Recently, Katsina State Governor Aminu Bello Masari reiterated calls for citizens to be allowed to bear arms in self-defence as part of measures to curb insecurity, especially in the northwestern part of the country.
Masari insisted it was totally unacceptable to allow criminals to bear arms and use the same to attack and kill unarmed citizens. He said Islam encourages people to defend themselves.
The governor said his government would assist any person who would like to acquire arms to combat banditry.
This is not the first time the governor has called for citizens to protect themselves from the rampaging bandits terrorising his state.
His Benue State counterpart, Samuel Ortom, had in August last year called on the federal government to allow citizens to bear arms to protect themselves against rising insecurity in the country.
Similarly, Taraba State Governor, Darius Ishaku, had also joined the fray by asking the federal government to allow Nigerians to carry licensed guns to defend themselves.
Interestingly, former minister of defence, Theophilus Danjuma, sparked the debate when in 2018 he called on attack-prone communities to rise and defend themselves since the security agencies appeared to be colluding with the murderers.
Even the current defence minister, retired General Bashir Magashi, had similarly, in February last year, urged people not to be cowardly but to rise up and defend themselves against marauders.
No doubt, the mindless killings by bandits and the seemingly inability of the security agencies to contain the outlaws have triggered the calls for self-defence.
The governors have been frustrated by the killings in their states especially the northwest, which has been the epicentre of banditry in the country.
According to Nigeria Security Tracker, a project of the Council on Foreign Relations’, an American think tank, as well as quarterly reports released by the Kaduna State Government, from January to September 2021, about 3,125 innocent persons were killed and 2,703 abducted by bandits in 2021.
However, in the considered opinion of this newspaper, resorting to self-defence will further exacerbate the already bad situation.
In a country where elections are akin to theatres of war, arms in more people’s hands in Nigeria will turn our elections into a full-scale bloodbath. We cannot afford to take that risk. Unrecovered arms in the hands of political thugs had already undermined the general security of citizens.
The worsening insecurity in the country has been attributed to the proliferation of small and light arms in the country. According to a United Nations Development Programme ( UNDP) report, there are over eight million illicit small and light arms in west Africa. And according to former head of state, Abdusalami Abubakar, over six million of these arms are circulating in Nigeria . Abubakar, who spoke during a meeting of the National Peace Committee (NPC) in Abuja, said the security challenges in the country had led to about 80,000 deaths and close to three million internally displaced persons (IDPs).
This newspaper strongly believes there is a nexus between the proliferation of weapons in the country and insecurity.
Indeed, in advanced countries like the United States, the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution gives Americans the right to bear arms, and three-in-ten American adults personally own a gun. However, accounting to reports, gun violence – from big-city murders to mass shootings – has spurred debate in Congress and state legislatures over proposals to limit Americans’ access to firearms. Counting murders and suicides, nearly 40,000 people died of gun-related violence in the United States in 2017, the highest annual total in decades.
The question is: if advanced countries like the United States can have so many casualties because of arms in so many people’s hands, what will happen in a developing country like Nigeria already plagued by security challenges?
It is from this perspective that we call on the federal government to totally reject this call as, in our opinion, it is an open invitation to anarchy. We should not create new problems in trying to solve existing ones.
We strongly believe that with the right political will, we can surmount our security challenges.
It is gratifying to note that President Muhammadu Buhari had recently assured that Nigeria is in the final phase of the campaign against insurgency and other forms of criminality.
We call on the military to sustain the onslaught against the bandits and insurgents.We insist there should be coordinated massive military operations to flush out all criminal elements from all the forests in the northwest.
Like we had previously canvassed on this page, the time for state police has come as we strongly believe it will go a long way in solving our security problems.
We also call on the government to fund our police force as they hold the key to tackling insecurity. With investing in technology, funding the police and political will, we believe insecurity will be reduced drastically in the country.