Editorial: Governors’ call for citizens to defend themselves

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Last December when bandits ravaged Katina state, Governor Aminu Masari, called on the residents of the state to defend themselves in the face of inadequate security operatives in the state to tackle the problems of banditry and other security concerns in the state. His charge to residents of the state comes as the activities of the dreaded kidnappers in that part of the country left thousands homeless and displaced while hundreds have been kidnapped. This call, we hold is a grave concern to the residents of the state and to Nigerians in general. It is a crystal-clear indication that the government, both at the state level and federal government level have lost out of ideas to get rid of banditry and other security challenges battling the state and the entire northwest of the country.

Masari, who spoke to journalists during a media parley in the state, justified his call for self-defence and the failure of the government to dispense its major responsibility which is to protect lives and properties of the citizens, by saying that it is islamically allowed to self-defence.

“It’s islamically allowed for one to defend himself against attack. One must rise to defend himself, his family and assets. If you die while trying to defend yourself, you’ll be considered a martyr. It’s surprising how a bandit would own a gun while a good man trying to defend himself and his family doesn’t have one,” he said.

He went further to assure that the state government would help those who plan to own arms with the purpose of complimenting the efforts of the security agencies working in the state. “We’ll support those who come with the initiative to procure arms because residents need to also complement the efforts of security agencies. These people (security agents) don’t have the number to protect the people.”

He said the police would register all guns bought by the residents to ensure they are put to the right use.

The call by public figures for Nigerians to self-defend themselves depicts anything but the commitment of the federal government to guarantee the safety of the citizenry. Having successfully crippled the local government administration that would ordinarily have been a critical factor in ensuring the safety of lives and properties of Nigerians, the state government and the federal government have failed woefully to assure protection of Nigerians.

In 2018, in the heat of armed herders and farmers clash in various parts of the country, a former Chief of Army Staff and a former Minister of Defence, Lt. General TY Danjuma, charged Nigerians to rise to the occasion and defend themselves, if the government would not do the needful. The retired General said this at the convocation ceremony of the Taraba State University, Jalingo.

Danjuma said since the security agencies appeared to be colluding with the murderers, attack-prone communities should rise and defend themselves. “Everyone of us must rise up. The armed forces are not neutral. They collude with the armed bandits that kill people, kill Nigerians. They facilitate their movement, they cover them,” he said.

“If you are depending on the armed forces to stop the killings, you will all die one by one. The ethnic cleansing must stop in Taraba State, must stop in all the states of Nigeria. Otherwise, Somalia will be a child’s play.

“I ask everyone of you to be alert and defend your country, defend your territory, defend your state. You have nowhere else to go. You have no where else to go,” He said.

Nigeria’s flag

Also the same year, the governors of Rivers and Benue States, Nyelsom Wike and Samuel Ortom, Dr. Paul Enenche, the Senior Pastor of the Dunamis Church, made similar calls. Samuel Ortom had in the wake of the Benue massacre allegedly carried out by herders invading communities in the state, said the state is fed up with the failure of the Nigerian police to safeguard the citizens of the state and called the residents of the state to do all within their legal limit to safeguard themselves.

“It is because we are law-abiding, that is why we are being attacked daily. You need to listen and hear the opinion of the people of the state on the matter. I think the people should have the right to defend themselves and not make themselves easy prey to be killed in their homes. So any lawful means, you can adapt to defend yourself just go ahead in Benue state. We are not going to wait for the Inspector-General of Police, IGP, to do it.”

Also lending his support for self-defence, Nyelsom Wike, when he visited Ortom, in the wake of the killings in the state said, “People who were either sleeping or doing one thing or the other to help themselves were killed like cows and ordinary animals. We just visited the graveside and it is quite touchy; you should take heart, God will fight for you. But let me say that God fighting for you does not mean that you will not defend yourself.

“The problem we Christians have is that we like to misinterpret the Bible, which says that when you are slapped you will turn the other cheek. Assuming you don’t have the other cheek to turn to? God will only fight for you when you are ready to fight for yourself.

“We must not take the laws into our hands, but that does not mean that if you see an armed robber coming to your house you should run. You must defend yourself when you see an armed robber coming. That is not taking laws into your hand.”

Dr. Enenche on his part said section 60 of the penal code states that it is not an offence for someone to defend himself or another from being killed. He said this in the wake of the massacre in Benue state in January 2018. “So what is the useless nonsense about those who think they have the claim to take life at will and go unarrested and unharassed. The end of it has come. Enough is enough. Gen 9:6 says, whoever sheds man’s blood, by man his blood shall be shed; meaning the killer is qualified for killing. That action is not an offence because he came to finish people and the people gathered and finished him. Those people did nothing wrong. Exodus 22:2 summed it up thus: If a thief be found breaking up, and be smitten that he die, there shall no blood be shed for him. Whoso diggeth a pit shall fall therein: and he that rolleth a stone, it will return upon him. Proverbs 26:27.”

In 2019, President Muhammadu Buhari issued an executive order criminalizing private ownership of small arms. The executive order removed, revoked, banished all firearm or short gun certificate or license in Nigeria. In spite this, the order elicited strong criticism from Nigerians and the national assembly.

In 2021, President Buhari, in swift move to ensure that these weapons are not proliferated in the country, proposed an executive bill to the national assembly in September. The Bill, Control of Small Arms and Light Weapons Bill, 2021, seeks to establish a National Centre for the Control of the Proliferation of Small Arms and Light Weapons in Nigeria, that would be empowered to control the proliferation of small arms and light weapons; provide a framework for the coordination, implementation and monitoring of all efforts geared towards the control of small arms and light weapons; and prevent, combat and eradicate the illicit trade in small arms and light weapons in the country.

While we understand the claim of these prominent Nigerians, a call for self-defence in a country that lacks basic data base of citizenry with majority living in abject poverty is rather a call to anarchy. We should never have gotten to this juncture where self-defence would be an option in a country where trillions of naira is appropriated for defence and security annually. We therefore charged the Buhari-led government to rise above the current security challenges and take the lives and properties of Nigerians as precious as it should be.

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