left to return to their families alive. The victims are from every class of the social strata – from the academia, medical, businessmen and women and even the judiciary.

Nigerians would recall the sad tales of kidnapping and wanton killings which engulfed the Akure–Ibadan expressway, the Ore-Benin expressway and the Owo-Akoko axis. Ekiti State also witnessed gruesome incidences of kidnapping, armed robberies and ritual murders.

The Ondo State Governor, Rotimi Akeredolu, at the time also told his rather interesting story of his encounter with the armed men, who attempted to halt his convoy and attack him, but he managed to escape.

In addition, the painful murder of the daughter of the Afenifere, Reuben Fasoranti, by suspected herdsmen along Ore road shocked all.

Olufunke Olakurin, was shot while on her way to Lagos by masked hoodlums after a visit to her father in Akure on June 23, 2019. Her killers are yet to be found while the investigations into the incident by the police had been adjudged as far from thorough.

Intervention

The decision by the governors of the South-west states to create Operation Amotekun was reached in Ibadan in June 2019, at the regional security summit in Ibadan. The summit was a reaction to the worsening security situation in the region.

In reaching the decision to put together a security outfit not completely independent of the existing security structure, the regional governments claimed they had secured a green light from President Muhammadu Buhari with inputs from the IGP to go ahead with the plan.

When operational, the governors believe the regional security force would complement the efforts of the police and ensure safety in all the states of the regions, particularly in crannies where the Nigeria Police Force were not hitherto effective.

In spite of its laudable aspirations, Amotekun appears to be on a collision course with the status quo. The question is, how will the security outfit be operated and what would be its operational guidelines and its command structure. Who gives the orders and to whom would they be answerable to?

Besides the pending posers, is Amotekun a subtle realisation of state or regional police being vehemently advocated by leaders of the region?

Some apologists of Operation Amotekun have been quick to point to the activities of the Civilian Joint Task Force (CJTF) which has been constituted to help tackle Boko Haram in the North-east.

The CJTF, a group of youth formed in Borno State to help curtail the activities of the deadly Boko Haram, has been sustained in the fight against the insurgents. The CJTF is also armed with basic weapons and had been noted to have attained successes in the arrest of many members of the insurgents. The backers of Amotekun believe that the regional force is even more justifiable given the state of security in the region.

However, sections 214 and 215 of the Constitution only recognise the Nigeria Police Force as the agency responsible for the provision of security in the states of the federation. Section 214(1) says “There shall be a police force for Nigeria, which shall be called the Nigeria Police Force and, subject to the provisions of this section no other police force shall be established for the federation or any part thereof.”

Reactions

However, some lawyers have expressed their opinions on the matter, stating that Amotekun is not in direct conflict with the provisions of the Constitution.

A lawyer based in Akure, Femi Emodamori, said the Amotekun is not in conflict with Section 214 and 215 of the Constitution. According to him, Section 14 of the same Constitution stipulates that the security of lives and property of the citizens shall be the primary responsibility of every government.

“Launching a security outfit is not necessarily operating a state police, particularly when the essence is to complement the efforts of the police,” Mr Emodamori said.

He argued that by virtue of Section 20 of the Administration of Justice Act, every private citizen has the statutory power to arrest a criminal, and thereafter hand the suspect over to the police. According to him, the citizens have the duty to assist the police in the enforcement of law.

“If the individual citizen has the right to do so, then they could also do so by forming a group,” the lawyer further argued. “Don’t forget that the Civilian Joint Task Force is joining the Nigerian military, another security agency to fight Boko Haram in a full blown war in a section of the country. That is a form of security to assist the security agencies.”

He, however, cautioned that Amotekun should be supervised by the police and not be used to abuse citizens.

A former Attorney General of Ondo State, Remi Olatumbora, told PREMIUM TIMES that Amotekun offers another opportunity for the citizens to express their readiness to support the security agencies in the fight against crime.

“Every Nigerian has a right to self defence and these individuals can come together to jointly exercise their right to self defence,” he said. “Each of these state governments represents their citizens in their own states. The right that each of these citizens in the states can exercise against invaders to their homes can be combined and exercised corporately.”

Mr Olatumbora said such corporate expression of the right to self defence epitomised in Amotekun has no conflict with the powers of the police.

Meanwhile, allaying fears and other misgivings, the Commissioner for Information in Ekiti State, Muyiwa Olumilua, clarified that the Amotekun would not conflict with the constitutional roles of the police.

According to him, “it is not going to be a regional or state police, but a structuring of the existing security outfits for the specific purpose of dealing with the indentified security challenges in the region”.

He said it would be a holistic security outfit that would be involved in trans-border, intra and inter-state security and would be composed of the regular police, the NSCDC, the Oodua Peoples Congress (OPC) and the local vigilante groups.

“We are not going to operate outside the Constitution and we are not creating a regional or state police, but it will be a more structured and effective force that would be result oriented,” Mr Olumilua said.

Funding, other concerns

Mr Olumilua said the state governments would effectively fund Amotekun to ensure that the complaints of lack of funds usually cited by the current police force for non-performance do not arise.

Despite the assurances, an indigenous civil society group, Ajoro Ekiti, raised concerns over the prospects of Amotekun.

Its convener, Dare Atoye, said the proposed security outfit might be crippled by the lack of adequate deployment of technology in its operations.

He said unless the six governments of the South-west states key into the use of drones and other modern technologies to survey the borders and bushes in the region, “there would be nothing new in the new outfit.”

“Operation Amotekun may not achieve much if there is no technological back up,” he said. “In today’s world, drones are deployed for surveillance and if these gadgets or other security information generating platforms are not deployed to survey our bushes to actually complement the police’s efforts, operation Amotekun may record a low achievement.”

“Also, the responsibilities of the security outfit must be well spelt out. It must not be abused or misused like the Odua Peoples Congress to settle scores.

“It must be a security outfit keeping vigil on our borders and it should not involve in private matter or politics.”

Strangely, other regions appear to have acquiesced to the aspirations of the South-west governments, as there had been little or no dissenting voices coming from them as it is usual in such cases.

As the stage is prepared to launch the outfit, poor funding, abuses and rivalry appear to be the possible pitfalls of the project.

It was also observed that many citizens of the affected states are upbeat on Amotekun. The dire need to put an end to the tales of woes arising from violent crimes in the region is dominant.

All other criticisms appear to be on hold. The wisdom of collaboration is at play and provided the laws are obeyed and all players are in concordance, the vessel is no doubt set for sail.

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