Following the plan by South-West governors to apply to the Inspector-General of Police, Mohammed Adamu, for the personnel of the Western Nigeria Security Network, popularly known as Operation Amotekun, to carry arms, the police authorities have given conditions for them to be issued the licence.
The Force Public Relations Officer, DCP Frank Mba, said the request would be assessed within the confines of the law.
He noted that there cannot be gun licence issuance to any security outfit or state apparatus without conforming with the contents and provisions of the Firearms Act.
The Ondo State Attorney General, Kola Olawoye, had told The PUNCH on Sunday that each state would apply to the IGP for a gun licence for Amotekun corps.
But in his response to an enquiry by one of our correspondents on the request for gun licence for the corps on Friday, the Force PRO said any request not compatible with the law would be turned down.
Mba stressed that the police did not have the discretion of issuing gun licence because the licensing is governed by law and it works with the provisions of the Firearms Act.
He said, “There is a law in this country; the Firearms Act, which regulates gun usage, ownership and licensing. It is a federal legislation and every request must be in line with the provision and contents of that act. It is not at the discretion of the Inspector-General of Police; it is the provision of the law. So it is simple.
“So, whatever you want in this regard, if it is not compatible with that law, that request would be turned down. The request will be assessed within the confines of that law.
“I have not seen their (states) request, and speaking generally, not about Amotekun now, but all I know is that every request for licence, irrespective of where it is coming from, will be assessed strictly on its merit.
“By merit, I mean it will be assessed strictly in line with the provisions of the Firearms Act. No license will be issued or any request ascertained outside the context and provisions of the law. We are a country guided by law and we will work with the provisions of the Firearms Act.”
Notably, licensing is under Part II of the Firearms Act, Chapter 146, Laws of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1990. Of the seven sections under it, Sections 3 and 4, read, “No person shall have in his possession or under his control any firearm of one of the categories specified in Part I of the Schedule hereto (hereinafter referred to as a prohibited firearm) except in accordance with a licence granted by the President acting in his discretion.
“No person shall have in his possession or under his firearms control any firearm of one of the categories specified in Part II of the Schedule to this Act (hereinafter referred to as a personal firearm) except in accordance with a licence granted in respect thereof by the Inspector-General of Police, which licences shall be granted or refused in accordance with principles decided upon by the National Council of Ministers.”
Meanwhile, following increased killings and kidnappings in the South-West, the governors of the six states in the region launched Operation Amotekun on January 9, 2020 in Ibadan, the Oyo State capital, to provide security for the people within the region.
They had at an earlier 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.
But, few days after the launch, which received commendations from many eminent persons across the country, 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 launched the initiative.
The AGF’s position attracted severe criticisms, with many 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 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 IGP, Mohammed Adamu, they resolved to come up with a framework that would provide backing to the regional security outfit.
Sequel to this, the respective Houses of Assembly promised to give accelerated hearing to the bill as soon as it was presented to them by the executive. And from findings, most of the state Assemblies had received the bill from their governors.
Meanwhile, there was a new development at the South-West Security Meeting on Community Policing, convened at the instance of the IGP on Thursday. At the meeting attended by governors in the region, it was agreed that Amotekun would no longer be a regional operation but state-based.
The meeting also noted that the community policing model proposed by the IGP would complement Amotekun and conventional police operations in all local communities.
Ondo State Governor and chairman of South-West Governors Forum, Mr Rotimi Akeredolu (SAN), said, “The governors of South-West and the IGP have held a fruitful discussion and it is clear now to all of us that community policing, which the Nigeria Police is anchoring, is one that will benefit all of us. We have chosen that we will embrace community policing in its entirety.”
Also, the IGP said, “This is the second meeting we have held with the governors of South-West region concerning the creation of Operation Amotekun. The just concluded meeting was to discuss and fine-tune Amotekun. Our conclusion is what the chairman of South-West Governors’ Forum has explained.”