GOVERNMENTS of South-West states are considering dragging the Federal Government to court over its refusal to grant the request for their security outfit, Amotekun, to be licensed to bear arms.
Ondo State governor, Mr Rotimi Akeredolu, who is also the chairman of the South-West Governors’ Forum, had on Thursday accused the Federal Government of bias for refusing to allow Amotekun to use AK-47 assault rifles whereas a similar outfit in Kastina State has been shown in a viral video being trained with the same weapons.
A source close to the Ondo State government told Saturday Tribune on Friday that some senior advocates had already been asked to look at the issue for a definite judicial pronouncement on the legality or otherwise of a legally set up outfit like Amotekun to bear arms.
“We are taking the Federal Government to court on this matter. Some senior advocates are already working on it. We want the court to intervene and save this country from this kind of blatant disregard for the spirit and letters of true federalism,” the state government official who did not want his name mentioned told Tribune Online.
Section 232(1) of the 1999 Constitution confers original jurisdiction on the Supreme Court on a matter such as this. Specifically, the constitution says: “The Supreme Court shall, to the exclusion of any other court, have original jurisdiction in any dispute between the federation and states or between states if and insofar as that dispute involves any question (whether of law or fact) on which the existence or extent of a legal right depends.”
The Western Nigeria Security Network, otherwise called Amotekun, was established by each of the governments of Oyo, Osun, Ondo and Ekiti states to tackle the menace of armed bandits infiltrating the states. Lagos State, which started the process with others, has not set up its own.
A video appeared online during the week showing tens of vigilante men in Katsina State being given military-grade training with AK-47 rifles with officials of the state government presiding.
In a swift reaction to the development, Akeredolu said it was against the spirit of federalism for the Federal Government to give Katsina State the approval to arm its vigilante men while turning down a similar request from the South-West states.
Akeredolu’s statement headlined ‘We Believe in One Nigeria, but We Cannot Have One Country, Two Systems,” reads: “The video making the rounds showing the equivalent of the Western Nigeria Security Network (Amotekun Corps) in Katsina, obtaining the approval of the Federal Government to bear arms is fraught with great dangers. Denying Amotekun the urgently needed rights to legitimately bear arms is a repudiation of the basis of true federalism which we have been clamoring for.
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“That Katsina was able to arm its state security force with the display of AK47 means we are pursuing one country, two systems solution to the national question. If the katsina situation conferring advantages on some in the face of commonly faced existential threats, it means that our unitary policing system, which has failed, is a deliberate method of subjugation which must be challenged.
“The Independence agreement was based on a democratic arrangement to have a federal state and devolved internal security mechanics. We must go back to that agreement. Denying Amotekun the right to bear arms exposes the SouthWest to life-threatening marauders and organised crime. It is also a deliberate destruction of our agricultural sector. It is an existential threat.
“We want to reiterate that what is sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander. Ondo State government under the doctrine of necessity has decided to fulfill its legal, constitutional and moral duty to the citizens of the state by acquiring arms to protect them. This is more so, given that the bandits have an unchecked access to sophisticated weapons. The state government cannot look on while its citizens are being terrorised and murdered with impunity. We will defend our people.”
Vigilantes not licensed to use AK-47 rifles –Police
The Katsina State police command has, however, denied that the state’s vigilantes were given approval to obtain and use AK-47 rifles, saying they were only trained to defend themselves against bandits who used the rifle to commit crimes.
Reacting to Ondo State Governor Akeredolu’s Thursday statement lamenting why Amotekun was prevented from arming themselves by the Federal Government which gave approval for Katsina State vigilantes, the spokesperson of the command, Gambo Isah, explained that vigilantes in the state were not licensed to use AK-47 rifles.
According to him, the vigilantes in the state were only trained for self-defence. Isah said: “The vigilantes were trained on other arms and combat maneuvers. It is not that they were given a license or that the Federal Government has approved that they should use AK47 rifles. They were just trained on how to defend themselves.
“And to be categorical, there is no member of the vigilante [groups] in Katsina that is using that kind of weapon. It wasn’t issued to them by the Federal Government or state government. They were just trained, but what I know is what I am telling you.”
He said the vigilantes were trained on how to defend themselves because bandits and terrorists were using AK47 rifles.
When asked to comment on the next line of action after the training and why the vigilantes should be trained on the use of AK47 rifles, the police image maker gave no comment but insisted that they were trained for one week to stand up to terrorists who use AK-47 rifles in their nefarious activities.