A scheduled meeting between the Presidency and the South-West governors on the Western Nigeria Security Network, Operation Amotekun, was called off on Tuesday.
It is now rescheduled for Thursday (tomorrow).
While the South-West governors could not meet the Presidency on Tuesday, various groups in the zone held rallies in state capitals in support of Amotekun. In Lagos, the police barricaded the venue of a pro-Amotekun rally.
The South-West had launched the operation on January 9 in Ibadan to help address rising security challenges, particularly kidnapping and banditry, in Ogun, Osun, Oyo, Lagos, Ekiti, and Ondo states.
The South-West governors, who made 120 patrol vehicles available to the security outfit, had said it would complement the police and the military in terms of intelligence gathering.
But on Tuesday last week, the Attorney General of the Federation, Abubakar Malami, SAN, said Operation Amotekun was “illegal.”
He stated, “The setting up of the paramilitary organization called Amotekun is illegal and runs contrary to the provisions of the Nigerian law.”
A few days later, the Chairman of the South-West Governors’ Forum, Rotimi Akeredolu, SAN, said the South-West would go ahead with the security outfit.
Akeredolu, who is also the Ondo State governor, said the South-West would first seek a political solution to the problem, then go to court if the first step failed.
But a legal luminary and founder of Afe Babalola University, Ado Ekiti, Chief Afe Babalola, on Sunday, advised the South-West governors to proceed with the implementation of Amotekun and leave the Federal Government to challenge the matter in court.
Punch NG had exclusively reported on Thursday that as part of efforts to find a solution to the problem, the governors would this week meet with the President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.).
But in the Presidential Villa schedule sighted by one of our correspondents on Tuesday, the meeting was timed to hold at 12noon and to be presided over by Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo in the absence of the President.
However, by 12pm when none of the governors came to the Villa, news reporters learned that the meeting was shifted to 2pm.
At 2pm, the meeting was eventually rescheduled to Thursday, though Osinbajo was in the office.
Findings by reporters showed that two of the governors were out of the country to London to attend the United Kingdom-Africa Summit in company with Buhari.
They are those of Lagos State, Mr. Babajide Sanwo-Olu, and Ogun State, Mr. Dapo Abiodun. They are not expected back home till Thursday.
A source told reporters from Punch that the meeting was moved to Thursday when most of the 36 state governors would be in Abuja for the National Economic Council meeting.
The source stated, “Thursday seems convenient for everyone; all the governors are coming for their monthly NEC meeting.
“The South-West governors’ meeting with the Presidency too can take place on Thursday. It’s more convenient that way. Besides, two of the South-West governors are not in the country now”, the source added.
However, it was further gathered that the meeting might have been rescheduled to coincide with Buhari’s return on Thursday so that the governors would meet with him directly.
“It’s a delicate issue, which the VP too may be trying to handle with caution because of possible political backlash at his home base”, another source claimed.
It was learned that the Presidency was not exactly against Amotekun since Buhari had already given his backing to community policing.
One source informed Punch NG that the Attorney General of the Federation’s declaration of Amotekun as being “illegal” might have been his own view as the AGF.
“I think what is happening is that the AGF gave his own opinion. It is not like it is Buhari that is against Amotekun since he has already approved community policing.
“But the idea of the governors coming for a meeting is to try and discuss to resolve issues like the Modu Operandi, or to bring Amotekun to fall in line completely with the government’s community policing concept”, the source stated.
The Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity (Office of the Vice-President), Mr. Laolu Akande, said he had no information about any meeting on Amotekun earlier fixed for Tuesday.
Akande only said he was aware that there would be a NEC meeting on Thursday (tomorrow).
Police stop pro-Amotekun rally in Lagos
While the governors and the Presidency could not meet, policemen barricaded the Gani Fawehinmi Park, Ojota, the venue of the pro-Amotekun rally in Lagos.
News Reporters at the venue observed that over 20 vehicles with armed policemen prevented protesters from accessing the park.
The Lagos State Coordinator of the protest, George Akinola, in an interview with journalists, noted that the police prevented the group from entering the park despite paying for the venue.
He said, “We are Yoruba people that have come here on a peaceful rally to support the initiative of the governors of the South-Western States of Nigeria to set up a protective force called Amotekun which is supposed to work with the police and other security agencies to protect the Yoruba land. We paid for the venue but for reasons best known to the Nigerian Police, we were prevented from entering.
“Our message today is that Amotekun will stand because it is a protective force for Yoruba land and it must be allowed to stand. No going back on Amotekun.”
Another group, the Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project, condemned the presence of armed policemen at the venue.
SERAP, on its Twitter handle, noted that the invasion of the police at the rally was unlawful. The group tweeted, “It is unlawful and unconstitutional for @PoliceNG to stop Amotekun protesters or any protesters for that matter. Rather than stopping peaceful protesters from exercising their constitutional right, Nigerian authorities should be protecting protesters from violent attacks by others.”
In Akure, the Ondo State capital, groups, under the auspices of the Yoruba World Congress, started their pro-Amotekun rally at the MKO Abiola Democracy Park, moved to the palace of the Deji of Akure, Oba Aladetoyinbo Aladelusi, and stopped at the Governor’s Office, Alagbaka, in the company with security agents.
The Coordinator of the group, Mr. Oluyi Akintade, said Operation Amotekun had come to stay in the South-West states, stressing that no amount of threats would intimidate the Yoruba.
He said, “We will do everything to support these brave governors as they work tirelessly to see to a more secure South-West people and states.”
Also, the Chairman of the solidarity walk, Mr. Toyin Ogunlakaka, who explained that over 80 Yoruba groups made up the YWC, said that the support given to the initiative of the South-West governors should not be seen that the Yoruba were against the Federal Government but against Malami’s stand over the issue.
Receiving the group on behalf of the Ondo State governor, the Chief of Staff, Chief Gbenga Ale, who lauded the people for the support, said citizens would not be abandoned to their fate amidst the security challenges.
In Ado Ekiti, the Ekiti State capital, stakeholders from the 16 council areas of the state gathered for a peaceful rally in support of Amotekun.
Those who joined the rally comprised traditional hunters, members of the Oodua People’s Congress, Vigilante Group of Nigeria, Agbekoya, Oodua Union, Yoruba Koya, Man O’War, National Association of Nigerian Students and Ekiti Council of Elders. The police and operatives of the Department of State Services provided security for the stakeholders.
The coordinator of the rally, Praise Ayodele, said Amotekun had come to stay in the South-West. He stated, “We are not fighting anybody. The security of our people is very important. We are to do this to support our governors that we are happy with Amotekun.”
Also, no fewer than 14 groups held a solidarity rally on Amotekun in Abeokuta, the Ogun State capital.
The groups held their program at the Panseke Park, under a close watch of Police, the DSS, and the Nigeria Security and Civil Defense Corps.
The Chairman of the coordinating committee of the Amotekun Solidarity Rally in the state, Jimoh Taofeek, described Amotekun as a security outfit meant to protect lives and property in the South-West.
When asked about the number of groups that participated in the rally. Taofeek said, “ We have 14 groups here for the solidarity walk for Amotekun”.
“If Hisbah can be in the Northern states, if there can be Civilian Joint Task Force, if there can be vigilante groups, some of them even carry arms, arresting people, so, there is no reason why we should not consider Amotekun in the South-West.
The Commissioner of Police in the state, Kenneth Ebrimson, who visited the venue of the rally said, he was there to ensure that there was no breakdown of law and order.
Different groups under the aegis of the YWC stormed streets in Osogbo, Osun State, to support Amotekun.
The protesters marched from the Nelson Mandela Freedom Park at 10:30am and moved to Okefia before proceeding to Olaiya Junction.
Bearing a large banner with the inscription “On Amotekun We Stand,” the participants urged all stakeholders in the region to support the security initiative since it was designed to check rising insecurity.
The coordinator of the event, Dr. Akin Adejuwon, said the participants were not protesting the seeming opposition to the initiative. He explained that the march was to sensitize the populace to the necessity of the Amotekun security initiative amidst rising insecurity in the region.
In Ibadan, the Oyo State capital, the President, Federation of Yoruba Consciousness and Culture, Alajobi, Kunle Adeshokan, said Amotekun had come to stay.
Adeshokan, who spoke at a rally, said the entire Yoruba nation was determined to face the challenge of insecurity in the zone.
Adeshokan said, “We will never allow foreigners to take over our land and start killing us. We are tired of bloodletting. Nigeria is for us all and for us all; not for a certain section of the people.”
An activist, Laoye Sanda, who spoke on behalf of Egbe Ifokanbale Omo Yoruba, harped on the need to convene a national conference in the light of the failure being experienced in governance.
The President, Ifokanbale Hunters’ Association, Oba Nureni Ajijolaanabi, said the hunters were prepared to collaborate with the South-West governors on the new security outfit.
Reacting on behalf of Governor Seyi Makinde, Chief Bisi Ilaka, who addressed the rally, said there was no going back on the execution of the security arrangement across the South-West zone.
Amotekun: We mustn’t remain silent to please oppressors, says Atiku
Meanwhile, former Vice President, Atiku Abubakar, on Tuesday, said no human power had the authority to criminalize the protection of lives and property.
In a statement titled, ‘Self-Defence Is International Human Right, Guaranteed By Article 51 of the UN Charter,’ he stated, “No human power has the authority to criminalize the protection of human life, and no human ambition is worth the failure to speak in support of the people in order to remain in favor with the oppressors of the people.
“As a nation, our police, armed forces and paramilitary bodies have shown great gallantry, patriotism, and dedication to duty. They are our first line of defense against enemies of our nation and saboteurs within our midst. I laud, value and acknowledge them, which is why I awarded scholarships and gave other support to the children of some of our fallen heroes.
“Having said that, I must add that the reality on the ground in Nigeria today is that our armed and paramilitary forces are overstretched. To deny this is to unpatriotically put their lives at risk. This we must not do. They deserve better from us.”
He said that to say that Nigerians did not need the services of those who were patriotic enough to voluntarily put their lives at risk to ensure the protection of the lives and property of Nigerians was denying the obvious.
He said, “I salute groups like the Civilian Joint Task Force in the North-East, who provided and continue to provide an invaluable service to Nigeria and her peoples, at great cost to themselves, both in human lives and in productive hours, for which they are not well remunerated. Without their altruistic services, where would the war on terror be?
“It is easy to think that all is well when you are in secured State Houses, but the reality is that the security situation is far from fine for the average Nigerian citizen.
“In such circumstances, people have an inalienable God-given right to self-defense. This divine right, as long as it is limited to self-defense, cannot be declared illegal by man. Not by any stretch.”
South-West Reps back govs
Members of the House of Representatives from the South-West, in separate interviews with reporters, urged the South-West governors to ignore the AGF.
The lawmaker representing Ikorodu Federal Constituency of Lagos State, Mr. Babajimi Benson, said, “Nothing stops the governors from continuing with Amotekun until the Supreme Court says it is illegal.”
Also, the lawmaker representing Ede-North/South/Egbedero/Ejigbo Federal Constituency of Osun State, Bamidele Salam, dismissed the declaration by the AGF, asking the All Progressives Congress to implement its manifesto on decentralization of the police.
The lawmaker representing the Epe Federal Constituency of Lagos State, Mr. Wale Raji, also backed the creation of Amotekun and advised the South-West governors to widen their consultations on the security outfit to include speakers of the state Houses of Assembly and members of the National Assembly from the zone.