The Houses of Assembly of states in the South-West, comprising Oyo, Osun, Lagos, Ekiti, Ondo and Ogun states, have said they will give accelerated hearing to the bill on the Western Nigeria Security Network, popularly known as Operation Amotekun, as soon as it is presented to them by the Executive.
They therefore urged the governors not to delay in sending the bill to them for consideration and passage into law.
The governors of the six states in the South-West had, in a response to the spate of killings and kidnapping in the region, launched Operation Amotekun on January 9, 2020 in Ibadan, the Oyo State capital to provide security for their people.
They had at a summit convened by the Development Agenda for Western Nigeria in June 2019 agreed to set up the initiative, before it was eventually launched in January 2020.
Meanwhile, few days after the launch, which received commendations from many eminent persons in the region and beyond, the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of the Federation, Mr Abubakar Malami, described the initiative as illegal, adding that his office was not consulted before the governors went ahead to launch the initiative.
He had said, “The setting up of the paramilitary organisation called “Amotekun” is illegal and runs contrary to the provisions of the Nigerian law. 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.
“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.”
The AGF’s position had been greeted with severe criticisms, with many eminent lawyers faulting the AGF for describing it as illegal. They, however, advised the governors to send a bill on the initiative to their respective state’s Houses of Assembly to give it legal backing.
The governors had also threatened to approach the court if the Federal Government continued to oppose the initiative. But following a meeting the governors had with the Vice-President, Prof Yemi Osinbajo; the AGF and the Inspector-General of Police, Mohammed Adamu, they resolved to come up with a framework that would provide backing to the regional security outfit.
Sequel to this, Attorneys General and Commissioners for Justice of the six states on Friday confirmed they had concluded work on the draft bill for the smooth running of the regional security network.
Each of the Attorneys General is expected to present the draft bill to their respective state executive councils for approval, after which the documents would be sent to each of the six Houses of Assembly in the region for it to be passed and subsequently signed into law by each of the governors.
Speaking to one of our correspondents on Saturday, the Speaker of the Osun State House of Assembly, Timothy Owoeye, said the Assembly would not mind cutting short their recess to attend to Amotekun bill to ensure its speedy passage.
Owoeye, who spoke through his Press Secretary, Kunle Alabi, told Sunday PUNCH that the bill would receive speedy attention once they receive it from the executive.
He said, “The Speaker has promised that the bill will be given speedy attention whenever it is ready for the lawmakers. Like other important matters of state, the lawmakers will be ready to attend to it.
“Recall that during the crises in some local government areas early in the year, the lawmakers cut short their recess to attend to the matter. The Amotekun bill will enjoy the same attention once it comes. The lawmakers will not mind cutting short their recess.”
Also, the Oyo State House of Assembly said the bill could be passed into law within two or three weeks if it’s presented to the House on Tuesday.
The Assembly’s Chairman of Media and Information Committee, Kazeem Olayanju, said, “When the bill on Amotekun will be passed into law in Oyo State depends on how soon the executive arm of government brings the bill to the House of Assembly. The House normally sits on Tuesdays and Thursdays.
“If they bring it on time, it will be passed on time. Normally, a bill passes through four stages. The bill is expected to pass through the first three stages in the Assembly before being sent to the governor for his assent, and that is the fourth and final stage. If they bring it on Tuesday, for instance, it may scale through first reading on Thursday. It may be in the Assembly for two weeks before being sent to the governor.”
Olayanju added, “This will give the state the opportunity to enjoy the full value of the security outfit.”
On his part, the Speaker of the Ekiti State House of Assembly, Funminiyi Afuye, also said the bill would not be delayed by any of the legislative bodies in the region.
Afuye said, “When we receive it, definitely it’s going to be given expeditious treatment. This is a coordinated western states’ matter, we, the speakers are meeting and we are sensitising everybody, every legislator in the South-West to the need to make it a priority.
“If it gets to us, I can assure you that it will be treated.”
He explained that even through the bill would still pass through the normal legislative process, it will be given accelerated hearing.
He added, “We have to study it and it has to pass through first and second readings, then the passage of the bill. It has to go through the legislative process. I can assure you that it is not going to be delayed.”
Similarly, the Speaker of Ogun State House of Assembly, Olakunle Oluomo, said the Assembly would also give speedy hearing to the bill once it is transmitted to them.
Oluomo said the speedy hearing would be aided by the fact that there had been a law related to the bill.
He added, “The state Assembly needs to amend a law that created ‘So safe Corps’ as a state security outfit for Amotekun.”
Meanwhile, the Speaker of the Lagos State House of Assembly, Mr Mudashiru Obasa, could not give timeline for the passage of the bill.
Obasa, who is also the Chairman, Conference of Speakers of State Legislatures, said the bill would go through the public for their input before it could be passed into law.
He added, “So far, we have not seen anything. We are waiting for when the bill will be brought to the parliament so that we know what to do.”
Osun gov meets lawmakers, promises early presentation of bill
In a related development, the Governor of Osun State, Adegboyega Oyetola, has met with the members of the State House of Assembly where he promised to present a bill on Amotekun ‘‘soon.’’
At the meeting, which was held on January 29, Oyetola was said to have sought the cooperation of the lawmakers, vowing that the commissioner in charge of the ministry of justice was working with his colleagues in other five states in the region to draft the bill.
A member of the State House of Assembly, who spoke with one of our correspondents on condition of anonymity, said the states were working with Development Agenda for Western Nigeria to draft the bill.
He said, “The bill is going to be uniform. Our governor met with us (the lawmakers) on January 29. Though we have had series of meetings on it at committee levels and groups, the governor had told us that the bill was being drafted.
‘‘The bill is being worked on by the Attorneys General and DAWN commission. Thank God the Federal Government is no longer against it. We will soon get it and I can assure you that we will get it passed as soon as it is ready.”
Asked how the operation would be funded, the source added that the governors would likely submit supplementary budget on it.
By MUDIAGA AFFE, TUNDE AJAJA, ABIODUN NEJO, BOLA BAMIGBOLA, DAUD OLATUNJI and WALE OYEWALE