NIGERIA is already over-armed. Some of the arms are in wrong hands or being put into wrong uses. Militants, criminals, kidnappers have enough arms to challenge the authority of governments all over the country.
The sources of illegal arms range from the ones politicians are alleged to have purchased to further their causes to ones that slip in across the border from confrontations in the ECOWAS region.
Minister of Interior, Alhaji Shettima Mustapha, told Nigerians on Monday at the World Civil Defence Day celebration in Abuja that the Nigerian Security and Civil Defence Corps, NSCDC, would be bearing arms soon. Honourable Austin Nwachukwu, a member of the House of Representatives Committee on Interior said NSCDC was in the 2010 Appropriation Act. â€œIn the 2010 Budget, arms for the agency was captured and is already provided for and you will soon have themâ€, Nwachukwu said.
This should frighten Nigerians because one of the top officials of the NSCDC admitted last year in Ibadan there would be challenges.
Amos Andekim, a commandant of the NSCDC in Oyo State made a strong case for the work of the agency. It is important to note the caution he threw in about arms handling.
â€œWe have the armed squad in our act to enable us defend ourselves in the course of doing our duties. We have the responsibilities of dealing with hardened criminals like militants and vandals, who are armed with sophisticated weapons. So we need arms that could enable us to suppress their criminal activities,â€ he stated.
â€œI think the Federal Government is taking its time on the issue to avoid abuse of arms and accidental discharge. They want to follow the normal process so that there would be no mistakes,â€ he said.
Mr. Andekim hit the issue on the head. The challenges of weapon handling have been with the police and other security services. How would the NSCDC be different? When would the people to handle these arms be trained?
The quests for arms by security agencies have included requests from the Federal Road Safety Corps. There are indications that they would all be granted. Where would this leave all of us who would not be armed? What does the proposed arming of these organisations tend to achieve?
We think that the safety of the staff of the various security agencies is important. It is also important that they are protected. The only way to achieve this is not arming them.
The more the security agencies depend only on arms to handle situations, the more the tension in the country would be raised as more arms are used to counter other armed groups. A re-organisation of the police to live up to its responsibilities is long over-due.
Let the NSDC remain civil. Even the Fire Service can soon justify why it should be armed.