Survival instinct over the scourge of insecurity has begun to dictate to Nigerians how to protect themselves, their immediate families and environment. The failure of the Government to put to rest the string of scorching heat of terror activities across the Country has sent a sensation of fear and panic with citizens, apparently, quick to have lost confidence in the Government in ensuring their lives and properties are secured.
Self-help for defence, recently, has begun to attract considerable dimension as terror groups continue to unleash mayhem on the society — doing so largely untamed and flagrantly. Consideration of citizens seeking to protect themselves with self security measures have, on one hand, recently begun to take an emerging dimension as one format of reactions to insecurity.
Frustrations over the flagrant mischief of terror operations across the Country have led to the call and consideration to obtain firearms to protect themselves. Apparently from the frustration of the inability of the Federal Government-controlled security forces to contain terror activities across the Country, the Government of Zamfara State on Sunday, the 26th, June, 2022, had called on residents of the State to obtain guns to defend themselves from the flagrant mischief of insurgency. In a statement signed by the Commissioner for Information, Zamfara State, Ibrahim Magaji Dosara, the State government had said the directive was a result of increase in the activities of bandits in various parts of the State and the government’s commitment to ensure adequate security and protection of lives and property of the citizenry in the state, particularly during this rainy season.
The statement partly read, “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 government has directed the state commissioner of police to issue license to all those who qualify and are wishing to obtain such guns to defend themselves Government is ready to facilitate people, especially our farmers to secure basic weapons for defending themselves. Government has already concluded arrangement to distribute 500 forms to each of the 19 Emirates in the state for those willing to obtain guns to defend themselves. People must apply from the Commissioner of Police, license to own guns and such other basic weapons to be used in defending themselves.A secretariat or centre will be established for the collection of intelligence on the activities of informants.”
Such call, recently has been typical of the frustration of State Governments where the scourge of insecurity have left the State handicapped, amidst the grip of insurrection. Recently, amidst incessant attacks, the Kaduna State Governor, Nasir El-Rufai, had in frustration said he and some other North-west State Governors may have no choice than to hire the service of mercenaries to fight the operations of insurrection in their territories. Similar call as that of Zamfara, has been heard in Benue where the State Governor, Samuel Ortom, has equally gave a lead that the people might resort to self-help should the Federal Government, which holds the preserve of control over security forces, fail to arrest the strangulating situation. Again while reacting to the recent spate of killings, by marauding herdsmen militia across the State, Ortom argued 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. He urged all citizens to arm themselves and be alert to kill anyone who invade their communities before they get killed themselves. He was quoted, “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.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.”
The subject of possession of firearms by citizens to protect themselves has, however, been clouded with mixed reactions as such calls have attracted criticisms from some quarters. The contrary question to the opposition on such possession has also been a thought evoking subject, considering if the opponents would shun defending themselves should they be found under the pressure and frustration suffered by those who have been making such calls.
Those calling for self defence have given their lamentations with justifiable grounds of the failure of the Federal Government to put all in place; thus demanding the turn of citizens in troubled zones to begin arousal of conscious arrangements for self-defence.
Lamentations from critical Nigerians have seen the increasing call for self-help as nothing-less, but a failure of government. In its reaction, the Middle Belt Forum (MBF) maintained that the directive by the Zamfara State government to the people of the State to obtain arms to defend themselves is an indication that Nigerian has no government anymore. The National President of MBF, Dr. Bitrus Pogu who made the assertion Monday, 27, June, 2022, in Makurdi said the directive was a precursor to what would happen in other parts of the country since Nigeria had fallen apart and the people were left with no other choice but to resort to self help. He was quoted, “The directive by the Zamfara state government that the people should get arms and defend themselves simply means that we have totally lost it. The country is on autopilot; we do not have a government anymore; because we have all reached the state of self help.
“Nobody depends on the security forces anymore to defend anybody. They know where the bandits, insurgents and terrorist are and they are not doing anything. Of course, what else can a leader say. Let’s not even call him Governor, he is a leader, and as a leader he has given up on governance. And the best thing is forget about the constitutional provisions for protection from government and let’s just defend ourselves. The country has fallen apart and it just indicates that we are on our own. So, it has started in Zamfara, it means the same everywhere. The Zamfara situation is just a precursor to what is going to happen in the country, total anarchy, it’s unfortunate.”
In reaction on the opposition side, the Chief of Defence Staff, General Lucky Irabor on Monday, 27th June, 2022, argued “it is not the right way to go.” Questioning the basis of the directive, he said that the Attorney General of the Federation has a duty to tell Nigerians if the Governor of Zamfara, Muhammad Matawalle, in his capacity has the power to direct citizens to bear arms. He mentioned that there were actions that members of the security agencies and the armed forces, in particular, and the police and other security agencies, are taking to address insecurity in Zamfara and environs. At the opening of a Joint Exercise for the National Defence College and War Colleges of the Armed Forces of Nigeria, code named “Exercise Grand Nationale,” in Abuja, where he spoke, Irabor argued the directive to citizens was not right, as the armed forces and other security agencies were there to handle the challenges. He maintained that the armed forces was only an instrument of policy implementation, which do not take instructions from state governments, adding that the constitution gave such rights and powers only to the Commander-in-Chief for the use of the armed forces.
“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.
“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 are, but then, like I said, we are doing the very best to ensure that peace returns to every part of the country,” he said.
Although the CDS maintained that only the Commander-In-Chief has the constitutional powers to give directives to the armed forces as an instrument of policy implementation, the question of how far the office has been able to respond proactively in recent times to insecurity scourge ravaging communities over the Federation is mind blowing? Nigerians are increasingly suffering the brunt of the inertia of the response of the security forces to the scourge of insecurity in the Country. While the argument over the dangers of possession of firearms for self-help has its justifiable grounds, it is pertinent to look into the frustration of the pressurized and worst-hit victims of the scourge of insecurity mayhem. The arguments over dangers of proliferation of arms, its misuse and misapplication, if such licenses are granted, have their justifiable grounds, just as the plight of terror-conditioned communities and the handicapp posture of the security forces to tame their operations, reflect reasonable demands for self-defence propelled by survival instinct. It thus, would only be rational and the best option to embrace, if the government can rouse with firm grip of force to arrest insecurity situations across the Federation, to restore and give citizens a sense of security which may build their trust to repose confidence in the government — a state which would naturally distill the cries for licences to possess firearms for self-help.