Surviving Operation Amotekun: The Challenge, Arguments, Shortcomings, And The Way Forward Emmanuel Omotayo

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‘Operation Amotekun’ (The Leopard) is a security initiative formed by a coalition of the six State Governors of the South-West Nigerian states to battle insecurity and other crimes in that region. Notwithstanding the good intentions of this movement, it has come under some intense scathing. The Operation has soon hit the rock when the Federal Government of Nigeria on 14th January 2020, branded it as unconstitutional and therefore ‘illegal’. It is in view of the foregoing, that this article will serve as a two-edged sword in an attempt to consider the loopholes or shortcomings in the formation of the ‘Operation Amotekun’ (if any) that made it to be declared ‘illegal’, and a s a panacea; the article finally argues that the branding of Operation Amotekun as ‘illegal’ by the Attorney General of the Federation is more of a directory to the parties concerned to follow due process in setting up the security outfit, and to this end this article examines how the technicalities surrounding the case can be exploited to get the security outfit overcome the illegal tag and become operational once again.

Key Words: ‘Operation Amotekun’, Insecurity, Federal Government of Nigeria.

INTRODUCTION

As the incidences threatening the security of the nation remains prevalent, predominantly in the Northern region of the country, in recent times, there has been an upscale trend of insecurity in the opposite region too. The South-West region of the country became notoriously hit last year (2019) with widespread insecurity, banditry, kidnapping, wanton destruction of lives and property by assailants.

In fulfillment of their constitutional prerogative of security and welfare of their people, and in exigent response to the upsurge in criminal activities in the region, the governors of the six South-West states of the Federation at the regional security summit held in Ibadan, Oyo State, on June 2019 through Development Agenda for Western Nigeria Commission (DAWN)[1] agreed to set up a security network to assist and consolidate the security agencies in the region. Hence, the birth of ‘Operation Amotekun’ as a regional security network

The Western Nigeria Security Network (WNSN) codenamed ‘Operation Amotekun’ (The Leopard), is a security outfit established on January 9, 2020 by the six State Governors of all the South-Western State of the Federation of Nigeria, namely; Lagos State, Oyo State, Ogun State, Ondo State, Osun State and Ekiti State. With its headquarters situate in Ibadan, Oyo State, and operational base in Gbongan, Osun State, it records as the first regional security outfit initiated by a geopolitical zone in Nigeria.[2]

The operatives of the security outfit will assist the police, other security agencies and traditional rulers in combating terrorism, banditry, armed robbery, kidnapping etc, and also in settling herdsmen and farmers contentions in the region. For the startup, the security outfit already boasts of over 1,320 operatives recruited by the trio of Lagos, Osun and Ekiti State.[3]

Since its launch, the ‘Operation Amotekun’ has generated brobdingnagian reactions of mixed feelings from the masses. While the governors have been lauded from almost every quarter of the region for the forward-thinking initiative, there has been relative measure of condemnations and, indeed, rejection of the whole idea, particularly from persons and groups of the opposite region.

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THE CHALLENGE

On 13 January, 2020, the Nigerian Police warned that they will arrest any operative of the outfit that carries illegal arms.[4]

Perhaps the most daunting challenged soon faced by the ‘Operation Amotekun’ is the ‘illegal’ stamp labeled on it by the Federal Government of Nigeria. On 14 January, 2020, the Federal Government of Nigeria, through the Attorney General of the Federation, Abubakar Malami, opposed the establishment of ‘Operation Amotekun’ by the South-West states, branding it as an illegal institution, on the premise that it is not backed by the Nigerian Constitution, 1999 (as altered).[5]  A statement by the Attorney General of the Federation reads:

“The setting up of the paramilitary organization called Amotekun is illegal and runs contrary to the provisions of the Nigerian law.

“The constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 (as amended) has established the army, navy and air force, including the police and other numerous paramilitary organizations for the purpose of the defence of Nigeria.

“As a consequence of this, no state government, whether singly or in group has the legal right and competence to establish any form of organization or agency for the defence of Nigeria or any of its constituent parts.

“This is sanctioned by the provision of Item 45 of the Second Schedule of the constitution of the Federal republic of Nigeria (as amended) authorizing the police and other Federal Government security services established by law to maintain law and order”.

The declaration made by the Federal Government of Nigeria on ‘Operation Amotekun’ as illegal as soon precipitate a growing fuss in the country. People from varying levels of the country, experts and non-experts, particularly the faithfuls of the initiative have exploited various media to vent their dissidence about the declaration.

THE ARGUMENTS

It has been widely argued by many and perhaps the same basis for the stance of the federal government on the Amotekun outfit, that it is in the exclusive powers of the Federal Government of Nigeria to defend the security of Nigeria pursuant to the provision of Item 17 of the II Schedule on the Exclusive Legislative List in the Nigerian constitution 1999 (as altered). Contrary to this erroneous opinion, let me set the record straight that, Section 14(2)(b) of the Nigerian Constitution 1999 (as altered) directs that: “The security and welfare of the people shall be the primary purpose of government”, which, in a federal state like Nigeria, is a conflation of the Federal, State, and Local Governments.

Abubakar Malami missed it when he confused the protection of Nigeria against external aggression, the schedule of the armed forces with the President as Commander-in-Chief, with safety of lives and property of residents within Nigeria’s borders.

Those who contest that the State Governments lacks jurisdiction over security matters perhaps advertently or inadvertently overlooked the provision of Section 11(1)(2) of the Nigerian Constitution 1999 (as altered) that: “The National Assembly may make laws for the federation or any part thereof  with respect to the maintenance and securing of public safety and public order…” and “Nothing in this section shall preclude a (State) House of Assembly from making laws with respect to the matter referred to in this section…”

It has also been argued that the creation of the South-West Governors’ Forum is unconstitutional, this is on the premise that the Constitution did not make any provision for such regional body. This argument is shallow and can be easily knocked off on the basis that Section 40 of the Nigerian Constitution 1999 (as altered) has entitled every person to assemble freely and associate with other persons, and in particular he may form or belong to any political party, trade union or any other association for the protection of his interests.

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The borderline of the argument so far canvassed is that State Governors (as the Chief Security Officer) of his respective state has the constitutional powers to devise whatever means possible to ensure the maintenance and security of life and properties within his jurisdiction. Although, this must be achieved only through the mechanism of an ‘enabling law’.

THE SHORTCOMINGS

While it is a commendable initiative by the six South-West Governors to set up a security network to consolidate the police and other security agencies in the battle against the prevailing insecurity in the region, the process is not without some derelicts.

 It is a popular saying that, what is worth doing is worth doing well. The Nigerian Constitution which is the grundnorm and modus operandi of all affairs in the country is unequivocal about the requirements necessary for a state governor to act as the Chief Security Officer of his state.

The fundamental shortcoming of ‘Operation Amotekun’ is that it is not established under an enabling law. Rather, the governors chose to establish the outfit acting solely on the unanimous agreement made at their Governors’ Forum.

What is an ‘Enabling Law’? An enabling law is a piece of legislation by which a legislative body grants an entity which depends on it the power to take certain actions. It is the piece of legislation that establishes and defines the constitution, powers and liabilities etc., of a government agency.

The Lagos State Neighbourhood Security Corps (LSNC) is a viable example of an ancillary security outfit created by an enabling law i.e., the Lagos State Neighbourhood Safety Agency Law of 2016.

A recent report[6] claims that all the six state governors contributed 20 vehicles, and 100 units of motorcycles each in support of the operation. While over 1,320 operatives have been recruited by the trio of Lagos, Osun and Ekiti State.[7]  All of these facts pose the question of: “where does the financing of ‘Operation Amotekun’ come from?”

THE WAY FORWARD

While some quarters have heavily resented the stance of the federal government on ‘Operation Amotekun’ as being ethnically biased, some other have urged the stakeholders to challenge the federal government in court over the constitutionality or otherwise of the security outfit. While this writer hopes that the position of the federal government on ‘Operation Amotekun’ is in the upmost spirit of constitutionalism that eschews any modicum of ethnical segregation or bias, he does not believe that testing the legality of ‘Operation Amotekun’ in the court of law will be a wise step in the battle for its survival.

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It is the view of this writer that, the embargo placed on the ‘Operation Amotekun’ by the Federal Republic of Nigeria is not of an absolute nature rather, it is more of a direction to its stakeholders to do the ‘needful’ – as provided in the Section 11(2) of the Nigerian Constitution 1999 (as altered).

Operation Amotekun will only maintain the force of a legal security agency until there is a law establishing it. The law would amongst other things make provision for its financing, administration, rights and liabilities etc.

It will be difficult if not impossible for the six state governors to pass a law creating ‘Operation Amotekun’ as a unit. Therefore, individual governors must go to his respective House of Assembly and push for a Bill on “operation Amotekun’ to be passed into law. And for the purpose of maintaining its interregional flavour, there should be a provision in the law that permits its amalgamation or coalition with other states within the South-West region.

CONCLUSION

Generally speaking, the traditional approach of ‘State Security’ that mainly regards the State[8] as the sole referent object of security and refutes any attempt to broaden the concept of security has long been criticized[9] and is soon paving way to developing trends such as societal security, and human security.

Moving the security agenda beyond state security does not mean replacing it but rather involves complementing and building on it. The state remains a central provider of security, but state security is not a sufficient condition for human welfare.

Emmanuel Omotayo Johnson -mail: oluwadamipe7@gmail.com

Footnotes

[1] Ojelu, Henry (10 January 2020), “Constitutional Implication of Operation Amotekun”, Vanguard Newspaper. Retrieved 21 January, 2020.

[2] Rasheed, Olawale (15 january 2020), “The Real Significance of Amotekun”, Nigerian Tribune. Retrieved 21 January, 2020.

[3] “Operation Amotekun: Lagos, Osun, Ekiti to Recruit 1,320 Militiamen” The Punch, 11 January 2020. Retrieved 22 January, 2020.

[4] “Operation Amotekun: Carry illegal arms, be arrested, police warn OP, hunters”, The Punch, 13 January, 2020. Retrieved 22 january, 2020.

[5] “BREAKING: Nigerian Government Declares ‘Operation Amotekun’ illegal”, Sahara Reporters, 14 January, 2020. Retrieved 22 January, 2020.

[6] Bisi, Oladele; Adeniran, Yinka (10 January 2020). “Governors: Amotekun not a parallel security outfit”. The Nation Nigeria. Retrieved 26 January, 2020.

[7]“Operation Amotekun: Lagos, Osun, Ekiti to Recruit 1,320 Militiamen” The Punch, 11 January 2020. Retrieved 22 January, 2020.

[8] In this context means, the Federal Government of Nigeria

[9] This approach has been challenged by the Copenhagen School, the Welsh School, and the Human Security Approach School of Though. While the Copenhagen School assumes that there is now a duality of security: state security and societal security, the Welsh School and the Human Security School considers individuals as a sole referent object of security.

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