ZAMFARA State has joined Benue State in moving towards arming its residents to defend themselves against the relentless attacks by terrorists. While herdsmen terrorists are ravaging Benue, Zamfara is one of the states in the far North at the mercy of bandit-terrorists.
Benue State Governor, Samuel Ortom, had in March 2022, called on the people to acquire arms and defend themselves against herdsmen who attack farming communities with high calibre assault rifles. Governor Bello Matawalle of Zamfara State has also announced plans to send 500 forms to each of the 19 emirates for volunteers to apply for licences to acquire guns which the state government would bankroll.
Since the Federal Government has the sole constitutional power through the Nigeria Police Force to issue gun licences, it remains to be seen if the Police will oblige Governor Matawalle or applaud Ortom’s directive. However, this desperate resort to self-defence will end up increasing the prevalence of uncommissioned arms in circulation.
The Federal Government’s inability to protect the citizens leaves the people with no choice but to defend themselves. After all, self-preservation is the first law of nature.Our fear, however, is that we may have finally arrived at the doorsteps of the Hobbesian “state of nature” where human life is “solitary, poor, nasty, brutish and short”.
Signs of the Nigerian State’s failures are evident everywhere. It is usually easier to ask people to arm themselves than to retrieve the weapons from them when anarchy boils over. Even if guns in the hands of the common folks eventually leads to the defeat of the terrorists, it will also lead to the emergence of warlords who will divide the civic space among themselves as happened in Somalia.
Anyone with a gun will become a law unto himself, and life will be cheaper than ever.We believe that the various gangs of terrorists killing, kidnapping and occupying people’s lands are enjoying free reins. The government of the day is not doing enough to protect the people.
We are confident that our military, police and law enforcement agencies can defend this country against internal insurrection and external aggression. However, our armed services need help. The best way to boost their effort is to increase their staff strength and welfare while deploying them to do their jobs without ulterior or hidden agenda.
Secondly, we must now amend the Constitution and put the control of policing on the Concurrent and Residual Lists. This will decentralise the maintenance of law and order and enable the sub-national units – the states, local governments and communities – to play their roles in law enforcement. Central security administration leaves too many ungoverned spaces open to hoodlums and terrorists.