The rising spate of banditry attacks has forced the Zamfara and Benue state governments to ask their citizens to arm themselves with weapons for self-defence.
The Zamfara State government said it was ready to facilitate the securing of basic weapons for the people, especially farmers, to defend themselves against raiders.
A press statement signed and issued by the state commissioner for information, Ibrahim Magajo Dosara, said the commissioner of police had been directed to issue gun licences to those eligible to bear arms.
Part of the statement reads: “Following increase in the activities of bandits in various parts of the state and the government commitment to ensure adequate security and protection of lives and property of the citizenry in the state, particularly during this rainy season, government has resolved to take further measures to deal with the recent escalating attacks, kidnapping and the criminal levies being enforced on our innocent communities.
“This act of terrorism has been a source of worry and concern to the people and government of the state. Therefore, in order to deal decisively with the situation in our respective communities, government has no option than to take the following measures:
“Government has, henceforth, directed individuals to prepare and obtain guns to defend themselves against the bandits, as the government has directed the state commissioner of police to issue licences to all those who qualify and are wishing to obtain such guns to defend themselves.”
It noted that the government was ready to help people, especially farmers, to secure basic weapons for the purpose of defending themselves.
According to the government, it had already concluded an arrangement to distribute 500 forms to each of the 19 Emirates in the state for those willing to obtain guns to defend themselves.
A secretariat or centre will also be established for the collection of intelligence on the activities of informants.
It warned people to ensure that any information or intelligence about an informant must be true as the government is ready to go tough against any one found as an informant, adding that any person who gives wrong information against anybody will be served the same punishment as an informant.
It further stated that the state government had requested the state House of Assembly to pass, as a matter of urgency, the informants bill before it to enable the government take drastic measures on informants as contained in the bill.
“Government has ordered for the recruitment of 200 additional Community Protection Guards in each of the 19 emirates of the state, making it 500 per emirate, to increase their manpower and strengthen its force and capacity to deal with the bandits,” it added.
On its part, Benue State Governor Samuel Ortom has asserted that since the agenda of the terrorists is to kill all people of the state and occupy their land, the indigenes of Benue should defend their communities in any way they can.
The governor who said this while reacting to the recent increase in attacks and killing of Benue citizens by the marauding herdsmen militia across the state urged all citizens to arm themselves and be alert to kill anyone who invades their communities before they get killed themselves.
He said, “Let no one take our being law abiding for weakness; enough is enough. If the herdsmen are carrying AK-47 to defend themselves, other citizens should do the same to protect themselves. We cannot allow ourselves to be seen as second-class citizens in our fatherland.
“We thought the federal government which is in charge of all the security architectures in the country would come to our aid but from the look of things, the federal government is overwhelmed. We know what to do and now is the time to do what we know.”
The governor commended the security agencies, especially those who paid the supreme price in trying to protect communities against the terrorists.
He,however, noted that the efforts of the security forces had not deterred the bandits.
The governor said: “Just a few days ago over 40 persons lost their lives here in Benue, including my home town, following incessant attacks by these marauding herdsmen in separate attacks in different locations across the state. People are no longer free to go to the markets, farms, and even worship centres. What a country? I always wonder if we are really living in the Nigeria of our dreams.
“I challenge those who go to Abuja to beg for crumbs and lie about happenings in Benue to rather use their relationship with the presidency to bring better solution that will end insecurity and reconstruct, resettle and rehabilitate the Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) rather than castigating me,” he said.
It’s Unlawful, Dangerous, Say Lawyers
Some lawyers in the country yesterday described as unlawful the directive by the governor of Zamfara State, Alhaji Bello Matawalle, for the state’s indigenes to begin to bear arms to confront terrorists.
According to them, before such a directive can be enforced, it must be backed by law.
A Senior Advocate of Nigeria, Mr Abdul Balogun, said our law book frowns at unauthorised citizens bearing arms.
”Before such directives can be enforced, it must be backed by law. If you bear arms without being authorised to do so, you have flouted the law and you can be arrested and prosecuted for illegal possession of firearms,” he said.
A lawyer, Sylvanus Akpotia, agreed to the position of the learned silk, saying that it is a dangerous thing to allow citizens to bear indiscriminately.
“We have a law guiding us in this country. Except the laws guiding the possession of firearms are amended, it is illegal to possess firearms without being authorised.
“I understand the plight of the governor of Zamfara state and what the people are going through as regards banditry and terrorism in the state but that does not mean that because we want to defend ourselves we should go against the provisions of the law”, he said.
A law lecturer, Mr Ismail Amedu, concurred with the views expressed by his professional colleagues and also called on the Nigerian government to urgently look into the issue of banditry and terrorism in the country as a whole.
According to him, if the government fails to protect the people, it means it has failed in its primary responsibility
He said the All Progressives Congress has no business being in power if it cannot protect the people.
”Before the people will resort to self-help, the government should wake up and live up to their responsibility.
Zamfara Government Fed Up With Everyday Killings – Daggash
Former Chief of Defence Staff, Air Marshal Allamin Musa Daggash (rtd) said the Zamfara State government’s order to its citizens to procure arms for self defence must have been out of frustration as killings in the state had continued with little or nothing to stop it.
Daggash said the nation’s democracy gave the governor the right to protect his people, adding that the federal government should challenge him if he is wrong.
“I think the governor of Zamfara State has been pushed to the wall; you know the Zamfara crisis has kept increasing and the federal government has not helped him much.
“The state too has a right to protect its people, so there could be that kind of argument in the court, even if the federal government wants to challenge him but that is it; he is not doing it intentionally or ordinarily, he is doing it because he is fed up with the whole crisis.”
According to Daggash, the killers come in multiple vehicles and motorcycles with guns almost every other day and the federal government had not done much to stop them.
“I think that is why he chose to toe that line. Let the federal government challenge him and tell him why,” he said.
The former military chief lamented the level of corruption in the country, especially in the political arena.
When contacted, the director of Defence Media Operations, Major General Benard Onyeuko,said he does not have a comment on the issue.
Zamfara Is Not Our Benchmark – Plateau Govt
Meanwhile, the Plateau State Commissioner of Information and Communication, Mr. Dan Manjang, when contacted, told our correspondent that Zamfara State is not a case study for Plateau State.
According to him, “The insecurity in Zamfara state is as a result of bandit attacks and kidnapping.”
In Niger state the commissioner of Internal Security, Emmanuel Umar, said the state is not encouraging citizens to possess small and light firearms because of its long-term implications on general security.
He said that at the end it will lead to proliferation of arms which will be difficult to control.
He said by law the state governor can not grant permission for the possession of firearms but Nigeria police which was suspended some time ago to check profilearation.
Consequently, he said rather than encourage the people to possess firearms , the state government has put other measures in place that have stàrted yielding results.
Call Senseless, Unreasonable, Illogical – Expert
A public and private security analyst and trainer, Major Banjo Daniel (retired), has described the call to armed self defence as senseless, unreasonable and illogical.
He further called on the governor to resign since he had failed in his responsibility to protect the citizens.
“The first defined statement was frightening – government is requesting all interested and qualified citizens to carry protective weapons. This has two connotations:
“The government is accepting failure in the line of general security. In fact, Mr. President, A Generalissimo, and C in C is telling the world that and, indirectly, should resign. Do not forget that his major task is to ensure peace and protection of the citizenry.
“The government is directing a state of anarchy rather than resign or step aside for a military intervention on the state of security.”
Northern Youths Insist On ‘Shege Ka Fasa’ Security Outfit
On the recent pronouncement of the Zamfara State Government for citizens to own a licensed guns for self defence in the face of rising insecurity, the Coalition of Northern Groups (CNG) has insisted that rather than going in isolation, this is the time to embrace its ‘Shege ka Fasa’ regional security initiative which was earlier rejected by the state governments.
Abdul-Azeez Suleiman, spokesperson of CNG, in reaction to the development, said, “We are convinced that any effort made in isolation would not be sufficient to defeat the current rampant insecurity being experienced across Northern Nigerian states that has left thousands dead and millions displaced.
“We find the latest move by the Zamfara State government rather belated, though desirable in a sense. The Northern state governors have all along preferred, unfortunately, to handle the issue of banditry and sundry criminalities in the region with levity and treat every contribution, effective though it may be, from the public with condescension.”
One such regrettable instance, he said, was when about a year ago the CNG unveiled the Operation ‘Shege ka fasa’ regional security outfit to tackle the kidnapping and banditry in the North.
He said, “The outfit would have long been formally inaugurated if the necessary legal processes were facilitated, and formally adopted and ratified by the northern states’ governors, which they vehemently refused to do.”
According to him,” Shege Ka Fasa was designed to be the vanguard of the entire North encompassing every ethnic group and religion and to be deeply patriotic in its operation.’’