LAGOS social critic and human rights activist Malcolm Omirhobo has dragged the federal government to court over the recent pronouncement by the attorney-general of the federation Abubakar Malami that the regional security outfit Operation Amotekun is illegal.
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 translates to leopard in the local Yoruba language.
Within the last fortnight, 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 to provide security to provide intelligence for the official security services like the police, military and civil defence corps.
However, government supporters have opposed Operation Amotekun, with the Northern Youth Council of Nigeria saying that the creation of the body is a threat to national security. Also, earlier this week, the attorney-general of the federation Abubakar Malami said the federal government considers Operation Amotekun as an illegal police force.
Today, Chief Omirhobo filed a suit before the federal high court on Lagos challenging the declaration by Mr Malami. In his suit, he joined President Muhammadu Buhari, Mr Malami, the National Assembly, the inspector-general of police and the heads of the three branches of the armed forces as defendants.
Chief Omirhobo wants the court to decide whether it is discriminatory, improper , illegal, unlawful unconstitutional and undemocratic for the Nigerian government to support the transformation, institutionalisation and implementation of Sharia and the use of Sharia police running parallel with the Nigerian Police Force in the defendant northern states with public funds while refusing to support the establishment of Operation Amotekun, set up within the context of a federal system of government to augment and complement the Nigerian Police Force. He also wants the court to decide whether the provisions of the 1999 constitution have binding force on all the defendants and all persons and authorities in Nigeria.
Joined in the suit are the attorney-generals of the 12 states where Sharia law is practised. These include Zamfara, Kano, Sokoto, Kastina, Bauchi, Borno, Jigawa, Kebbi, Yobe, Kaduna, Niger and Gombe states.
Meanwhile, the Save Lagos Group, has given the All Progressives Congress leader Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, 24 hours to reveal his position on Operation Amotekun. Asiwaju Tinubu, who is seen as the leader of the APC in the southwest, has remained silent on the Amotekun issue, refusing to take a stand either way.
Save Lagos Group, convener Adeniyi Sulaiman, asked Asiwaju Tinubu, who is an advocate of restructuring, to be courageous regardless of his rumoured presidential ambition. He added that it was hypocritical of the federal government to allow the Sharia police, Hisbah, to operate in 12 northern states while it declared Amotekun, which is operating only in the southwest as illegal.