Insecurity and the ‘Irrationality’ of Citizens Taking Up Arms
By Abdulsalam Mahmud
Everybody knows that Nigeria is plagued by the insecurity menace. Terrorists, armed bandits, kidnappers and a host of hardened criminals have laid siege on the country.
As government appears incapable of addressing the deteriorating security challenge in the country, coupled with the fact that security agencies too, seemed to be overwhelmed, some prominent Nigerians, in recent times, have called on citizens to arm themselves.
One of the influential Nigerians advocating for self-protection is the Governor of Zamfara State, Alh. Mohammed Bello Matawalle.
The Governor, apparently is worried that his State has not known peace as a result of heinous activities marauding bandits have been perpetrating in his State, for sometime now.
Recently, he insisted that citizens of his State must carry guns to protect themselves. To make good his pro-people plan, Matawalle has already inaugurated four committees.
They are Intelligence Gathering on Banditry, Community Protection Guards (CPG), Prosecution of Banditry-Related Offences and State Security Standing Panel.
He further donated 20 new Toyota Hilux vans and 1,500 motorbikes to ease the works of the committees.
As the chief law officer of Zamfara, the Governor, according to a statement by his Press Secretary, Jamilu Magaji, told anyone who cared to listen that he meant business: “We will do everything possible to uphold this responsibility within the ambit of the law.
“The acquisition and usage of firearms by members of the general public who desire to do so would be governed by the Nigeria Firearms Act.”
This is not the first time a head of a subnational government has recommended such a seemingly precipitate action to citizens in order to rein in insecurity. Governors Samuel Ortom of Benue State and Bello Masari of Katsina State had earlier echoed similar sentiments.
The Chief of Defence Staff (CDS), Gen. Lucky Irabor, however, has faulted the call by Gov. Matawalle to people of the state to bear arms to defend themselves against bandits.
Irabor said the call was not right, as the armed forces and other security agencies were there to handle the challenges.
The CDS spoke to newsmen on the matter at the opening of the Joint Exercise for the National Defence College and War Colleges of the Armed Forces of Nigeria, code named “Exercise Grand Nationale,” in Abuja.
Irabor said he was yet to understand the basis for asking the citizens of Zamfara to bear arms.
He, however, said it was the responsibility of the Attorney General of the Federation to look at the constitution and the laws to see whether the governor had such powers.
“I believe that, in my view, it is not the right way to go.
“Of course, there are actions that members of the security agencies and the armed forces, in particular, the police and other security agencies, are doing to address insecurity in Zamfara and environs.
“Beyond that, of course, there are other legal issues, other issues of governance, issues that the government could have addressed using the instrumentality of the law that are available for him to bring greater peace and security.
“But like I said, I do not intend to say much about it, but I believe that the Federal Government, using the Attorney General, will look at the details of that press release and give further instruction.
“If what I read is true, I do not also think that the governor has the power to instruct the commissioner of police to issue licenses, because the commissioner of police does not have the powers to issue licenses.”
Irabor said the armed forces was only an instrument of policy implementation, adding that it did not take instructions from state governments.
He said the constitution gave rights and powers only to the Commander-in-Chief for the use of the armed forces.
“I believe that what we are doing in Zamfara and of course, across the states of the federation, is in deference to the provisions of the constitution.
“So, we are there because we are there to give support to the civil authority, in this case, the police.
“We do not need to restate what the issues are that have led to the deployment of military across the country but then, like I said, we are doing the very best to ensure that peace returns to every part of the country,” he said.
Regardless of the positions taken by both Matawalle and Irabor, it is, indeed, a serious indictment on the Federal Government that some heads of subnational governments, out of frustration, are considering self-help as a viable option to secure lives and properties within their jurisdictions.
This is a dangerous signal to the citizens and the international community, truth be told. There is need for the Federal Government to quickly up its ante. Without a doubt, the security situation in the country is grave. And it can only deteriorate, unless appropriate actions, backed by requisite political will, are brought to bear on the menace to stem the rising tide.
Mahmud is the Deputy Editor of PRNigeria
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