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‘Buhari should focus on herdsmen, Boko Haram, not on Nigerians with legitimate firearms’

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Ibuchukwu Ohabuenyi Ezike is the Executive Director, Civil Liberties Organisation (CLO). In this interview, he advises President Muhammadu Buhari to beam his searchlight on herdsmen and Boko Haram insurgents in finding solutions to the security challenges facing the country instead of focusing on law-abiding Nigerians who legitimately acquired firearms to protect themselves against unforeseen attacks.

What is your reaction to the executive order revoking firearms licenses issued to Nigerians?
It is not acceptable. It is a violation of the rights of those persons that have legitimately acquired arms. Previously, the immediate past Inspector General of Police ordered that individuals and even paramilitary organisations owned by the states should return their guns to the police. We issued a statement condemning it. We stated then that there are laws enacted by the state assemblies establishing agencies like Neighbourhood Watch in certain states in the South East and other parts of the country. So, one man cannot just wake up one day and order that those institutions should return their firearms to the police. In a federation, that is not how government is run. There are other tiers of government apart from the Federal Government that have authorities to do certain things.

If we are copying the U.S., we should not copy certain things and refuse to copy others especially the ones that endear to the citizens. For instance, in the U.S, there is community police and they are armed. There are laws establishing them just like you have Neighbourhood Watch and other security agencies in various parts of the country.

So, I think the president should be concerned about herdsmen that are going about with guns. Even if those guns were approved, they are using them to terrorise the society and it should give the president concerns. So, he should be concerned about the menace of herdsmen and Boko Haram in certain parts of the country. Is he asking people to submit their guns so that herdsmen would now be invading communities, raping people’s wives, killing people and destroying people’s means of livelihood. There are areas that everybody in this country who is honest knows that they are threats to the society. Those are the areas the president should be concerned about not asking people who legitimately acquired firearms and are not using them to terrorise the society or to cause disaffection or to breach the law to return them. They are using those guns to protect themselves.

So, the order is condemnable. This government is descending into a dictatorship; a military regime is different from democracy. In a democracy, you cannot just make order as one man when we have other institutions of governance. We have the National Assembly and this kind of order requires legislative input. If the National Assembly considers it and passes it, you know that they have done that as representatives of the people and not the whims and caprices of one man. It is not acceptable and it is grossly condemned.

Apart from the Executive Order revoking firearms licenses, how would you assess earlier presidential orders signed by this administration?
It is similar to what we earlier discussed. In a democracy, there are layers; there are arms of government that deal with law making, that deal with executing the law and that deal with adjudicating the law. Under our constitution, the executive implements laws; they don’t make laws.

In certain societies where things are done properly, the National Assembly could have summoned the Attorney General of the Federation over some of these orders. And if he does not explain their motives in clear terms, then he should be sacked.

For instance, concerning Executive Order 6, there are existing anti-corruption laws. There are Acts establishing EFCC and ICPC and other institutions that deal with corruption including the police. If you feel that those laws are can no longer address the issue of corruption, you call for the amendment of the laws. You don’t just issue orders as if you are a military dictator. This is the time for Nigerians to wake-up because we have kept quiet for so long.

The executive order you cited had been tested in court and the judgment was in favour of the president, meaning that the president got that one right?
He didn’t get it right because there are laws that deal with corruption. If I am being investigated does it mean that I have become liable for what I’m being investigated of? Anybody can raise any allegation against another person but until that thing has been proven in the court of law, you can’t execute. So, the president should ask the NASS to strengthen the anti-corruption laws; that is how to do it. I think the judgment of the Federal High Court on that matter should be tested up to the Supreme Court.


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