By Adedotun Ajayi
Over the years, a lot have happened in our dear nation and a lot is still happening. Not just in Nigeria, but all over the world, there is a strong demand for peace. There is a common belief that food, air and shelter are the basic needs of life. Nevertheless, events in recent time have shown that something very crucial needs to be added to that list, which is security.
It is not an exaggeration to say that people can no longer sleep with even one eye closed, not to talk of the two eyes.
From the stories of Boko Haram insurgents to kidnappers and bandits, Nigerians seem to have come under the biggest threat to their security ever.
As a result of the activities of these enemies of the state, a lot of economic activities have been ground to a halt. People cannot travel safely; farmers are scared of going to farm, because they can be killed and their farms can also be destroyed; even in their homes, Nigerians can no longer boast of adequate security. Since 2015,tens of thousands of people have been killed due to insurgency in Nigeria.
Thus, Taraba State Governor, Darius Ishaku, has asked the Federal government to allow Nigerians carry licenced guns to defend themselves amid the myriads of security challenges facing the country.
Ishaku stated this on Tuesday February 2, when 15 local government chairmen of the state paid him a condolence visit after the burial of one of them who was kidnapped and subsequently killed by gunmen.
“If we cannot be able to provide security for our citizens, then allow all the citizens to buy AK-47, because if everybody is licensed with AK-47, I swear nobody will come to your house, In case he does, then it depends on who is faster” he said.
Bala Mohammed, Bauchi State Governor, says herders carry weapons because they need to protect themselves. The governor stated this on Thursday February 11, during the Nigeria Union of Journalists, NUJ, press week celebration in Bauchi.
“Because the Fulani man is practising the tradition of pastoralism, he has been exposed to the vagaries of the forest, cattle rustlers who carry guns, kill him and take away his commonwealth, which is the cows,” he said.
“He has no option than to carry AK47 because the society and the government are not protecting him, what is his fault; it’s the fault of the government and the people. You don’t criminalize all of them, because, in every tribe, there are criminals.”
Bauchi State Chairman of the Miyetti Allah, Sadiq Ibrahim Ahmad, has backed Bauchi State Governor, Bala Mohammed’s comment on herdsmen who carry arms to ‘defend’ themselves.
His words: “Government’s major responsibility is to protect its citizens and their property. But where the government fails to do that, other people will take the responsibility for doing so.
“Nigeria lacks good leadership and if there is no leadership, people take the laws into their hands. Taking the laws into their own hands is not new. It is not surprising if someone says any group should leave a particular state or region. These people are not the culprits who committed any offense” he said.
The Minister of Defense, Maj. Gen. Bashir Magashi (rtd), has said it is the responsibility of every citizen to be at alert amid the insecurity in Nigeria.
His words, “It is the responsibility of everybody to keep alert and to find safety when necessary. But we shouldn’t be cowards”
“At times, the bandits will only come with about three rounds of ammunition. When they fire shots everybody runs.
“In our younger days, we stood to fight any aggression coming for us.
“I don’t know why people are running from minor things like that. They should stand and let these people know that even the villagers have the competency and capabilities to defend themselves.
The comments attracted widespread criticism.
“People cannot defend themselves with bare hands while confronted with bandits who are increasingly acquiring more sophisticated weapons,” said Isa Sanusi, a spokesman for rights group Amnesty International.
Kayode Ogundamisi, a commentator on Nigerian affairs with nearly 600,000 Twitter followers, tweeted: “Simply put, he’s saying YOU ARE ON YOUR OWN!”
Speaking with The Hope, Adedamola Okunade, a legal practitioner, in his words, said.
“We are already used to taking charge of our affairs in areas where the government has not lived up to its responsibilities.
Many people in the country generate their own electricity, pump their own water, and arrange private education for their children and so on.
They would also gladly defend themselves against armed attackers. But, under Nigeria’s laws, it is now impossible to purchase a firearm. No matter how determined an individual might be, they cannot defend themselves with just bare hands and bravery.
Wealthy Nigerians often hire armed police escorts, even to private functions, while the poor are left unprotected”.
However, worries in Nigeria about the dangers of easy legal access to firearms are valid, mirroring concerns in other parts of the world, especially the US where the debate is constantly raging.
With tight controls, Nigeria still experiences such wanton and ubiquitous violence.
One can only imagine how much bloodier things might be if anybody could just dig into the back of their jeans and whip out a pistol.
In the end, the safest option is for Nigeria’s security agencies to rise to their responsibility of safeguarding the country from criminal elements, even if it means employing more people who can then be approved by law to bear arms.
Omooba Olatunji, a security expert based in Akure, in his words “it would not be a wise idea to legalize guns for citizens in Nigeria. Easy access to guns will definitely lead to more violent crimes, It is a common knowledge that the majority of violent crimes committed all over the world are done with the aid of firearms. It is therefore apparent that making it very difficult for people to have access to firearms will play a significant role in reducing violent crimes. The tendency of a crime becoming very violent is higher when a gun is involved than when a gun isn’t involved.
Widespread gun ownership easily makes guns fall into the wrong hands, The easier it is for citizens to have access to guns, the easier it becomes for all sorts of people to have access to guns and use them. There are certain people who should never have access to guns because they can cause mass casualties by merely holding a gun. Some examples of these people include the following: mentally unstable people, criminals, terrorists, school children who get bullied in school, etc. Most mass shootings that have over the years occurred all over the World came as a result of some of the people mentioned above having access to guns and using them.
A good example was the case of the mass shooting (terrorist attack) in San Bernardino, California, where an Islamic terrorist couple shot and killed 14 people and left 21 others injured. Now, these terrorists wouldn’t have been able to cause that degree of mass casualties if they didn’t have access to guns. We wouldn’t want that kind of casualty in our country. What should be done instead is to work on our security architecture. People should be rest assured that their lives and properties are safe.