By AYOOLA OLAOLUWA and SESAN LAOYE

Crisis seems to be to traiingl the declaration by the Federal Government that the security outfit recently launched by the six Southwest states, Operation Amotekun, is illegal, Hallmark findings can reveal. Operation Amotekun, it would be recalled, was launched in Ibadan, the Oyo State capital on 9th of January by the region’s governors in reaction to serial killings and kidnapping allegedly by Fulani herdsmen last year.

But hardly had the euphoria and fanfare that accompanied the launch of the security died down, when the Federal Government declared the outfit illegal. In a statement by Attorney General of the Federation, Abubakar Malami, the government said the issue of defence and security are under the exclusive list and not with the states.

“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 (as amended) 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 (as amended) authorizing the Police and other federal security services established by law to maintain law and order.

“The law will take its natural course in relation to excesses associated with organisation, administration and participation in Amotekun or continuous association with it as an association. “Finally, it is important to put on record that the Office of the Attorney-General and Minister of Justice was not consulted on the matter. If it had, proper information and guidance would have been offered to ensure that Nigeria’s defence and corporate entity are preserved at all times,” Malami had said.

However, the dust raised by the government’s decision to declare the initiative seen by many, particularly in the southern part of Nigeria as a noble cause, has refused to settle down.

While tempers have continued to flare, BH findings revealed a growing political split among ethnic and political groups in the country.

While many southern individuals and groups have continued to throw their weight behind the outfit, as well as speaking out against the Federal Government’s pronouncement, notable individuals and groups from the North have remained silent, or even kicked against the establishment of the security outfit.

In a show of solidarity, several traditional, professional, ethnic and social cultural groups from the South East, South South, as well as the Middle Belt have openly declared support for their South west counterparts.

In the last few days, the call for the restructuring of Nigeria’s chequered federalism has continued to grow, further deepening the gulf between the North and the South. Views and opinions in the country are currently divided into the North versus South, with stakeholders taking sides based on ethnic and religious stands.

The leader of the Indigenous People of Biafra, IPOB, Nnamdi Kanu, while weighting into the controversy, commended Southwest governors for setting up Amotekun security outfit. He assured that members of IPOB were ready to support Operation Amotekun with one million men.

“The final and definitive stance of the Biafran people is that IPOB will support Operation Amotekun with all our might. Regardless of the history of politics of treachery that may have existed between the East and the West in the past, our leaders have sworn to work with this generation of Yoruba leadership with the likes of Pa Ayo Adebanjo, Yinka Odumakin, Femi Fani-Kayode and Omoyele Sowore at the helm.

“I will support this generation of Yorubas that setup Amotekun. IPOB will work with them. If they want one million men, I will give them to make sure the Fulani Caliphate murderous expansionism is stopped. We will support the Yorubas in all forms and by every means necessary. To hell with the Fulanis! IPOB will back AMOTEKUN Security Outfit. Amotekun is not going anywhere. They are here to stay and IPOB will support them”.

Also, the Southern and Middle Belt Leaders Forum (SMBLF) castigated the Federal Government for calling the security outfit an illegality, while advising South West governors to ignore the government.

In a statement by Yinka Odumakin (South West), Gen. CRU Ihejirike (South East), Senator Bassey Henshaw (South South), and Dr. Isuwa Dogo (Middle Belt), the forum said: “The attention of the Southern and Middle Belt Leaders Forum, SMBLF, has been drawn to the illegal diktat by the Attorney-General of the Federation, Mr. Abubakar Malami, declaring Amotekun, the South West security (not military or Police) outfit illegal.

“We consider his action as an abuse of office to suppress the rights of federating units to secure themselves and in furtherance of the widely-held suspicion that sections of the country are deliberately being rendered vulnerable for herdsmen and other criminals by the Federal Government.

“We ask the Governors of the South-West to ignore Malami and allow him to go to court to challenge their decision as he cannot constitute himself into a court over elected governors. We are not under military rule.

“We insist that what the Governors have done is what individuals and neighborhoods can legally do to secure their lives and property. The right to preserve your life cannot be under any exclusive list other than the list of those who have no value for human lives. The ultra vires action of the AGF has further exposed Nigeria as a country under command and control and governed by a conquest mentality.

“We ask Malami to tell us what makes Amotekun illegal and Hisbah legal. He should further explain to us what makes Civilian JTF legal in the North-East where there is war and in Katsina and Zamfara where there is no war, while Amotekun is his only illegal take. This is a defining moment to decide if we are under segregation and different laws in the country,” SMBLF said.

On the other hand, while Southern groups and leaders are pitched on the side of the South West, many northern groups and leaders have kicked against the initiative. The umbrella body of Fulani herders in the country, Miyetti Allah Kautal Hore, warned that the South West would pay a big price if they insisted on forging ahead with Operation Amotekun.

The National Secretary of the Miyetti Allah Kautal Hore, Saleh Alhassan, while reacting to the birth of the new outfit, warned that it may cost the region the 2023 Presidency. While expressing disappointment in the South-West intelligentsia for supporting the outfit, he insisted that South West governors must withdraw support for the outfit for the region to stand a chance of taking a shot at the presidency come 2023.

“This Amotekun scheme is political and is not the solution to the problem of insecurity. What the South-West governors should have done is to continue to push for state police. Where did they expect to get the funding from at a time some of them are struggling to pay salaries?

“It is best they give up on this idea because it may affect the chances of the South-West to produce the President in 2023.

“The thinking is that if the South-West, a major stakeholder in this government, can be toying with this idea now, they may do worse when they get to power.”

He backed the Attorney-General of the Federation, Abubakar Malami, for describing Amotekun as an illegal outfit. Saleh said AGF should have spoken out a long time ago instead of waiting for things to have reached an advanced stage.

“We are in agreement with the AGF that Amotekun is illegal. In fact, we are unhappy that it took the AGF this long to react,” the Miyetti Allah boss said.

Also, northern youths under the aegis of Northern Youth Council of Nigeria (NYCN), described ‘Operation Amotekun’ as a threat to national security. President of the group, Isa Abubakar, said the outfit was an offshoot of Oodua People’s Congress (OPC). Isa, who called on frontline stakeholders to rise against it, said:

“Amotekun group in South West is OPC military wing in disguise in much the same league with the proscribed IPOB terrorist organisation. The South West governors must desist from backing nefarious groups such as this one.

“Amotekun is a threat to peace and national security, and an attempt to jeopardise Nigeria’s sovereignty. The Amotekun group is not different from Boko Haram and the IPOB movements.”

He called on the Nigeria Police, DSS, and the military not to treat the emergence of the regional organisation with kid gloves.

“The National Security Adviser should promptly take steps that would avert the looming threat to our national security that is about to be created by governors of the South West, OPC, and others,” Isa stated.

Rather than douse tension, Isa’s statement further fueled the already charged atmosphere. Reacting to the statement credited to the northern youths leader, the Oodua Peoples Congress (OPC), described NYCN disposition to Amotekun as inciting and capable of causing unnecessary tension in the country

The Lagos State coordinator of OPC, Alhaji Mutairu Adesina, said: “It is sad that such inciting comments could come from a leader of a group in the north. However, I need to react to this uncomplimentary statement that is capable of causing unnecessary tension in the country. It shows that NYCN is one of the sponsors of the suspected herdsmen that killed our people and destroyed our farms.

“Where was Abubakar when gunmen and suspected herdsmen invaded our farms and communities, kidnapped and killed our people in the Southwest?

“Since OPC’s inception in 1994, it has never been found wanting. None of our members have been caught or arrested for kidnapping, destroying or killing other people. OPC has always been complementing the efforts of the Nigerian Police on safety and security issues. We are not criminals, marauders or killers.”

He pointed out there is Hisbah in Kano and Civilian Joint Task Force (JTF) that complements the efforts of the Police and military in Borno. So, why is NYCN raising issues where there is none?

“This group should be warned, because from what transpired between yesterday and today, there are indications that some elements are feeling uncomfortable with whatever progress we are making in the Southwest, and that is too dangerous for our polity.”

The Ohanaeze Ndigbo Youth Council (OYC) also backed the OPC on its attack on NYCN, noting that comments against the outfit was a confirmation that the current security challenges in some parts of south are creation of enemies of Nigeria.

OYC’s National President, Mazi Okechukwu Isiguzoro, said further by recommending a new regional security outfit, with operation code, Ogbunigwe, for the Southeast and called for the creation of Ministry of Homeland Security across the zone to coordinate the proposed outfit.

“We are fully aware of the fact that most beneficiaries of the insecurity challenges are sponsoring new groups to avert lasting solutions for the security threats in the southern part of Nigeria.

“The essence of the regional security outfits are the limitations facing the state-owned security outfits, who are restricted to boundaries of their various states, We had observed criminals are taking the disadvantages and loopholes of lack of uniformed regional security outfit in the Southeast to perpetuate heinous crimes against Igbos,” he said.

While ethnic and political groups from the North are rallying against the sustenance of Amotekun, a religious group based in the South West, the Muslim Rights Concern (MURIC), joined the fray by introducing religion coloration into the already volatile situation.

MURIC Director, Professor Ishaq Akintola, at the weekend raised an alarm over the recruitment process of Operation Amotekun, alleging that it was a mission to create a Christian militia.

“How does one describe the social media advertisement in which applicants are being requested to bring birth certificates from the church? This is most outrageous. Amotekun has not started, but we are already seeing symptoms of Christianisation and Islamophobia. This does not look good enough. It is hard to believe but tell us sincerely: is this advertisement from the Amotekun handlers? Who ordered registration in churches and why?

Further information revealed that the establishment of Amotekun and the declaration of the outfit as illegal have raised mutual suspicions and distrusts across the country. There are renewed calls for restructuring from the South, particularly over the use of federal powers under the APC government. The most contentious issue is appointments into security positions which are lopsided and in favour of the North.

Meanwhile, there were strong indications that Yoruba leaders have concluded plans to meet to discuss the way forward over the stand of the federal government on the formation of Amontekun.

BH was informed by one of the elders in Yorubaland that there is a plan to convey a meeting of all elders and other pan organisation to make their stance known to the federal government that it should not start what he could not end or control because Amontekun has come to stay.

The elder said that what those who are against Amotekun do not realize is the fact that it has come as a symbol of unity in the entire Yoruba land after a long time.

He said if the Federal government tried to outlaw Amontekun it would amount to tampering with the unity of the Yoruba people which  they have been yearning for and the people would feel highly insulted and they would not allow that and they may come strongly to protect their integrity.