By DANIEL O. ADEDIGBA
In what appears like a New Year gift, the South – West governors on January 9, 2020 inaugurated Operation Amotekun, a security outfit directed to combat killings and kidnapping in the zone. According to the governors, the security outfit is necessary at this point following the persistent serial killings and kidnapping in the zone by Fulani herdsmen.
Following the sequence of insecurity in the South West, on the 5th day of May, 2019, there was an abduction of a lecturer of Obafemi Awolowo University, Professor Olayinka Adegbehingbe at the Ikoyi/Apomu junction of the Ife/Ibadan expressway of Oyo State. Also, on the 13th day of July, 2019, there was a report that gunmen who were suspected to be herdsmen killed Funke Olakunrin, a daughter of the Afenifere leader on the Ondo-Ore road. On the 2nd day of August, 2019, a pastor of the Redeemed Christian Church of God and four others were kidnapped at the Ogbere area of Ogun State. These incidents among others gave birth to Operation Amotekun.
Reactions have however trailed the inauguration from certain quarters that choose to name the security outfit as illegal. These reactions include threat from the Miyetti Allah Organisation to deny south west of the 2023 Presidential seat as well as terming the outfit as a possible disaster for Nigeria. The Attorney General of the Federation, Abubakar Malami, SAN similarly declared the security initiative as illegal relying on the position that the power over security is an exclusive duty of the Federal Government.
In the midst of the comments parading the Amotekun initiative, its pronouncement as illegal and the occasioned counter arguments, it becomes extremely instructive to make recourse to the law for the determination of its legality or otherwise.
The primary provision of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria relating to government and security is Section 14 (2) (b) which provides, “the security and welfare of the people shall be the primary purpose of government.” Flowing from the provision, it become worthy to acknowledge that security is a responsibility of the government and any government that fails in providing security for its people has failed a statutory obligation and it follows quickly that the event of the failure of the government will open doors for citizens to make productive steps to secure themselves. A clear study of Section 14 (2) (b) speaks of government generally whether Federal, State or Local Government.
The antagonists of the Operation Amotekun initiative have argued that the initiative is unnecessary owing to the constitutional recognition of the Nigerian Police Force. However, Section 214 CFRN which establishes the Nigeria Police Force, provides, “there shall be a police Force for Nigeria, which shall be known as the Nigerian Police Force, and subject to the provisions of this section no other police force shall be established for the Federation or any part thereof.” By this provision, the constitution merely established the Nigeria Police without spelling out in clear terms their functions or their exclusivity in criminal or security matters. Section 4 of the Police Act however did a deep illumination into the functions of the Nigerian Police Force. It provides, ‘the police shall be employed for the prevention and detection of crime, the apprehension of offenders, the preservation of law and order, the protection of life and property and the due enforcement of all laws and regulations with which they are directly charged…’ By interpretation, the law did not in any part make the security of lives and property the exclusive duty of the Nigeria Police to the exclusion of any other entity. From Section 214 CFRN, it becomes clear that any state or local government can establish any entity in their bid to comply with the security obligations of Section 14 (2) (b).
From the above statutory directives, it is clear that Operation Amotekun is not illegal by any constitutional directive. The pronouncement of the Attorney General of the Federation of Operation Amotekun as illegal therefore is lacking force as the Office of the Attorney General of the Federation created by Section 150 CFRN does not have the power conferred to the courtroom under Chapter VII of the constitution.
In the instance of any confusion, it is instructive that the Attorney General of the Federation should approach the Supreme Court which is constitutionally robed with an original jurisdiction over this matter.
Pending the predictable pronouncement of the Supreme Court, Operation Amotekun has the presumption of legality and should be given all the supports needed to achieve its overall objectives.
Daniel O. Adedigba firstname.lastname@example.org