To bear or not to bear arms – Kene Obiezu 

3 min read

One of the clearest markers of the fact that Nigeria is a failing state is the extent to which insecurity has reinvented the daily reality of living in the country.  All over the country, it has become only too common for pockets of insecurity to erupt, casting their soot far and wide, while leaving those in their immediate vicinity slaughtered or badly shaken as the case may be. In these days of technology, it is usually only a matter of a precious few seconds before events in one part of the country reverberate in other parts of the country.

So, when farmers have been slaughtered for defying the orders of bandits in Zamfara, the chilling effects have been felt in remote communities in Enugu which have been attacked because they protested against Fulani herdsmen unleashing their cows to stampede their farms. When bandits have abducted hundreds of school children in Kaduna State, the effects have been felt in Abia State where Fulani herdsmen have been fingered in kidnappings. When terrorists have razed schools and villages in Borno State, the searing flames have been fierce reminders of the insecurity incinerating Anambra State where multiple buildings have been razed.  As these have gone on many Nigerians have had cause to ask themselves what they can do to secure their lives and property especially as it appears that the situation has become especially overwhelming for security agencies in the country.

The Rise of Self-help

For decades in Nigeria, community vigilantes have demonstrated that when they are properly supported, it is not beyond them to rout those who steal into communities to cause chaos, safe in the knowledge that they would have had a field  day and be  gone long before security personnel  can mobilize. These vigilantes have shown their viability and validity over the years.

With insecurity sweeping through the country, it has become fashionable for state governors to cause these vigilante groups to morph into something closely resembling state police or regional police as the case may be.  In a country where the police and other security forces have long been federally controlled, this has unsurprisingly become a source of friction between the gatekeepers at the federal level and their counterparts in the states.

The south-west was the first to fly that kite with Amotekun in the region. The south-east soon followed suit with Ebubeagu. There have since been similar groups in some states of the country notably in Kano and Benue states. With the rise of such groups, a natural question has arisen on whether or not they should be allowed to bear arms.

A Divisive Debate

With the terrorists laying waste to communities across Nigeria always wielding sophisticated weapons and matching Nigeria`s security personnel weapon for weapon, it yields to commonsense that there can be no fruitful effort to confront the brand of insecurity rippling through Nigeria without measures taken to adequately arm those who would be tasked with confronting the menace.

Yet, the federal government has legitimate concerns over the proliferation of arms in the country. In a federalism that has been flawed at best, there are also legitimate concerns over the use to which some unscrupulous state governors will put some of the groups they are forming and arming in the name of fighting insecurity. The experiences so far recorded in Imo and Ebonyi States where Ebubeagu has been accused of multiple crimes offer a cautionary tale.

In this wise, current disagreement between the federal government and the Ondo State Government over the plans of the latter to arm Amotekun bears close attention. While Governor Rotimi Akerodolu has insisted that the group will be backed by law and allowed to bear sophisticated weapons to combat the killers threatening to overrun his state, the Federal Government has warned that the group is not allowed to bear arms. Some groups have accused the federal government of allowing vigilante groups in some states to bear arms while preventing similar groups in other states from bearing arms.

What is clear is that Nigeria`s federal system of government remains too sickly to confront the many challenges rearing their ugly heads in the country. With security breaches mounting all over the country, the federal government which controls the agencies which should be checking insecurity in the country is bleeding credibility and authority by the day.

The day may soon come when armed regional  groups will be the only hope of maintaining of security in Nigeria`s increasingly vulnerable regions.

Our Take: Nigeria’s federal system of government has consistently proven to be incapable of surmounting the myriad of security challenges. This is not far from the fact that there can not be a successful attempt to combat insecurity spreading without adequately arming the security personnel with the tools they need. Terrorists are always carrying sophisticated weapons and matching Nigeria’s security personnel weapon for weapon.

Source: The Guardian

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