Amotekun: Northerners are never happy when we want to organise ourselves on regional basis – Itse Sagay


Amotekun: Professor Itse Sagay, the chairman of the Presidential Advisory Committee Against Corruption (PACAC) has said that it is very sad that people of Northern extraction are never happy when Southerners want to organise themselves on regional basis.

Sagay who is a staunch Pro-Buhari government official, said this while reacting to the comment made by the Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, who on Tuesday January 14th, declared Amotekun, the newly created security outfit by SouthWest governors, as an illegal entity.

Sagay in an interview with Daily Independent, said Malami was only speak out of prejudice. He wondered why Amotekun can be described as illegal when it is the same laws that created it that was used in to create the Northern security outfits, Hisbah police and the Civilian Joint Taskforce. He stressed that Malami was only expressing his personal prejudice and not the law when he declared Amotekun illegal.

Read excepts from his interview below

The Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami (SAN) has described Operation Amotekun, a security arrangement put together by South-West governors as illegal. He said the governors should have consulted him so that he can give them legal advice on whether they can go ahead or not. As a legal expert, what is your perspective on this? 

I believe that the governors have no duty to consult him. He is Attorney- General of the Federation, not Attorney-General of South-West states. The state governors have their own Attorney-Generals who are equally as qualified as Malami is. So, if this is part of the conspiracy that anything that smacks of regional arrangements or organisation offends some people who believe there has to be direct federal rule in every nook and cranny of the country, that is own misery. But it has nothing to do with the law. As far as i am concerned, Malami is just expressing his personal prejudice, it has nothing to with the law. The Amotekun people are not paramilitary organisation. They are to apprehend those committing crimes and report to the police or they themselves can exercise their rights of citizen’s arrest which we all can do as individuals. I can arrest somebody who I suspect has committed a crime.

So, the AGF is just speaking out of pure prejudice and it is very sad that people of Northern extraction are never happy when we want to organise ourselves on regional basis. I don’t understand that. if you don’t want to organise yourselves, how can you stop others from doing it? It is pure prejudice and it has nothing to do with the law. The governors have no duty whatsoever to consult him and he shouldn’t aggrandise himself and arrogate to himself powers that he doesn’t have. I think the governors should just ignore him and carry on with what they are doing. If he feels aggrieved that people in some parts off the country are trying to secure themselves against crime, he can go to court to challenge it. That arrogant authority that he can dictate to states is very insulting.

Since the pronouncement by the Minister, there has been this debate about why Sharia Police in some Northern states popularly called Hisbah should be legal while Amotekun was declared illegal. Is there any difference between the two? 

In a sense, they have the same legal status; in the sense that each one is a creation of the state and not of the federal government. It is a very good point to raise and others have also raised the issue of the Civilian JTF in the North East. Those people are organised to identify Boko Haram terrorists and alert the military. When necessary, they defend themselves against the terrorists. Nobody is complaining because it is for a good purpose. Let me make a general statement here. In law, if something is not expressly prohibited, then that thing can be done legitimately. There is no law, either in the Police or any other act, is there a prohibition of one state or many states coming together to organise the promotion of the security of the peoples of the state. The primary duty of the state is the protection of the security of the people. It is in the section 14 (2) of the constitution. That is their primary duty and this falls not only on the federal government but on all states. If you look at the constitution, the powers are equal in that sense. The federal covers the whole country and the states cover their territorial areas. They can make laws for good governance which is also provided for in the constitution. What I am saying is that the concept of Amotekun is not banned and if it is not prohibited, it can be legitimately embarked upon.

On the non-legal side, if you think about our security, the insecurity challenge which is confronting Nigeria now is so high everywhere. People are afraid of traveling by road or going out at nights and so on. I think we should welcome any effort by a group or individual state to help to secure lives and property and improve the security situation in the country. .

It is the duty of the federal government to collaborate with them to improve the security of everybody in the country. The state government also has a duty to protect the lives and security of everybody so, several state governments can decide to exercise that duty together collectively and the federal government should assist them. So, there is nothing illegal at all about Amotekun. If they now want to carry arms such as AK-47 and other powerful arms aside dane guns, at that stage, they will need federal permission. But if they are not doing that, and they are not an armed body in the modern sense, they do not need any other authority to operate

An aide of the Minister yesterday said they wonder if you have any personal scores to settle with him given your opposition to some of his actions in the last few days. Do you have anything personal against Malami? 

I want to advise the gentleman not to personalise issues of public interests. The position of Attorney-General is a very important one and its authority affects all of us. So, when he as a lawyer makes a statement or takes any decision that one considers wrong, there is nothing wrong in expressing a contrary view. That is what a debate is all about in a democratic society. It is not personal. Personally, I like Malami as a person. It is just unfortunate that he issued statements one after the other within a short period and the media wanted me to express my views on the issues and I don’t agree with the steps Malami took on the two occasions. I have nothing against him; in fact, I’m favorably disposed towards him because in a sense, we are all working together in the same theatre. So, it’s not correct for anyone to say I am having any personal scores to settle with him and it is wrong for anyone to interpret my objective views on statements issued by Malami in that light. It is not right. I can call Malami now and chat with him on issues of interests to the country. I have nothing personal against him.