The Southern and Middle Belt Leaders Forum has condemned the decision of the Federal Government to declare Operation Amotekun illegal.
Amotekun, a security outfit was recently set up by South-West governments to address insecurity in the region.
The group in a statement asked the governors to ignore the position of the Federal Government, delivered by the Attorney General and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, adding that they should allow the FG to go to court to challenge their decision.
Mr. Malami had announced on Tuesday that the paramilitary organization called “Amotekun” is illegal and runs contrary to the provisions of the Nigerian law.
A position the forum believes is an abuse of office to suppress the rights of federating units to secure themselves.
“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 a court over elected governors; we are not under military rule.”
The group explained that contrary to views, the South-West governors are working to ensure that the lives and property of the region are safe and secure; thereby challenging the AGF to explain why Operation Amotekun is illegal.
“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 vire 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 Zamfara and Katsina and Kano where there is no war, while Amotekun is his only illegal take,” they insisted.
The security body was recently launched by the governors of the South-West states to tackle kidnapping and other criminal activities in the zone.
But the Federal Government maintained that “the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 (as amended) has established the Army, Navy and Airforce, including the Police and other numerous paramilitary organisations for the purpose of the defence of Nigeria”.
According to the government, consequently, no other authority at the state level, whether the executive or legislature has the legal authority over defence.
Read the full statement below.
Press Release on the Paramilitary Organisation named “Amotekun”
Federal Republic of Nigeria is a sovereign entity and is governed by laws meant to sustain its corporate existence as a constitutional democracy. It is a Federation of states, but with the Federal Government superintending over matters of national interests.
The division of executive and legislative authority between the Federal and State Governments has been clearly defined by the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 (as amended).
It is against the same background that matters relating to the peace, order and good government of the Federation and in particular, the defence of the country, are enshrined in the Exclusive Legislative List. The Second Schedule in Item 17 deals with defence. This is a matter that is within the exclusive operational competence of the Federal of Government of Nigeria. No other authority at the state level, whether the executive or legislature has the legal authority over defence.
The setting up of the paramilitary organization 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 Airforce, 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 organization 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 government security services established by law to maintain law and order.
The law will take its natural course in relation to excesses associated with organization, 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.
Dr. Umar Jibrilu Gwandu SA Media and Public Relations (Office of the Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice)
The Attorney-General of the Federation (AGF) and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, has explained that the release of a former National Security Adviser, Sambo Dasuki, and Sahara Reporters publisher, Omoyele Sowore, from detention was due to the Federal Government having compassion for the duo.
Dasuki spent more than four years in the custody of the Department of State Services (DSS) while Sowore, the convener of #RevolutionNow protests, was held for almost five months.
According to a statement by the AGF spokesman Dr. Umar Gwandu on Friday, who quoted Mr Malami in an interview with the BBC Hausa and the Hausa Service of the Voice of America, the reason for the release of Dasuki and Sowore owes also to the commitment to the rule of law, obedience to court orders.
He stated that both men had multiple options after the court ruling, either to appeal or review the order.
“The only reasons for the release of Omoyele Sowore and Sambo Dasuki revolved around our commitment to the rule of law, obedience to court orders and compassionate grounds.
“It is important to understand the fact that as far as the law is concerned and in relation to the Nigerian justice system, one has multiple options after a court has ruled on a matter.
the right to appeal the said ruling, the right to ask the same court that issued an order to vary or review the terms of the order as well as the right to request for Stay of Execution of the order pending the hearing and determination of an appeal in that matter.”
Mr Malami denied the claim that his office received any formal communication from any American Senator on the matter, stating that it was not due to any domestic or international pressure on the Federal Government.
He maintained that FG has the right to keep detaining the suspects while challenging the order admitting them to bail up to the apex court.
“Even if we received any communication from them that will never be the basis on the part of the Federal Government to obey or disobey court orders emanating from Nigeria.
“The critical question that you may ask should be whether there is a strong suspicion of committing an offence or not. If there is a strong suspicion of committing an offence which deserved, as a matter of necessity, to be investigated through legal steps then there was no room for thinking of witch-hunting an individual, scoring acrimonies or personal vendetta against anyone.
The AGF stressed that Dasuki and Sowore can now enjoy bail based on the merit of their individual cases.
“The time has now come for Sambo Dasuki and Omoyele Sowore to also enjoy bail based on the merit of their individual cases. They were charged based on their individual cases, taken to court, granted bail and now have been released. All the individuals involved were treated fairly and justly; they were taken to court, enjoyed the court’s favourable discretion and they were all released,” he said.
Attorney-General of the Federation (AGF) and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, has said that the Federal Government did not order the release of Sheikh Ibrahim El-Zakzaky, leaders of the proscribed Islamic Movement in Nigeria (IMN) popularly known as Shiites because his case is being handled by the Kaduna state government.
Mr Malami, who was quoted in a statement by his spokesman Dr. Umar Gwandu on Friday, stated that the Federal Government does not interfere with the cases that are being prosecuted by a State Governments.
El-Zakzaky and his wife Zeenat, who were arrested in December 2015, are facing trial over allegations of culpable homicide, unlawful assembly, and disruption of the public peace, among other charges in a Kaduna State High Court.
They were first arraigned on May 15, 2018, two years after their arrest in Zaria.
Some Shiites members have protested the continued detention of El-Zakzaky, storming the United Nations Headquarters, the National Assembly and the streets of Abuja, with several confrontations with the police and Army.
A Kaduna state high court in December ordered that El-Zakzaky and his wife be transferred from the custody of the DSS to a correctional centre in the state.
The Presidency has insisted that the Federal Government’s decision to hold Colonel Sambo Dasuki (rtd) and Mr Omoyele Sowore did not go against the laws of the land.
Dasuki, a former National Security Adviser (NSA), spent more than four years in the custody of the Department of State Services (DSS) while Sowore, the convener of #RevolutionNow protests, was held for almost five months.
Defending the position of the government on the prolonged detention of the duo, a presidential spokesman, Mr Garba Shehu, stressed that the government has always obeyed the orders of the court.
He, however, clarified that Dasuki and Sowore remained in detention on the advice of the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of the Federation (AGF), Mr Abubakar Malami.
“The Attorney General of the Federation who is the chief law officer, as far as the government is concerned, has convinced everyone and the government inclusive that there is a basis for their continued detention because the individual right must not undermine the collective right,” the President’s media aide told Channels Television on Wednesday in an interview on Politics Today.
He added, “The Attorney General of the Federation has explained the position of the government. If you like call it a new leaf, if you like accept the fact that the government has a renewed determination to show the example of how the court should be treated even when you are feeling aggrieved.
“In this particular case, the government has its own right as to how and why the bail was given, and an intention to appeal.”
“However, the government is saying, ‘let us do this to show respect for the court of the land so that all of this thing about the lack of respect for due process will just give us a chance and leave the table for now,” Shehu stressed.
Dasuki was arrested in December 2015 over allegations of diverting $2.1billion arms funds while Sowore was charged along with his co-defendant, Olawale Bakare, with counts of treasonable felony and money laundering among others.
The defendants have since pleaded not guilty and were granted bail by various courts.
A Sudden U-Turn
Following widespread outrage over the continued detention of the former NSA and the #RevolutionNow protests convener, the AGF ordered the DSS to release the duo on Christmas eve.
But President Muhammadu Buhari’s spokesman argued that the sudden U-turn by the government has nothing to do with pressure from any individual or group.
According to him, the AGF made it clear over time that there is a major principle of the law which says that the rights of a majority and that of a community under threat override the rights of an individual.
Shehu added that the minister took the case to a conference of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), adding that it was underscored by a major decision of the Supreme Court.
He stressed that it was a major principle to sacrifice the freedom of an individual for that of a larger community when the need arises, pointing out the case of Dasuki and Sowore.
The presidential aide, however, said there was a need for those granted bail not to misinterpret their release as an acquittal but abide with the terms upon with the bail was granted.
“The government is not compromising anything but the government wants to set an example of the obedience of the law even when it disagrees with what the court says it should do,” the President’s aide clarified, adding, “The government has a position on the non-release founded in the laws of the country.”
“The Attorney General of the Federation is convinced that their continued detention did not breach the laws of the country; that it is consistent with the laws and the adjudication of the Supreme Court of Nigeria.
“Our understanding is that he (AGF) believes that the decision to keep them there was strongly founded in the law and so, therefore, it is not something that is extra-judicial,” he said.
The Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, SAN has said that he is yet to receive any letter from the lawmakers of the United States of America (USA) over the detention of Omoyele Sowore, who was rearrested by the Department of State Services (DSS).
Mr. Sowore and his co-defendant, Olawale Bakare, are standing trial on a 16-count bordering on treasonable felony and money laundering amongst other charges.
According to a statement by the Special Assistant on Media and Public Relations, Office of the Attorney-General and Minister of Justice, Dr. Umar Jibrilu Gwandu, “foreign policy conventions do not support direct correspondence between the office of the Attorney-General of the Federation and serving legislators of a foreign country.”
He stated that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs could be an appropriate Ministry for such correspondence and therefore reiterated the fact that Honourable Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami did not receive such a letter.
“Attorney-General of the Federation finds media reports on the purported claim of such correspondence to his office, peddled by some unscrupulous elements in the society, as not only inappropriate but inaccurate”, the statement said.
“It is essential to put in the record that the so-called letter has not been received at the office of the Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, SAN as the close of the work of Friday 20th December 2019.”
Malami stressed that the government was more than resolved to nip corruption in the bud and return all of Nigeria’s commonwealth.
According to him, the Federal Government has won no fewer than 1,636 cases through the agencies championing its anti-corruption drive in the last four years.
The Minister affirmed that the government was committed to seeing the cases of corruption to a logical conclusion.
He stated, “Our fight against corruption is total, comprehensive and dispassionate, devoid of any political or any sentiment or inclination.
“One of the multiple institutions involved in the fight against corruption, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), was able to from 2015 to September 2019 convict 1,636 persons involved in corruption-related offences.”
“It might interest you to note that former state governors and even serving senators are not spared.
“Currently, high-profile personalities including judicial officers and former governors indicated for corruption have been prosecuted and sentenced to jail,” Malami added.
The Attorney General of the Federation (AGF) and Minister of Justice, Mr Abubakar Malami, says he cannot make a comment to confirm or otherwise, the arrival of the former AGF, Mr Mohammed Adoke, into the country.
Malami stated this during a session with reporters on Thursday in Abuja on behalf of the Federal Government in reaction to a statement by the lawyer to Mr Adoke, Mike Ozekhome.
Adoke is facing charges bordering on alleged abuse of office and money laundering with respect to the granting of the Oil Prospecting License (OPL) 245 to Shell and ENI.
The Federal High Court sitting in Abuja has summoned the Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, to appear before it over the continued detention of Omoyele Sowore, the convener of #Revolution Now movement.
Justice Inyang Ekwo who issued the summon on Tuesday also ordered the Director-General of the Department of State Services (DSS), Yusuf Bichi, to appear alongside the AGF.
He ordered the minister and the DSS boss to appear before the court to show cause why Sowore should not be released on bail, pending when they would file a charge against him if there was any.
Human rights lawyer, Femi Falana (SAN), has insisted that the Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Mr Abubakar Malami SAN, cannot wash his hands off with respect to the illegal detention of Omoyele Sowore by the Department of State Security Service (DSS) contrary to an earlier position.
Mr. Malami In a statement on Monday said that the Federal Government is guided by extant laws and tradition of the law in handling legal matters and related litigations.
In response, Mr Falana who is the legal representative of Mr Sowore, convener of the #RevolutionNow movement, stressed that since Mr Malami took over the criminal case from the DSS, he is deemed to possess “the constitutional powers in full and the responsibility for any decision thereupon rests solely on him.”
Mr Falana who had written to the AGF, to direct the DSS to release Sowore on bail, in compliance with the order of the trial judge, the Honourable Justice Ifeoma Ojukwu, stated that Mr Malami needs to take cognizance of the legal implications of taking over a pending criminal case in exercise of the powers of an Attorney-General under the common law and the Constitution.
“Since Mr. Malami has taken over the case of FRN v Sowore v Another he is deemed to possess “the constitutional powers in full and the responsibility for any decision thereupon rests solely on him. Therefore, he cannot like Pontius Pilate wash off his hands with respect to the illegal detention of Sowore by the State Security Service.
“Furthermore, since section 287 of the Constitution has imposed a legal obligation on all authorities and persons in Nigeria to comply with the decisions of all competent courts the Attorney-General of the Federation, Mr Malami is duty-bound to direct the State Security Service to release Sowore on bail in compliance with the valid and subsisting order of the federal high court.”
While quoting the AGF in his response, Mr. Falana reiterated and called for the release of Mr Sowore.
“In the said statement the Attorney-General stated that ‘When parties submit their issues for determination to a court of law, they lack exclusivity of decision over such issues without recourse to the court. We remain guided by the established tradition and will not take a unilateral decision without recourse to the rule of law’.
“We fully agree with the Attorney-General because he has stated the law correctly. On the basis of the legal principle, we are compelled to call on the Attorney-General to reverse the “unilateral decision” of the State Security Service to continue to incarcerate Sowore ‘without recourse to law’.
“Having taken over the prosecution of the case pursuant to section 174 of the Constitution the Attorney-General should not hesitate to direct the State Security Service to release Sowore without any further delay.”
Lead Counsel and human rights lawyer, Femi Falana (SAN) has asked the Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Mr. Abubakar Malami (SAN), to terminate all legal proceedings against the convener of the #RevolutionNow movement, Mr Omoyele Sowore, and his co-defendant, Olawale Bakare immediately.
Mr Falana in a statement reacted to the orders by Mr Malami to the DSS, insisting that it is not a take-over because the case was filed from the office of the AGF.
He explained that the AGF has decided to sack the prosecution team led by Dr. Hassan Liman (SAN) and hand over to the DPP.
“It is not a take-over because it was the AGF that filed the Sowore’s case and farmed it out to Dr. Hassan Liman SAN. But in view of the violent invasion of the court by armed operatives of the SSS, the AGF has decided to sack the prosecution team and have the case prosecuted by the DPP.”
Mr Falana stated that the Department of State Services has remained adamant to make a case out of Sowore and are currently fishing for pieces of evidence to nail Sowore.
“Having been advised that Sowore cannot be convicted on the basis of the proof of evidence filed in court the SSS has refused to make the statements of the prosecution witnesses available to the defendants as ordered by the trial court. Hence, hearing in the case has been adjourned to February 20, 2020, at the instance of the Prosecution.
“Convinced that the pending case would collapse like a pack of cards, the SSS is currently fishing for evidence to nail Sowore.
He added that “In spite of the directive of the AGF to take over the case the SSS subjected Sowore to a 4-hour interrogation yesterday (December 12, 2019).
“The entire interrogation pertained to Sowore’s alleged links with the proscribed Boko Haram sect, IPOB, and IMN which he vehemently denied. At Sowore’s instance a member of the legal defense team, Mr. Abubakar Marshal witnessed the marathon interrogation. The plan of the SSS is to charge Sowore with terrorism in line with the unsubstituted allegations of presidential media aides.
“In view of the foregoing, we urge the AGF to file a nolle prosequi motion without any further delay to end the macabre dance which has exposed the country to avoidable embarrassment.”
The Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami has ordered the Department of State Services (DSS) off the trial of Omoyele Sowore.
According to a statement by the Special Assistant to the AGF on Media and Public Relations, Mr Umar Gwandu, the order is part of deliberate efforts to probe emerging issues related to the recent imbroglio in Sowore’s case and for speedy dispensation of justice.
The Attorney General’s move follows the outrage sparked by the manner in which the DSS has handled the matter, particularly Sowore’s rearrest.
Before the DSS stormed the court in a bid to rearrest Sowore, hours after releasing him, the agency had come under criticism for its delay in releasing him on bail despite a court order.
Mr Gwandu said the request for the transfer of the case to the office of the Attorney-General and Minister of Justice was contained in a letter dated 11th December, 2019 and addressed to the Director General of the Department of State Services, National Headquarters Abuja.
The letter, which was signed by the Solicitor-General of the Federation Dayo Akpata reads: “The Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice upon a further review of the case has directed the immediate takeover of the prosecution of all charges in respect of Omoyole Sowore by the Federal Ministry of Justice in line with the provisions of Sections 150(1) and 174 (1) (a-c) of the 1999 Constitution (as amended).”
The letter requested the Director of the DSS to “promptly forward all the case files” in respect of Omoyele Sowore to the office of the Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice.