The Nigerian government has declared a regional security outfit, Amotekun, formed by states in the South-west geopolitical zone as illegal.
Governors in the region announced the formation of the regional paramilitary outfit last week to complement the work of the police.
Policing is a federal duty under the exclusive list of the Nigerian constitution.
A launch of the outfit was held in Ibadan at an event attended by political and traditional leaders across party lines from the South-west.
A Tuesday statement from the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of the Federation, Abubakar Malami, said setting up of the organisation “runs contrary to the provisions of the Nigerian law.”
Opinions are sharply divided about the constitutionality or otherwise of the security arrangement and the fear of possible abuse of such an outfit by state governors.
“Federal Republic of Nigeria is a sovereign entity and is governed by laws meant to sustain its corporate existence as a constitutional democracy,” a statement by Umar Gwandu, the minister’s spokesperson stated.
Citing provisions of the Second Schedule to the Constitution, the minister insisted that security “is a matter that is within the exclusive operational competence of the Federal of Government of Nigeria.
“No other authority at the state level, whether the executive or legislature has the legal authority over defence.”
Mr Malami said the Constitution established military and paramilitary outfits to defend Nigeria and its citizens, pointing out that another arrangement outside of it was a nullity.
“As a consequence of this, no State Government, whether singly or in a group has the legal right and competence to establish any form of organization or agency for the defence of Nigeria or any of its constituent parts.
“This is sanctioned by the provision of Item 45 of the Second Schedule of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (as amended) authorizing the Police and other Federal government security services established by law to maintain law and order.”
In a veiled threat to state governments involved and the Amotekun operatives, the statement warned that “the law will take its natural course in relation to excesses associated with organization, administration and participation in “Amotekun” or continuous association with it as an association”.
Mr Malami said his office was not consulted before plotting the security network saying he would have advised against the exercise.
The attorney general said if the governors had contacted his office “proper information and guidance would have been offered to ensure that Nigeria’s defence and corporate entity are preserved at all times”.