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May 21, 2018

Disarming Vigilante  Groups – Bad Idea!

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We do not need a Nigeria where everyone must carry a gun to feel safe for sure. We also don’t want to live in a state where people are afraid to go to sleep at night for fear of being attacked. But it is a concern that we may be heading that way, if the excesses of gun-toting Fulani herdsmen are not checked.

It is worrying that we now have herdsmen who carry guns and must feed their cattle on people’s farmland. What is more? Rather than arrest and discipline these killer herdsmen, the Inspector General of Police, Ibrahim Idris, thinks that calling for a blanket arms surrender is the way out. Many people justifiably ‘smell the rat’.

The IG’s order to state Commissioners of Police to urgently disarm all militias, vigilantes and other armed protective units set up by state governors across the country, at this time, flies in the face of commonsense.

He warned Governors who have set up such armed security outfits that they have no powers to do so. According to the IG, the Nigerian constitution has made it clear that only formal security agencies were empowered to carry arms and ammunition.

So the one million dollar question that must be answered by the IG is: why are Fulani herdsmen carrying guns instead of sticks and no one has been arrested?

Surprisingly, the IGP did not state whether or not the same law applies to Fulani herdsmen, who have been carrying sophisticated weapon and killing innocent citizens who resist their cows from grazing in farmlands. This is worrying.

There is no problem in disarming militia or even Vigilante groups but there is a serious problem in disarming one group and indirectly arming the other.  You don’t need a prophet to tell you that taking arm off the hands of legitimate security groups whose work complement those of the police will lead to more killings.

While we know it is the responsibility of the police to provide security for citizens of Nigeria, we also know they have failed to do that, for various reasons. Soon, it will be election time, our most challenging security period. Giving our already fragile security situation, it is surprising that the IGP would choose to disarm people at this time and leave communities at the mercy of criminals.

What is worrying is that the IG did not call for the surrender of unregistered firearms, but all arms, licensed or not. In view of what we know already about the activities of the armed Fulani herdsmen, how they can attack a community by night, the IG’s move to stop people from defending themselves or having arms is frightening.

We join Ohanaeze Ndigbo in condemning IGP’s order, which amounts to giving herdsmen and others, the go ahead to continue their nefarious activities of killing people, among others things.

Since criminals will not surrender their arms and Fulani herdsmen have never been asked to do so, why should Government- owned vigilante groups be required to do so? It is wicked to ask anyone with registered firearm to surrender the weapon in the face of open threat and danger.

The IG, therefore, needs to rethink his decision if he is concerned about the safety of lives and property. We do not need to remind him that the number of policemen in the country is not sufficient to secure the nation. We also do not need to remind him that some of his men are employed by politicians who feel they need extra protection, particularly during elections.

Often communities are often left with only the Vigilante groups to help them.  Why then would the IG want to disarm them and leave communities at the mercy of criminals and herdsmen? Rather than disarm legitimate groups and persons, what the IGP should do is to mop up illegal guns and stop the proliferation of arms, local or imported.

 


 

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