Governor Rotimi Akeredolu of Ondo State has frowned at the statement by the Presidency in its response to his vow to arm the Amotekun Corps in the state.
Mr Akeredolu, a lawyer, has been a consistent advocate for an approval for state security outfits to bear arms.
He recently accused the Federal Government of double standards having ‘approved’ the bearing of automatic weapons for Katsina State while denying Amotekun and others the same privilege.
He vowed to arm Amotekun with AK-47s to ensure adequate security for the state in the light of the new dimensions of security challenges in the country.
But the presidency, in a statement by President Muhammadu Buhari’s aide, Garba Shehu, maintained that state security outfits had no power to bear automatic weapons.
“The president has repeatedly made it clear that nobody is allowed to illegally carry AK-47 or any other automatic weapons and that they must surrender them,” Mr Shehu had said.
“In the specific Katsina State often cited, the Governor, Aminu Bello Masari wrote to explain that the administration invited the Provost of the Civil Defence Training College in Katsina to train their Vigilantes for a five-day period ‘in the handling and operations of Pump Action Rifles,’ emphasizing that ‘the Vigilantes were not trained to take over the responsibilities of the security agencies of the Federal Government of Nigeria but to assist them,” Mr Garba noted.
“Under the existing regulations, only the Office of the National Security Adviser can issue such authorisation, upon proper clearance by the President and Commander-in-Chief and as it is at this moment, no such approvals have been issued to any state government.”
‘Betraying current realities’
Mr Akeredolu, through his Chief Press Secretary, Richard Olatunde, on Wednesday, said the submission by Mr Shehu restraining state security outfits bearing bearing automatic weapons, was no longer tenable in the face of increasing security challenges being faced by the people.
“The assertion of the Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity on the use of automatic weapons by State Security outfits betrays the current realities across the country,” Mr Olatunde said in a statement.
“His attempt to justify the use of AK47 by the Vigilantes of Katsina State for training stands logic on it head.
“The report by the TVC News that went viral showed the Katsina State Vigilante training with AK47. This is the same weapon which approval has vehemently been refused for the use of Amotekun Corps and other State Security Outfits.
“The questions Governor Oluwarotimi Akeredolu, SAN, asks are:
i. Where did the guns come from?
ii. Who approved their use?
iii. Were the guns returned to the armoury after use?
iv. The AK47, as seen from the TVC news report, was about usage. If not, what purpose does training with the guns serve?
“It is rather suspicious that Garba Shehu elected himself as the spokesperson for the Kastina State government. Whereas, the Katsina State has not come out openly to deny the statement of Governor Akeredolu on the use of AK47 by Vigilantes of Katsina State during training.
“Governor Akeredolu has reiterated that State Security outfits backed by law whether in the Western Nigeria, Katsina, Borno, Benue or any Northern State must have access to the same sophisticated weapons that the criminals have. It time to face down these enemies of the people.
“It is illogical to continue to fight hardened marauders who bear sophisticated weaponry to kidnap and maim our people with bare hands. We cannot fight armed enemies of the people with our bare hands.
“It is our firm belief that the government has a fundamental duty to protect the people. It is a task that must be accomplished without excuse.”
He further noted that Governor Akeredolu is determined to spare no efforts in protecting the people.
“He has vowed to explore every available legal and constitutional means to secure the state and its people,” he said.
He also hinted that the Southern Nigeria Governors Forum had called for the establishment of State Police with the support of the 19 Northern State Governors and Northern Traditional Rulers Council.
“The call by the sub-national should be heeded and change effected where necessary,” he said.
“Every Governor swore to an oath to protect the state and the people. The sub-national must be allowed to put in place security forces as a counter-balancing force to face these marauders who have unchecked access to sophisticated weapons.
“It is high time we tackled these conflict entrepreneurs and restore the confidence of the people. We cannot do the same thing time and again and expect different result.
“Governor Akeredolu is irrevocably committed to the security of the people, particularly his state. He will continue to speak up in defence of the people. He is very much committed to the realisation of constitutional amendment to reflect the current realities.”