Foremost lawyer, Afe Babalola (SAN) said Wednesday that Nigeria’s attorney-general failed to understand the constitutional implication of outlawing Amotekun, a security outfit established by governors of Nigeria’s South-Western states.
According to Babalola, “The Attorney General of the Federation was reported to have declared the regional community security outfit (Amotekun) illegal. I disagree with the Attorney General. On the contrary, it is absolutely constitutional and legal.
“The issue of Amotekun is an issue of Public Safety and Protection of property. There is no law in Nigeria which prevents citizens from being able to secure their lives and properties. Indeed without protecting the right to life and property, no other right can be exercised as one has to be alive to enforce other rights as guaranteed in the Constitution. The Nigeria Police does not enjoy exclusive jurisdiction when it comes to the protection of lives and property.
“As a matter of fact, in many parts of Nigeria, various outfits such as Civilian JTF, Hisbah Police, Vigilantes have been performing the duty of protecting lives and properties. There is nowhere in the Police Act where a citizen is prohibited from being vigilant to protect his life or property either personally or together with other citizens. Citizens of Nigeria have always enjoyed a right to effect what is known as a citizens arrest where any person is found to have committed an offence before handover to the police for prosecution.
“In addition, private citizens also may in certain circumstances prosecute persons who have committed crimes. Thus in Part V of the Criminal Code Act S.275 which provides as follow: ‘it is lawful for any person who witnesses a breach of the peace to interfere to prevent the continuance or renewal of it, and to use such force as is reasonably necessary for such prevention and is reasonably proportioned to the danger to be apprehended from such continuance or renewal, and to detain any person who is committing or who is about to join in or to renew the breach of the peace for such time as may be reasonably necessary in order to give him into the custody of a peace officer or police officer…’.
“A communal reading of sections S.272/273 Criminal Code will reveal that: a person may arrest a person who has committed an offence and prevent his escape.
“Neither the constitution in Sections 214-216 nor the Police Act in Section 10 gives the Police an exclusive duty to secure lives and properties. All the above support the establishment of the Amotekun which has been established to give an official teeth to the provision of the Criminal Code which allows private citizens to arrest and detain offenders and bandits and to hand them over to the police. Given the provisions of the Criminal Code in Sections 272-275, the right of citizens to arrest any person for committing an offence is legal and may be exercised individually or communally.”
Babalola concluded that “In any event, the regional community security outfit known as Amotekun cannot be set aside by oral pronouncement by the Attorney General or any other body. Only the Court of Law can declare the establishment illegal.”