By Emma Nnadozie, Crime Editor
A few days ago, the Governor of Zamfara State, Bello Matawalle, directed residents of the state to seek for gun license from the Commissioner of Police with a view to arming themselves in the wake of the endless spate of armed banditry and other terrorist activities in the state. But while there have been reactions from across the country either in favour or against the Governor’s order, some security professionals who spoke with Vanguard are of different opinions.
A retired Colonel in the Nigerian Army and currently engaged in private security practice; Dan Amuta said the answer to the issue is not far-fetched. According to him, “there is what we call centralized control. Issues that have bearing with arms and ammunition, weaponry must be centrally controlled. You cannot call-out individuals to be armed because it will result to lawlessness. The statement by the Governor to me is simply a mistake. It is out of place to call for everybody to be armed. That is not possible. At the Federal level, government will never accept it.”
Frustration has set in
In his comment, the Director-General of the Institute of Security, Nigeria, ISN, at the University of Lagos, Barr. Adebayo Akinade said, “If the Federal Government has failed to provide security for the citizenry, any other means is okay. So, the Governor obviously gave the order in frustration. If the Federal Government had provided adequate security, there would be no need for Governor Matawalle’s order. The order was the only option opened to the Governor in the circumstance he found himself. This is not the time to be talking about law because we are already in a bad and lawless situation. The Federal Government should be up and doing.”
Levels not addressed
Former military personnel and currently the Chief Executive Officer of AugustEye Security Limited, Dr. Roy Okhevdevie, has this to say: “There are two issues involved in what the Governor said. The first is where he said citizens should get arms and obtain license from the Commissioner of Police in the state. The Commissioner has no right to give license. It is the Inspector General of Police who approves license. There are levels of reporting from the Governor to the Inspector- General of Police. So, I think that was not properly addressed by the Governor. In the area of shoot at sight on anybody on motor cycle, yes, agreed that anyone on motor cycle might be a suspect but, if the person is not visibly armed, it is possible to accost the person. If the person is armed, there is the possibility that both arms of the person are riding the bike. As a drill weapon handler like me, when I was a sniper in the military, we can take motion target down. So, it is possible to get that kind of person on the thigh. If you get him on the thigh, he will fall down from the bike and you arrest him. Arrest will lead to a lot of confession, a lot of intelligence that can be gathered from his phone and so on. The decadence in the national willpower to act on intelligence is one of the causes of the dilapidated security situation in the country.”
Citizens pushed to the wall
The National President of the Association of Licensed Private Security Practitioners of Nigeria, ALPSPN, Dr. Wilson Esangbedo, said, “The primary duty of government is to secure the lives and property of the citizens. Where Government cannot do so, it means it has failed in its primary duty to its citizens. If you look at the issue of Zamfara State, a lot of efforts have been made by the security agencies to address the problem. Mr. President had, at a time, directed the army authorities to ensure that the problem was resolved once and for all. It was a direct order from the President and the military went in there and, of course, did the best they could. The unfortunate thing is that the problem was never solved.
“So, if the governor of Zamfara State is encouraging the citizens to apply and get licensed arms from the police, it is something that is done out of frustration because the state government has been pushed to the wall. We hear stories of bandits going into villages, raping women, killing them, burning their houses, committing all sorts of atrocities. Is that supposed to happen in a place we have government? When you are pushed to the wall, you take any measure, no matter how drastic it is, to ensure that the lives of the citizens you are supposed to protect are actually protected. “No bandit will go into a place once he knows that there would be arms resistance in the place. Just like what obtains in the United States of America where citizens are allowed to bear arms, no bandit would want to carelessly go into a place to attack when it is obvious that such attack would be repelled. So, I support the position of the Zamfara State Government. The Federal Government should take a cue from the Governor and protect Nigerian citizens.
The Managing Director of Astra Security Limited and former Chief Security Officer of Diamond, Dr. Felix Amah Nnachi, said “For me, Governor Matawalle’s order is not justified. The statement is uncalled for, but regrettably, buttresses lack of commitment on the part of this Buhari-led administration to tackle insecurity in the country. Everyone cannot carry arms. We are a Federal state with regulations on who should carry arms and even the type of arm one should carry.
“It is a federal government exclusive preserve to grant license on arms. The Federal Government should be allowed to handle the issue of gun licensing. It is high time we begin to administer the country according to political zones we are all coming from. It has been said that when insecurity lasts more than 24 hours, the Government must have hand in it. We have the Chief of Defence Staff, Chief of Army, Navy and Air Force staff and if I may ask, what are their duties? We have the Civil Defence and other security agencies yet, insecurity permeates the nooks and crannies of the country. If these agencies feel tired and cannot perform, they should resign instead of thugs governing us.”
Rules must be put in place
A retired cyber security expert with the American Federal Bureau of Investigation, FBI, and now a rice producer in Nigeria, Mr. Collins Nwaka said, “If the extant law on bearing of arms does not permit ordinary citizens to carry guns, we might be tempted to look at a situation where the citizens are under constant attack. Such exceptional circumstances where the citizens have to protect themselves could be justified with what applies in the United States of America’s Second Amendment to its constitution.”
According to him, the Second Amendment in America constitution has to do with the right to bear arm. Explaining further, he said the purpose of the right to bear arm is for one to defend his life, his family and property. “This is the ability to protect oneself, his family and property in case of invasion. If people’s lives and their property are the major things, then people should be able to defend their lives and property. However, it is very essential that certain rules are put in place such as registration and licensing of the firm that sell arms as well as proper training where there are security forces or at least in some cases may make themselves available to train communities by helping them to understand some security and safety precautions behind the weapons they use.”
“Generally, that one has a gun or other weapons in his hand does not necessarily mean he is protecting himself. Sometimes, it could be the opposite. So proper usage of weapons becomes highly imperative,” Nwaka advised.