By Emmanuel Gandu
[ “Self-defense has always been part of human survival strategy therefore as governor I will do everything possible to uphold this responsibility within the ambit of the law.”
The implication of this call is not only an indictment of the Nigerian military’s inability to curb the menace of the rag-tag groups but also a failure of the Buhari-led APC government to govern.]
How it all began
You would recall when at the height of the Fulani herdsmen attacks on farmers in Benue state, Southern Kaduna, Plateau, Taraba, and other parts of the Middle Belt from 2016 to date, coupled with the Buhari forceful planned acquisition of land in all local governments of the country for RUGA, grazing reserves, cattle colonies, cattle routes, etc, followed with clashes leading to a monumental loss of human life with catastrophic consequences.
Leaders such as T.Y Danjuma called on the affected communities to rise and defend themselves.
While Benue state governor Samuel Ortom initially called on his people to defend themselves, he quickly followed up with the enactment of the talked-about anti-open grazing prohibiting law.
On his part, governor Ahmed Nasir El-rufai of Kaduna State announced in a press conference that he had gone outside the shores of Nigeria to pay monetary compensation to foreign Fulanis for the killing of their cattle and men by Southern Kaduna people.
On his part, President Buhari kept forging ahead with his plans for the comprehensive launching of the cattle colonies grazing policy for his fellow Fulani kinsmen despite stiff opposition from other tribes and nationalities of Nigeria.
The stage was therefore set for more deadly clashes with the Fulani herdsmen where the indigenous owners of the land across the various communities refused to relinquish their ancestral lands for the Fulani-only cattle policy.
As a consequence of these clashes, many villages and communities were sacked by the Fulanis who in turn forcefully occupied those lands.
While these communities had remained in Internally displaced camps as IDPs to date the Fulanis had become the occupation forces in such conquered territories.
While the anarchy persisted, Governor Samuel Ortom who persistently carried his lamentations to President Buhari was not only told to “go settle and live-in peace with your neighbors”, but was outrightly banned from setting foot on the presidential Villa.
As the Fulani herdsmen carnage persisted in the Middle Belt, banditry and kidnapping began to ravage the North West and North Central states from 2020, getting to a climax in 2021/2022.
As a result, a few of the people that can afford to have left their homes to various state capitals and Abuja, abandoning the poor ones at the mercy of God and the wickedness of the bandits.
As we speak, the entire country is engulfed in a kidnapping and killing spree of a magnitude never witnessed in Nigeria, as perpetrated by young terrorists identified from their language to be Fulanis by the luckiest released victims and video/audio clips.
This discourse is an attempt to highlight the level of insecurity leading up to governor Bello Matawalle’s ‘self-defense’ declaration.
It also seeks to bring to the fore the level of security consciousness of both government and the various security outfits in securing the lives and property of the Nigerian citizens, and the legal issues surrounding gun and firearms control.
Finally, this attempt is to contribute my little quarter to ensuring awareness of the provision of a safer country for you and me in an egalitarian society where there is justice, equity, fairness, and above all, a right to life for every citizen.
Bello Matawalle’s frustration
“Self-defense has always been part of human survival strategy therefore as governor I will do everything possible to uphold this responsibility within the ambit of the law” – Matawalle.
Due to the level of insecurity leading to wanton destruction of life and property, the Zamfara governor Bello Matawalle recently called on the citizens to acquire and carry guns for self-defense.
He went further to encourage the Inspector General of Police to issue firearms licenses to them.
Man, generally has a tendency for safety in the face of danger.
Thus, as the rate of insecurity increases in the country, without commensurate protection by the armed forces, coupled with the inability of the people to defend themselves, the governor seeing that the people have been abandoned at the mercy of the killer terrorists had no alternative than to call on the citizens to possess guns and firearms for self-defense.
Like him or hate him, governor Matawalle just like Samuel Ortom cannot afford to standby to watch his people being killed on daily basis.
Highlighting the increasing level of insecurity leading up to Matawalle’s ‘self-defense declaration, the Catholic Bishop of Sokoto Diocese Matthew Hassan Kukah has been unrelenting in calling on the Buhari-led APC government to be up to its responsibility of good governance and the protection of life and property.
For these relentless efforts, Bishop Kukah had been criticized and ostracized severally by the same North that is now bleeding from self-inflicted wounds.
The implication of Matawalle’s Self-defense Declaration
This declaration is not only seeking to save lives but a direct indictment of the federal government of General Muhammadu Buhari’s failure to protect Nigerians. The list is inexhaustible:
(1) Symptoms of a failed state.
(2) Indictment of federal government.
(3) APC failed to fulfill just one of its 3 major manifestoes.
(4) Personal Failure of Buhari as a former military General, Military head of state, and commander in chief before becoming a civilian president.
(5) Failure of the Armed forces of Nigeria to carry out its primary functions of securing the life and property of Nigerians in Nigeria.
(6) Invitation to anarchy and lawlessness.
(7) Influx and proliferation of Firearms into Nigeria.
(8) Militarization of Nigeria.
(9) A prelude to the emergence of warlords, and balkanization of Nigeria.
(10) Influx of militia/terrorist groups into Nigeria.
(11) The creation of an Afghanistan or Libya type in Nigeria.
(12) It costs #400,000.00 to #500,000.00 to purchase an AK47. In these hard times of paucity of funds, I wonder how many people can afford a gun.
(13) Who does the training on the use of firearms?
What Does the Nigerian Constitution Say?
The idea of gun possession in Nigeria today looks not only appealing but also a deterrent to would-be terrorists.
However, the existing laws of the federation of Nigeria do not provide for a right to gun possession.
The 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria as amended which provides for the actionable and non – actionable rights of Nigerian citizens is silent on the rights to the possession of guns and firearms.
In the same manner, the constitution does not also expressly prohibit the possession of firearms by private citizens.
The Firearms Act 1959
The Laws relating to the possession of firearms in Nigeria are the Firearms Act and the Firearms Regulation.
These laws make provision for, and regulate the possession of, and dealing in firearms and ammunition.
Section 3 of the Firearms Act provides that “No person shall have in his possession or under his control any firearms or ammunition except ibya license granted by the president acting in his discretion”, or the Inspector General of Police.
Furthermore, the criteria and qualifications for granting the license are expressly laid out in the 1959 Firearms Control Act.
Governor Bello Matawalle of Zamfara state is right after all for requesting the IG to grant gun licenses to people of his state who desire to have such for self-defense.
This is more so, especially at a time when the military is likely overwhelmed by the activities of terrorists, armed bandits, and gunmen in the country.
The Firearms Act and the Firearms Regulation both contain salient provisions on the sale, purchase, transfer, and importation.
It is hoped that more state governors will join Bello Matawalle in calling for their citizens to possess guns for self-defense.
This may likely go a long way in curbing the menace of the so-called bandit gunmen.
I come in Peace 🙏