The New Year has kicked off in Nigeria with cocktails of controversies that have assumed the front burners of national discourse.


The prominent of all these national conversations is the debate over the legality or otherwise of the establishment of a security initiative by the governors and people of the south west of Nigeria to complement the security institutions in the enforcement of law and order.

The initiative is called Amotekun Security Initiative. Amotekun is a Yoruba concept which depicts a Leopard. The symbolic use of the Leopard to model the security outfits of the south west explains the gigantic momentum that the citizens expect in the organized battles against insecurity.

Before speaking about the security initiative in the south west, we need to anchor this conversations grounded in the philosophy and essence of governance.

Most scholars and observers are of the unanimous position that the central and indeed primary role of government is to provide security of lives and property of all citizens.


Indeed, the Nigerian grund norm in section 14(2)(b) provides that: “The security and welfare of the people shall be the primary purpose of government.”

A group of researchers under the cover of security sector integrity agreed with the universal value system which goes to show that the aim of government is the protection of lives and property of the citizens.

They argued persuasively that the elected government of any nation has the responsibility to ensure the management of the security sector is in line with democratic best practices and the provision of security as a public good.

They argued that governments also bear the political responsibility for the activities of the security sector. As a result, governments need detailed and extensive plans and management structures to ensure security policies and practices are transparent and accountable.


Security institutions that are responsive to public needs tend to be transparent; those which are indifferent to public needs tend to be opaque.

Governments they said must also ensure that the legal framework for the activities of each security sector institution is exhaustive.


The legal framework for ministries, directorates and security institutions needs to be developed in line with international good practice and ensure consistency with the rule of law, they affirmed.

Legislation needs to clearly define the roles and responsibilities of each security institution, specify the authorization procedures for administrative and operational activities, identify the applicability of internal rules and procedures, ensure instruments exist for other stakeholders to engage and monitor security institutions, identify the constitutional basis for each components’ activities, and ensure security institutions’ employees are accountable for their actions before the law. Additionally, legal frameworks need to incorporate and facilitate access to information for the general public and democratic institutions; (

The reputable English philosopher John Locke was the first to articulate the liberal principles of government: namely that the purpose of government was to preserve its citizens’ rights to freedom, life and property, to pursue the public good; and to punish people who violated the rights of others.

In his calculation, law-making was therefore the supreme function of government.

For Locke, one of the main reasons people would be willing to enter into a social contract and submit to being ruled by a government, is that they expect the government to regulate disagreements and conflicts in a neutral manner.

Following this logic, Locke was also able to describe the characteristics of an illegitimate government. It followed that a government that did not respect and protect people’s natural rights – or unnecessarily constrained their liberty – was not legitimate.

Also, John Locke was therefore opposed to absolutist rule. Unlike his contemporary Thomas Hobbes, who believed that an absolute sovereign was required to save people from a brutal “state of nature”, Locke maintained that the powers and functions of government had to be limited”, (The Politics Book).

From the points were further explained that the oldest and simplest justification for government is as protector: protecting citizens from violence.

Thomas Hobbes’ Leviathan describes a world of unrelenting insecurity without a government to provide the safety of law and order, protecting citizens from each other and from foreign foes.

The horrors of little or no government to provide that function are on global display in the world’s many fragile states and essentially ungoverned regions. Ironically, Nigeria is now rated as one of the World’s most dangerous places to live. For instance, the activities of terrorists around the World which was compiled by global security experts show that Nigeria is amongst the most notorious hotspots and hotbeds of armed Islamic terrorism and violence.

The researchers known as articulated that indeed, when the chaos of war and disorder mounts too high, citizens will choose even despotic and fanatic governments, such as the Taliban and ISIS, over the depredations of warring bands. I think they are not support a regime by organized terror networks but what they are saying is that the people will accept whatever model of governance that safeguards their right to life.

The idea of government as protector requires taxes to fund, train and equip an army and a police force; to build courts and jails; and to elect or appoint the officials to pass and implement the laws citizens must not break, they argued.

Regarding foreign threats, government as protector requires the ability to meet and treat with other governments as well as to fight them. This minimalist view of government is clearly on display in the early days of the American Republic, comprised of the President, Congress, Supreme Court and departments of Treasury, War, State and Justice.

The concept of government as provider comes next: government as provider of goods and services that individuals cannot provide individually for themselves. Government in this conception is the solution to collective action problems, the medium through which citizens create public goods that benefit everyone, but that are also subject to free-rider problems without some collective compulsion, conclusively affirmed.

Unfortunately, there has been a progressive decline in the efficacy, efficiency and effectiveness of the government of Nigeria since 2015 to provide security to the lives and property of millions of Nigerians.

In the south west, the challenges thrown up by insecurity could be seen by the widespread cases of armed kidnappings and other violent crimes even as the armed security services proved incapable of overcoming these grave threats to the security of the south west.

Southwest Nigeria is one of the six geopolitical zones in Nigeria comprising six states – Ekiti, Ogun, Oyo, Osun, Ondo, and Lagos. A 2013 National Crime Victimization and Safety Survey conducted by CLEEN Foundation with support from the United States based Macarthur Foundation shows that the South West had the highest incidents of kidnapping with 5 per cent of the respondent from the region saying they have either been kidnapped or attempts have been made to kidnap them.

Therefore it is logically correct to state without equivocation that the kidnapping situation in the southwest as observed by an observer recently bottomed out thereafter but it appears to be relapsing.

Hear the researcher: “From Ekiti to Osun, Lagos to Ondo, Abeokuta to Ekiti, Ibadan to Osun state, kidnap for ransom and extortion is currently ravaging parts of southwest Nigeria especially along inter-town or inter-state roads”.

The media is awash with stories that the Yoruba socio-cultural groups such as the Yoruba Council of Elders, YCE; the pan-Yoruba socio-political organization, Afenifere; and prominent citizens – the Aare Onakakanfo of Yorubaland, Gani Adams and elder statesman, Pa Ayo Adebanjo have severally, collectively and individually decried the wanton, pervasive kidnappings and killings in southwest Nigeria.

The Yoruba Koya Movement declared June 12, 2019, as a national day of protest against the ongoing killings and kidnapping across Yoruba-speaking states. Sadly, even with the massive media focus on the high crime rates in the South West of Nigeria the Central government has failed to provide the needed succor.

In a compilation of the hotbeds of kidnappings in the South West of Nigeria cited in a piece I was recently privileged to read, the following inter-state roads have been identified as kidnapping flashpoints in southwest Nigeria: the Iwo-Osogbo Road, the Akure-Ilesa Road via Ondo State, Ijebu-Jesa/Esa Oke/Erio/Aramoko Road from Ekiti State and a number of other deserted roads within Osun State including Osogbo-Ibokun-Ada Road.

The writer who seem to have profound security background also stated that cases of kidnappings have been reported recently in Ikirun, Inisa and Okuku communities along the highway leading to Kwara State.

Interestingly, the observer stated that many if not all the aforesaid states ravaged by kidnapping in the southwest, nay, Nigeria have stringent anti-kidnapping laws, death sentence for kidnapping, yet kidnapping persists.

The upsurge in organized crimes in the south west like in most parts of Nigeria coupled with the inability of the armed security forces to combat these vicious attacks and grave threats to the lives and property of the people of the south west of Nigeria, the people thereby put their political elites and elected representatives under intense pressures to fashion out a solution to the menace.

The outcome of these people-led agitations for some forms of functional mechanisms to ensure foolproof security and safety of their lives resulted in the formation of the security initiative the south west states have called Amotekun.

As reported, on Thursday, January 9, 2020, Governors of Nigeria’s six southwest states of Ogun, Osun, Oyo, Ekiti, Ondo and Lagos, launched the western Nigeria security network called ‘Operation Amotekun’ in Ibadan, the Oyo State capital.

Governors Seyi Makinde of Oyo, Kayode Fayemi of Ekiti and Rotimi Akeredolu of Ondo were present at the flag-off.

Governors Gboyega Oyetola of Osun, Babajide Sanwo-Olu of Lagos and Dapo Abiodun of Ogun cited poor weather conditions as reason for their absence.

“Even though they are not physically here, I’m sure their spirits are here with us,” Makinde said of the absentee governors.

Here are the essential elements of the sub-regional Operation Amotekun: Amotekun is the Yoruba word for Leopard. As can be deciphered, the symbolism and the pragmatic logo of this operation Amotekun embodies the image of what is best described as a prancing, angry leopard in full flight; with ‘Zero tolerance to crime’ as the pay-off line; Secondly Amotekun inevitably seeks to complement the police and other state security outfits in the southwest and not replace them. This was done to ensure compliance with the rule of law.

For instance the Ekiti Governor Fayemi, provided the following explanations: “Amotekun is a complement that will give our people confidence that they are being looked after by those they elected into office.

“So, we do not want this to create fear in the mind of anybody as we are not creating a regional police force and are fully aware of the steps we must take to have state police.

“We do not want anybody to misconstrue the concept of Amotekun.” Thirdly, the southwest governors cite rising insecurity in the region, kidnappings and robbery as major reasons for the birth of Amotekun. Again, as best captured by Ekiti State governor Fayemi, “It was in the context of the unfortunate development that we lost the daughter of Pa Reuben Fasanranti, the leader of Afenifere. And that further put pressure on us, as leaders in the southwest, to do something about insecurity. As elected leaders, our primary responsibility, according to Section 14 (2) of the Nigerian Constitution 1999 as amended, is the security and welfare of citizens. That was what informed the governors coming together to fashion out a way to complement the work of the mainstream security agencies overstretched in their efforts to arrest the menace that have afflicted the entire country. Also Amotekun before regional politics was introduced in Abuja had reportedly received the blessings of the federal government and the Inspector General of Police Mohammed Adamu, as disclosed by the South West governors.

The Ooni of Ife, Oba Adeyeye Ogunwusi, says “all the traditional rulers are in support, the federal government is not opposed to it. Let all and sundry support it for peace to reign in the region.”

The governors also say this is not an attempt to achieve ‘state police’ through the backdoor.

“We are not creating a regional police force and are fully aware of the steps we must take to have state police,” Fayemi says. Fundamentally, Amotekun personnel will be locally sourced–more like your neighborhood police.

Speaking with the media, the newly elected cultural and political leader of the Yoruba World Congress, Prof. Banji Akintoye, adds that Amotekun operatives are going to be well trained by professionals and security experts.

“The people that will work in Amotekun are going to be trained properly by highly educated people for them to relate properly with the police and the army,” Akintoye says. Interestingly, each of the the six southwest states has procured 20 trucks and 100 units of motorcycles for operation Amotekun. Contrary to some toxic insinuations, Amotekun won’t be modelled after the Odua People’s Congress (OPC) security outfit.

A governor with considerable knowledge of the workings of the new security initiative stated that Amotekun personnel will wear sport uniforms and won’t rely heavily on charms and machetes on the job.

“They will be professional and courteous on the job and penetrate areas your regular police officers can’t penetrate because we trust that they know the terrain better,” one aide of a southwest governor says to a media source.

The recent show of double standard by the Muhammadu Buhari-led administration through his justice minister Abubakar Malami to antagonize Amotekun south west security initiative is therefore uncalled for, an unwarranted aggression and an attempt to sabotage the security of the people of the south west of Nigeria.

The prominent civil Rights Advocacy group – HUMAN RIGHTS WRITERS ASSOCIATION OF NIGERIA (HURIWA) had asked the Federal Attorney General and minister of Justice Alhaji Abubakar Malami (SAN), heads of security forces and especially the inspector General of Police Alhaji Mohammed Adamu to be careful so they don’t convey the express impression that the security of the lives and property of people outside Northern Nigeria is not sacrosanct and constitutionally guaranteed.

HURIWA reminds the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice Abubakar Malami and the Inspector General of Police Mohammed Adamu that Nigeria is a political entity based on the Principle of democracy and Social Justice and therefore the security and wellbeing of all persons in Nigeria should be of primary priority since the security and welfare of the people SHALL be the primary purpose of government as enshrined in section 14(2) (b) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria of 1999 (as amended).

The Rights group affirms that the subtle and sometimes open threats to antagonize; open/hidden disapproval and boycotting of the security initiative inaugurated by the governors and people of south west of Nigeria (Amotekun) as displayed by heads of security establishments at the centre which synchronized with the opposition expressed by a section of Northern Youth council, and the threats by the Inspector General of Police to CLAMPDOWN on the operatives of the newly established security platform of the South West of Nigeria is creating the impression that there are indeed a set of Nigerians whose security is not of topmost priority to the holders of central governmental authorities. HURIWA said such hostile attitudes to the setting up of the South West security initiative is unlawful, unconstitutional and an aberration.

The Rights group has also reminded the heads of security forces that they are not in public offices to carry out only such instructions that exclusively favours a section of the country based on religious/Ethnic or pedestrian considerations just as the human rights platform has reminded president Muhammadu Buhari that the reason section 14(3) of the Nigerian constitution spells out adherence to Federal character principle in all strategic appointments by the Central government is to guard against this sort of ‘Northern agenda’ being exhibited in the opposition by heads of security forces and police against the south west security initiative which the generality of the people of south west including other non-Yoruba speaking citizens living in the south west have welcomed with open hands.

“Those who are today heading security institutions of Nigeria at the behest of president Muhammadu Buhari must be sensitive and careful not to pass on the message that only the security of the lives of citizens living in the North of Nigeria is of priority to the current federal administration and for the fact that in such places as north east of Nigeria that armed security forces have worked in partnership with the civilian joint task force (C-JTF) who are armed should have made it clear to those who are now opposing Amotekun that their blind opposition to this good security initiative of the south west people is an affront to public good because AMOTEKUN is for the public good of Nigeria. Why has the Inspector General of police Mohammed Adamu not made any move to dismantle such unconstitutional contraption as the Hisbah police which directly offends section 214(1) of the Nigerian Constitution which says that: “There shall be a police force for Nigeria, which shall be known as the Nigeria Police Force, and subject to the provisions of this section no other police force shall be established for the Federation or any part thereof.” or section 227 of the Nigerian Constitution which spells out unambiguously an opposition against Hisbah police thus: “No association shall retain, organize, train or equip any person or group of persons for the purpose of enabling them to be employed for the use or display of physical force or coercion in promoting any political objective or interest or in such manner as to arouse reasonable apprehension that they are organized and trained or equipped for that purpose”.

HURIWA therefore wonders why section 214(1) is clear on the illegality of such a body like the Islamic police in Kano state and few other Northern states which also violates section 10 of the constitution on the illegality of elevating any religion as state religion, yet the Inspector General of police and the Federal Attorney General (both Northern Moslems) have failed to carry out their constitutional duty by disbanding the illegal HISBAH police but the south west security initiative which is to work lawfully with relevant authorities just like the civilian joint task force (CJTF) in the north east of Nigeria is about to be sabotaged by northern-born security and federal attorney general due to selfish and regional reasons. This must never be allowed to happen. Never!”

The Rights group has also asked the south west governors to be resolute in driving the process of providing security to their people lawfully since the constitution in section 4(7) which states thus: “The House of Assembly of a State shall have power to make laws for the peace, order and good government of the State or any part thereof with respect to the following matters, that is to say:- (a) any matter not included in the Exclusive Legislative List set out in Part I of the Second Schedule to this Constitution. (b) any matter included in the Concurrent Legislative List set out in the first column of Part II of the Second Schedule to this Constitution to the extent prescribed in the second column opposite thereto; and (c) any other matter with respect to which it is empowered to make laws in accordance with the provisions of this Constitution.”

HURIWA has also tasked the south west governors to proceed to international court of justice should the biased heads of security forces and the attorney general of the federation continue to kick against Amotekun or use subterranean means to undermine the integrity and workability of that security mechanism which is lawfully inaugurated t secure the lives and property of the people in line with extant laws both locally and internationally.

The group stated thus: “The basic rule of international law providing that states have no right to encroach upon the preserve of other states’ internal affairs is a consequence of the equality and sovergnity of states and is mirrored in article 2(7) of the UN Charter. It has, however, been subject to a process of reinterpretation in the human rights field. So that states may no longer plead this rule as a bar to international concern and consideration of internal human rights situations. It is ofcourse, obvious that where a state accepts the right of individual petition under an international procedure, it cannot thereafter claim that the exercise of such a right constitutes interference with its domestic affairs.”

“This rule flows from the above principle. It is a method of permitting states to solve their own internal problems in accordance with their own constitutional procedures before accepted international mechanisms can be invoked, and is well established in general international law.” HURIWA said the South West governors can rely on these basic global human rights laws to press on with running the South West security initiative lawfully.

HURIWA states further that: “Certain rights may not be derogated from in the various human rights instruments even in times of war or other public emergency threatening the nation. In the case of the European Convention these are the rights to life (except in cases resulting from lawful acts of war), the prohibition on torture and slavery, and non-retroactivity of criminal offences. In the case of the Inter-American Convention, the following rights are non-derogable: the rights to juridical personality, life and humane treatment, freedom from slavery, freedom from ex post facto laws, freedom of conscience and religion, rights of the family, to a name, of the child, nationality and participation in government. By article 4 of the International Convenant on Civil and Political Rights, the rights to life and recognition as a person before the law, the freedoms of thought, conscience and religion and the prohibition on torture, slavery, retroactivity of criminal legislation and imprisonment on grounds solely of inability to fulfill a contractual obligation are non-derogable.”

“Such non-derogable rights clearly are regarded as possessing a special place in the hierarchy of rights. In addition, it must be noted, many rights are subject to a limitation or claw back clause, whereby the absolute right provided for will not operate in certain situations. Those rights therefore that are not so limited may be regarded as of particular value.”

“In addition to the many international and regional treaty provisions concerning human rights, Professor Malcolm N. Shaw in his book international law correctly maintains that certain human rights may now be regarded as having entered into the category of customary international law in the light of state practice. These would certainly include the prohibition of torture, genocide and slavery and the principle of non-discrimination. In addition, human rights established under treaty may constitute obligations erga omnes for the states parties.”

HURIWA therefore warned both the IGP and the AGF to play the game by the rules by not sabotaging or undermining the successful operations of AMOTEKUN in the South West of Nigeria or any lawfully initiated mechanisms working with the law enforcement institutions in all parts of Nigeria to safeguard lives and property of Nigerians.

*Emmanuel Onwubiko; former Federal Commissioner of the National Human Rights commission and is the Head of the Human Rights Writers Association of Nigeria and [email protected]; www.emmanuelonwubikocom;; [email protected]


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