FOR the umpteenth time, the presidency stirred the hornet’s nest recently. Against the run of logic and the law, it declared that regional security outfits such as Amotekun would be subsumed under the existing policy architecture. Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity, Garba Shehu, featuring on a television programme, said: “Whatever name they go by, Amotekun or whatever, they will be streamlined and they will be run in accordance with the structure as defined by the Inspector General of Police. They will be localised; they will be owned by local communities. They will be managed by them.” In essence, Amotekun, a product of legislation under the 1999 Constitution (as amended), should be ready for co-optation into the embryonic community policing scheme of the Federal Government.
The presidency’s statement treads precariously on the cardinal principles of federalism. It calls into question the powers of the federating units and state parliaments under the constitution. What the presidency’s statement implies is that it has no regard for the laws of the land. The logic is patently absurd: Amotekun cannot be autonomous because, in violation of the country’s constitution, it does not want it to be. This is a direct affront on the federating units. It is a crude way of making light of the powers of the parliaments of the affected states. It ignores the fact that the birth of Amotekun came through legal and legislative processes and suggests that the powers of the Inspector General of Police, an appointee of the president, are superior to a law enacted by the parliaments of the country’s federating units, and to the Constitution which grants them powers to provide for the security of life and property in their respective jurisdictions.
As it has been rightly argued, a federal arrangement legitimizes the existence of multiple layers of policing system. In fact, there is no better time to entrench such an intrinsic principle than now when the country is in dire straits due to frightening security challenges. The Amotekun bills having passed through legislation and having been assented to by the governors of the South-West states, the latest statement amounts to a brazen attempt by the Federal Government to ambush and ride roughshod over the affected states. The regional outfit was set up to complement the existing security structures which have over time proved to be incapacitated, weak and ineffectual, grossly compromised and abused by the privileged few that control federal power. If the Federal Government feels dissatisfied with the legitimacy and existence of Amotekun, the honourable step it should take is to head for a court of competent jurisdiction to seek redress. It should not resort to deploying the same Machiavellian tactics that have over the years made a complete mess of the Nigerian federation.
Happily, major stakeholders and right-thinking individuals who value the cardinal function of government, which is the protection of life and property, have vehemently condemned the unguarded outburst and warned the presidency to retrace its steps on the matter. The preponderance of opinions is that the Federal Government’s preoccupation with “community policing” has the real objective of undercutting Amotekun, a pragmatic initiative by the governments of the South-West states to protect the lives and properties of their people and affirm their constitutional rights as members of the Nigerian federation.
The Federal Government should be committed to stemming the frightening scale of insecurity across the country. The glaring failure of the existing security architecture makes it imperative for different layers of security agencies to operate in line with the intrinsic principles of federalism. The regional outfit in question is a product of the law, and this must be respected. Amotekun was not created by the Federal Government. Those who created Amotekun should run it as they see fit, as long as they do not breach the country’s constitution. The Federal Government and its functionaries need to purge themselves of the proclivity to centralise security and other critical functions. Regional security outfits that are designed to collaborate with other security agencies cannot and should not be subsumed under the guise of community policing.
According to the South-West governors, Amotekun has come to stay as an autonomous security outfit designed to curtail crime in the region. This is a welcome declaration. The governors have neither asked for federal assistance to fund the outfit nor dressed the outfit in borrowed robes to compete with federal security agencies. The obduracy and obsession with impunity that marks official disposition and thinking on such sensitive issues at the centre tend to create unnecessary tension in the polity. It is time the Federal Government came to terms with the country’s constitution.
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