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OPINION: SELF-DEFENCE NOT ENOUGH REASON TO TACKLE INSECURITY

THEWILL APP ADS 2

There is insecurity everywhere in Nigeria. Apart from the period between 1967 and 1970 when the Nigerian Civil War raged, this country has never experienced anything close to the worsening insecurity.

From the North to the South, terrorists are everywhere killing, maiming, kidnapping for ransom, burning and sacking whole villages. They are not relenting.

Against this background, many ordinary and prominent Nigerians, including state governors and those with military background, have made suggestions on the way forward. Some have suggested that we bring in mercenaries to fight the terrorists. Others have called for self-defence by allowing Nigerians to bear arms.

While Borno State Governor, Prof Babagana Zulum, wants the use of mercenaries to fight insecurity, some of his counterparts are proposing that citizens should be allowed to bear arms to defend themselves, since our security forces are not capable of defending us.

Among those who have made this call are Katsina State Governor, Alhaji Aminu Bello Masari, Zamfara State Governor, Alhaji Bello Matawalle and their Benue State counterpart, Mr Samuel Ortom.

The governors have reportedly requested the police commissioners in their respective states to issue licences to their citizens to bear arms.

Also making a similar proposition are a former Chief of Army Staff and Defence Minister at different times, Lt Gen Theophilus Danjuma (retd), and the current Minister of Defence, Major-General Bashir Magashi (retd.)

Much as this suggestion appears good on paper, its implementation will be difficult. Besides, the idea of bearing arms for self-defence by the generality of our citizens cannot be a solution to insecurity.

Both the Nigerian Criminal and Penal codes support the right of self -defence.

Good as these provisions are , there are many impediments to the implementation of this proposal.

For instance, in defending yourself, you are not to use a weapon that is higher than the type used by your attacker. The weapon of self- defence must be proportional to the weapon of the attacker. How do we ensure compliance with this?

Also, the Firearms Act does not allow for the possession of arms by those not authorised to do so. Section 3 of the act states: “No person shall have in his possession or under his control any firearm of one of the categories specified in Part 1 of the Schedule to this Act (in this Act referred to as prohibited firearm ) except in accordance with a licence granted by the President acting in his discretion”.

Section 4 of the act also says,”No person shall have in his possession or under his control any firearm of the categories specified in Part 11 of the Schedule to this Act( in this Act referred to as “ personal firearm) except in accordance with a licence granted in respect thereof by the Inspector General of Police, which licence shall be granted or refused in accordance with principles decided upon by the President”

It is clear from these provisions that contrary to the advice from the state governors, state police Commissioners do not have the powers to authorise the use of firearms. This power belongs to the President.

Another impediment to the implementation of self-defence is that governors have no control over the police, Army and other security forces in their states. They do not have powers over the appointment of security forces like the police or the military. They do not have authority over their deployment for operational purposes. They are simply lame-duck chief security officers.

Both the Constitution and the various acts setting up the agencies give the power of appointment and to authorise operational use of the forces to the President.

The situation would have been different if we had state police under the control of the respective governors of the states in question. But this is not the case.

It is unfortunate that the ninth National Assembly did not deliberate on this issue. None of the 44 bills passed during the recent constitution amendment exercise dealt with the issue of insecurity, which is the most daunting challenge confronting the nation today.

Besides, how many Nigerians are mature enough to handle arms for self-defence? Are we not going to be creating a Hobbesian state of nature where life is “solitary, poor, nasty, brutish and short”?

Insecurity is beyond arms bearing for self-defence. To tackle the challenge, we must look at its root causes. These include poverty , unemployment, illiteracy, nepotism, wide gap between the rich and the poor, corruption, injustice as well as lack of good governance. Most of the issues have already been tackled in Chapter II of our 1999 Constitution ( as amended) under Fundamental Objectives And Directive Principles of State Policy.

According to the Chapter, the State shall ensure: That the material resources of the nation are harnessed and distributed as best as possible to serve the common good; the economic system is not operated in such a manner as to permit the concentration of wealth or the means of production and exchange in the hands of a few individuals or of a group; suitable and adequate shelter, suitable and adequate food, reasonable national minimum living wage, old age care and pensions, and unemployment, sick benefits and welfare of the disabled are provided for all citizens; the composition of the Government of the Federation or any of its agencies and the conduct of its affairs shall be carried out in such a manner as to reflect the federal character of Nigeria and the need to promote national unity, as well as to command national loyalty, thereby ensuring that there shall be no predominance of persons from a few states or from a few ethnic groups or other sectional groups in that government or any of its agencies; and that the security and welfare of the people shall be the primary purpose of government

It is obvious that we have failed or neglected to implement these provisions of the Constitution. This is why we find ourselves in the state we are today.

Nigerians need leaders who will ensure the realisation of the purpose of the state and the responsibilities of government as enshrined in Chapter II of the Constitution.

Until this happens, bearing arms for self-defence as currently being propagated as a solution to insecurity in the country can only lead to anarchy.

***Mack Ogbamosa is a legal practitioner and communication consultant