FEATURE ARTICLE

Wednesday, January 10, 2024
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Pennsylvania, USA
THE STATE OF INSECURITY IN NIGERIA: A CASE FOR CITIZENS' RIGHT TO BEAR ARMS

hristmas Day 2023 came with its usual goodies (or gores, for want of a better word). This time, it was in Plateau State that gunmen unleashed mayhem on over 200 citizens in an orgy of murder and mayhem, leaving in their wake a trail of sorrows, tears, and blood. It should be noted that months earlier, unknown gunmen entered the sleepy town of Otukpo, secured the law enforcement offices and spent over three hours looting all the town's banks without anyone to challenge them, save for the youths who, armed with cellphone cameras, beamed the dastardly acts of the robbers on social media for the world to see. There is no doubt in my mind that if those plucky young men and women had access to firearms, the robbers would have been engaged and held at bay to the point of submission.

Nigeria can currently be described, at best, as a billion-dollar society protected with kobo security. The internal security situation in the country is nonexistent and all the required safeguards have been outsourced to the Almighty. There exists no justice system aimed at bringing those who will deprive Nigerians of their human rights to book. This would explain why robbers, cultists, kidnappers, bandits, terrorists, and every other coat of brigand have the country by the jugular with no hope in sight. When you dwell in a society where you can visit murder and mayhem upon the defenseless populace, knowing that there will be no repercussions for your actions, then it is easy to see how insecurity can become the order of the day. At present, it is an understatement to state that the average Nigerian citizen sleeps with one eye open in the fear that their life can be snatched away at any minute.

It is hopeless to expect the current democratic dispensation to be the salvation of the Nigerian citizen. Judging from their precedences, one cannot expect politicians who walk a fine line between thuggery and terrorism, to enact laws or implement policies that will protect the citizen from their gun-toting nemesis. With the multimillion-dollar government funds available to them, these public "servants" have insulated themselves physically and mentally from the throes of society and abandoned the man on the street to fend for himself without any hope of government coming to his aid. Hence, they turn deaf ears to the spate of kidnapping, bank robberies, schoolchildren abductions, highway robberies, community banditry and every sort of vice that threatens our internal security today. These threats to the stability of our society are so commonplace that their occurrences barely elicit any response from any arm of the government when they happen. There are currently no urgent laws being passed to tackle the state of insecurity in the nation that I am aware of.

Another factor to consider when one looks at the state of insecurity in the country, is the lack of any sense of urgency to respond on the part of the stakeholders in the society. From the Inspector General of Police to each state's Governor (expectantly, the state's chief security officer), one notices a nonchalant posture as far as internal security is concerned. The IGP can only point to the myriad checkpoints littering the country's highways as proof of his measures to tackle robberies and kidnappings on the nation's highways. However, the successes and frequencies of these diabolical acts only testifies to the ineffectiveness of these measures and hence, more serious initiatives need to be adopted by the police if they wish to be taken seriously in the fight to actualize a more secure Nigerian society.

The evident ineffectiveness of the police, Army, and Airforce to protect Nigerian citizens from marauders and those who disturb societal peace, already has a sizeable population of the country buzzing about the need to permit the citizens to procure the means of defending themselves. As it stands, Nigerians provide their own electricity (generators), water supply (boreholes and wells), education (private schools) and any social amenity that ensures their existence. Providing their own security should be no problem at all had government itself not threatened to be an obstacle in their paths. The average Nigerian understands that it is an exercise in futility to believe that government will protect them when their existence is threatened. Billions of naira paid as ransom to kidnappers and hundreds of missing schoolchildren are testimonies to what happens when one thinks that the government is really safeguarding the security of her citizens. There is currently a crop of Nigerians who are not afraid to meet fire for fire when their freedoms come under attack by outlaws who have proved to be beyond the reach of the law. All these well-meaning Nigerians are asking for is the right to acquire the arms to protect themselves, their families and properties.

Since many decades now, Nigerians have been banned from owning guns by military regimes who feared the power of a well-armed citizenry and how that may threaten the success of any attempt to disrupt the continuation of any government in power. It is lamentable that Nigerians are not allowed to protect themselves because of the whims of powerful men who fear that their coup-plotting ambitions may be opposed by a few good men who are ready to lay down their lives for their nation. The result of this ban is a hamstrung nation whose citizens lay at the mercy of kidnappers, herdsmen, bandits, and robbers. It is nothing short of a travesty to expect Nigerians not to arm themselves when the country's security arrangements are obviously inadequate to protect them and their families when the wolf is at the door.

It is rather lamentable how all the bad actors in Nigeria are steadily supplied with the best and most sophisticated arms while the defenseless citizens who need them the most, are hampered by unjust decrees and incompetent politicians from doing so. When one seeks answers as to why keeping the populace from bearing arms is the logical way to ensure a safe society, one is greeted with flimsy excuses ranging from how owning guns is not our culture, to how the temperamental Nigerian cannot be trusted to not settle every domestic dispute with the pull of a trigger. Although no research supports these claims, it has not stopped lawmakers from closing the gates on the demands of well-meaning Nigerians to be allowed to own guns. It is akin to putting the cat among the pigeons when the bad guys are armed to the teeth and allowed to run roughshod among innocent and unarmed citizens. The Nigerian security situation must have been on the minds of those who coined the phrase, "the only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun." As we watch society collapse in utter chaos with hundreds of thousands of people displaced from their homeland into Internally Displace Persons (IDP) camps, one can only surmise that Nigerians are in a state of war without us even catching a glimpse of our well-armed adversaries. The only plausible way to stem this trend is to give us the license to obtain the means of protecting ourselves and our families.

It is foolhardy to imagine that at this time, many Nigerians are not already taking the initiative and arming themselves. However, these people do so in secret and run the risk of prosecution if caught by law enforcement. What can be a greater injustice than for one to get in trouble for defending one's life while the bad guys are allowed to run willy nilly through our society. This is a grave injustice and the only way to address this and give the citizens the chance to protect themselves legally, is to remove all legal obstacles that block the rights of citizens to procure the means of protecting themselves and their families.

In conclusion, I cannot emphasize it enough: the Nigerian security system is simply not capable of protecting its citizens. It faces insurmountable challenges both internally and externally. The government cannot be a dog in the manger as far as internal security is concerned. It should cease to be part of the problem but more of a solution by getting out of the way and allowing the brave citizens of Nigeria to own guns and protect themselves.

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