NIGERIA’S justice minister and attorney-general of the federation Abubakar Malami has dramatically heightened tension across the country this afternoon by declaring that the regional security outfit Operation Amotekun is illegal and unconstitutional.
Over recent years, heavily-armed herdsmen have been running riot across southwestern Nigeria, engaging in kidnapping, armed robbery and banditry. To address the problem, the governors from across the geo-political zone decided to launch a regional security outfit named Amotekun, which means leopard in the local Yoruba language.
Within the last week, the six governors have supplied Operation Amotekun with vehicles and equipment. Under the arrangements drawn up, the governments of the six states will train vigilantes, hunters and members of the Oodua Peoples Congress (OPC) to provide security to provide intelligence for the official security services like the police, military and civil defence corps.
Governors from other parts of Nigeria have declared that they too are considering launching similar regional outfits to Operation Amotekun. However, in a dramatic twist today, Mr Malami declared that the Nigerian government considers Amotekun an illegal institution as the group runs contrary to the provisions of Nigerian laws.
According to Mr Malami, no state government has the right to set up any form of organisation to protect its territory without approval from the federal government. In a statement issued by his office, the attorney-general added that only the federal government has the right to provide security in Nigeria.
Mr Malami said: “The setting up of the paramilitary organisation called Amotekun is illegal and runs contrary to the provisions of the Nigerian law. The constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 has established the army, navy and air force, including the police and other numerous paramilitary organisations for the purpose of the defence of Nigeria.
“As a consequence of this, no state government, whether singly or in a group has the legal right and competence to establish any form of organisation 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, authorising the police and other federal government security services established by law to maintain law and order.”
However, Mr Malami’s statement is likely to be ignored as Amotekun is already up and running with vehicles, equipment and staff. Also, similar regional security outfits exist in other parts of Nigeria, particularly in the northeast where the Civilian Joint Task Force is working with the military to combat Boko Haram.