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Matawalle signs banditry bill into law, explains call for self-defence

By Odita Sunday and Terhemba Daka (Abuja)
29 June 2022   |   4:15 am
Amid the uproar over his call for residents to arm themselves in defence against raging banditry, the Zamfara State Governor, Bello Matawalle, yesterday, signed into law a bill for the prohibition..

Zamfara State Governor, Bello Matawalle signing the banditry, terrorism, kidnapping bill into law in Zamfara… yesterday.

• Nigeria not ripe for individual ownership of guns, says criminologist
• Zamfara governor acted within his rights – Ex-DSS boss
• Bandits abduct CMD of General Hospital, NULGE chairman’s pregnant wife in Zamfara
• No need to arm citizens for now, call unnecessary, Uzodinmma says

Amid the uproar over his call for residents to arm themselves in defence against raging banditry, the Zamfara State Governor, Bello Matawalle, yesterday, signed into law a bill for the prohibition and punishment for banditry, cattle rustling, cultism, kidnapping, terrorism and other incidental offences 2022.

The executive bill was sent to the House of Assembly a few weeks ago. The bill is part of the state government’s new measures to stem the tide of banditry, kidnapping and cattle rustling that have bedeviled the state for over a decade.

Matawalle had, on Sunday, directed residents of the state to get personal firearms against bandits and kidnappers following the spate of attacks in Bakura, Bukuyyum, Tsafe, Gusau and Maru local councils.

Signing the bill into law at the Government House chamber, the governor insisted that his directives for citizens to obtain firearms against bandits is to assist security agencies in addressing the menace. He urged residents to support the programmes and policies of government, especially, in its quest to restore lasting peace in the state.

According to him, the state government relied on an extant legislation to direct residents to acquire weapons to defend themselves.

In a statement issued by Jamilu Magaji, the Chief Press Secretary to the governor, on Tuesday, Magaji explained that the governor’s directive was part of the administration’s efforts to tackle protracted security challenges in the state.

It added that government was aware of the misgivings expressed in some quarters regarding the new measure. It noted that the measure was meant “to encourage the communities suffering almost daily from the inhuman aggressions from the bandits to acquire firearms to defend their communities.

“Self-defence is a natural instinct and has always been part of human survival strategy. As those entrusted with the safety of life and property of the people, we will do everything possible to uphold this responsibility within the ambit of the law.

“We are also aware that the security forces are doing their best to combat this formidable challenge. Their efforts are, however, hampered by the lack of adequate modern warfare equipment and the dearth of personnel.

“Our decision to mobilise people to secure their communities is, therefore, for the people to complement the efforts of the conventional security forces in dealing with banditry and fishing out informants.

“The acquisition and usage of firearms by the public, who desire to do so, would be governed by the Nigeria Firearms Act,” he further stated.

The statement added that the state government had explored all options to address the issue to no avail. It explained that apart from dialogue, reconciliation and disarmament, the government also had regular engagement with the Federal Government and neighbouring states, including the Nigerien authorities.

“We also shut down mobile telecommunication networks to give security forces the leeway to take the battle directly to the bandits,” the statement added.

This is as the Nigeria Medical Association (NMA) Zamfara chapter, yesterday, announced the abduction of its member, Dr. Mansur Muhammad by bandits. The victim is the Medical Director, General Hospital Dansadau, in Maru local council of the state. The NMA said abductors are demanding N20 million ransom for his release.

Also, bandits have abducted a nine-month pregnant wife of the chairman of the National Union of Local Government Employees (NULGE) in Zamfara, Sanusi Muhammed Gusau. Her abduction followed the release of the members of the Zamfara GSM association who had spent 12 days in captivity after they were abducted while on their way from a wedding few weeks ago.

MEANWHILE, Governor Hope Uzodinma of Imo State, yesterday, categorically declared that the security situation in his state has not degenerated to that level where citizens could be allowed the latitude to arm themselves to stem the menace.

Speaking to newsmen after he met with President Muhammadu Buhari at the Presidential Villa, Abuja, Uzodinma said security agencies in Imo were on top of the situation.

The governor stated that even though he was not privy to events in Zamfara where the idea was first mooted, he could not say exactly why the governor was making the move.

He noted: “The situation in Zamfara is not the same as Imo. However, if the governor called for individuals to apply for licences, I think government will only give licence to a qualified and eligible candidate, provided it is the approving authority that is responsible for the issuance that will issue the licence.

“But, I don’t think there is need for individuals, unauthorised people to carry arms in Imo because the situation in Imo currently is being managed and we have seen relative peace in the past weeks and the normal businesses incrementally have resumed. I don’t think that the security situation is beyond our security services.”

Uzondinma announced that President Buhari has approved the hosting of Army Day in Imo, saying that the measure would further improve the security in the state. He thanked the President for the approval, which is expected to take place during President Buhari’s visit to commission some projects in the state.
  
According to former DSS Director, Mr. Dennis Amachree: “The order by Zamfara governor underlines the level of insecurity in the country and the frustration of the people. Although the governor’s intentions are clear, he has called for an unmanageable situation, which could worsen the state of insecurity in the country. It could at worse degenerate to chaos and anarchy.
  
“It is actually within the right of the governor to ask citizens to apply for permit to bear firearms. The Commissioner of Police in each state is statutorily allowed to issue such permits and I believe the subject must have been discussed and agreed upon in the State Security Council, of which the CP is a member.

  
“My take on this is that the Federal Government should start devolving law enforcement powers to the states. Amend the Constitution to allow the establishment of State Police and Local Government Sheriffs. The Community Protection Guards of Zamfara and Amotekun are all indications of the need and foundation of State Police. We cannot continue to run away from State Police, because the more Federal Government delays, we will see the gradual emergence of it across the country.
  
Criminologist, Mr. Albert Uba said: “It is a notorious fact that the rate of insecurity in the country, the wanton destruction of life and property by a few heathen and untrained trigger happy and gun-wielding persons has defied all known antidote. The call for individual ownership of gun by the Zamfara government is explicit.   

“The various security agencies including the police have failed in their constitutional responsibilities to protect life and property.  Nigeria has never had it so bad.  The call for individual acquisition of arms is more of last resort to the ugly and agonising situation that we have found ourselves.
  
“However, we have not been so schooled for now for such call. It will exacerbate extra judicial killings and recklessness. To handle firearms require training and expertise. The police and other licensed agencies are the only organisations by law authorised to bear arms: so calling for individual ownership of arms at this time will be anarchical.”