MBA: Current realities negate gun ownership for everyone
Chief Ikechukwu Mba, a security consultant retired from the Nigeria Police Force after serving as Divisional Police Officer in various divisions. A lawyer, who is vast in security matters, told LAWRENCE NJOKU in Enugu why Nigerians should not be licensed to carry arms despite rising insecurity.
Widespread insecurity has led to a situation where Benue State Governor, Samuel Ortom is calling on the Federal Government to consider granting licenses for “responsible Nigerians” to bear arms What do you make of this?
I was a police officer for 35 years and eventually retired from service after serving as a divisional police officer (DPO) in several divisions. The level of awareness, peculiarities, level of education and politics that we are playing in this country does not give room for anybody to start licensing guns for people. If this ever comes into effect, it would surely be politicised, abused, and it would be very difficult to control, and might endanger the country. Just look at the way the issue of community policing has been politicised, and those saddled with its implementation are not involving experts or people trained in security to provide clues or guidance in what could be done. All that is happening is politicians jostling to command the process.
So, if the government begins widespread gun license issuance, politicians would definitely take over the scheme at the end of which people of questionable characters would be issued gun licenses. If you also say, lets subject potential beneficiaries to medical checkups to ensure that only people of sound minds are armed, you will see people going to different places to get medical certificates that would ascertain them okay, in other words, manipulate the process.
These are some of the reasons that I don’t subscribe to Ortom’s call at the moment. Our society has not matured to the level that we should be free with weapons in the guise of securing ourselves.
Governor also defended his call by saying that some Nigerians, possess arms illegally, go about maiming, killing people and destroying farmlands, but are not prosecuted by the Federal Government. This, they say amounts to playing double standard.
I think it has to do with his perception. It might be the situation in his area. In Enugu State, the issue of clashes between herders and farmers has always been settled. The other day, we agreed that when such incident comes up, compensations would be made, and depending on what happened, sanctions might be placed. That has brought some sanity. Security is everybody’s business, so if we have to resolve issues amicably without firing a gun, it means that we are improving security. Herdsmen that carry AK-47 here are disarmed immediately and prosecuted. There are several cases that have already been handled. I think the issue in that axis (Benue) has to do with the misunderstanding over the Anti-grazing Law.
In Enugu State where I reside, we don’t hear all these stories and in every community in the state, we still have Fulanis putting up there, and still having a robust relationship with local farmers.
I think Governor Ortom seems to be shouting too much about insecurity in the state. Take for instance, the recent killing of Terwase Akwaza, better known as Gana, which he earlier branded him as a criminal and even declared him wanted. After he made up his mind to accept amnesty, he had issues with soldiers in the process and was killed. The same governor still shouted that the man had surrendered. Such attitude does not make sense in security parlance. A criminal is a criminal. It is not enough to say all the time that all Fulani herdsmen go about with AK 47 because no commissioner of police can get them and not take them to court after a thorough investigation.
I think what we need to do is to galvanise our security network to apprehend those people that are flouting the law so that room is not given for the call for guns for everybody. Realities on the ground cannot give room for anybody to start bearing arms at the moment.
But many others think that recurrent attacks on Governor Zulum and others in the Northeast support the call for arms bearing by many Nigerians.
If security is anything to go by, what is special about the governor being on the road everyday bearing in mind the security situation in the country? If what we are seeing in the social media is anything to go by, why not synergise with, or get all-clear sign from security agencies before moving to far-flung places even as a governor?
If you are saying that everybody should be given arms, the security operatives that were gunned down by the bandits were they not armed? Thank God the life of the governor was spared. What we need is for the governor to sit down and articulate (without political bias) how best to network and put the issue of security on the front burner. But to achieve maximum result, political considerations must take the back seat.
Let me give you one instance. I have reservations about the Community Policing Committee that was set up in Enugu State to create a security architecture for the state. I particularly raised an observation about Nkanu East, where traditional rulers were killed in Nkerefi and somewhere near Nkanu West, and where Fulani herdsmen kidnapped people and ended up taking them from Ugbwka to Amurri. I said, if security concession should be given in that committee, at least one person from Nkanu East, be it the local government chairman, a police officer, or whatever should have been included as a member. Nkanu West has four representatives in that committee, but Nkanu East has none, even when pressure on security was more in Nkanu East than Nkanu West.
So, it is not about those close to the governor telling him what to do, it is about the situation on the ground. If somebody from Nkanu East is made a member of that committee, he will be able to articulate and present adequately, the situation in the area. This is unlike what happened when a directive from Abuja was handed down on how the committee should be set up. Such situations do not make sense if we are really out to contain insecurity in the state; it is not about giving everybody gun.
Of what use are gun control laws when the population of illegal gun bearers in the country keeps rising?
In security parlance, there is what we call mop-up operations. This is one way of controlling crime in the society. Such laws enable security agencies to mob up illegal weapons dumped, and used here and there by people. We have the Fire Arms Act. It is extant law in the country. Conditions guiding this act are very much there. The problem is that when people get into one political office, they don’t care about procedures for acquiring some of these weapons, especially this pump-action riffle. Before you know it, they have bulldozed their way to acquire these deadly weapons. Assuming that people are going through the normal process to acquire them, the police would make them go through processes that ascertain that potential arms bearers are of sound mind to possess firearm, not prohibited weapons, and this is subject to yearly renewals. So, it is the illegal possession of firearms, especially among politicians that is challenging this law, which I believe was made to regulate certain behaviours.
The United Nations said recently that of the 10 million weapons that come to Africa yearly, Nigeria is their major destination. Don’t you think this is worsening proliferation of light weapons in the country?
What do they mean by light weapons? I am telling you that even those who go for bank robbery don’t do so with AK-47. They go with bigger weapons and explosives. So, when you say arm everybody with light weapons, it cannot solve the matter. What we need in this country is intelligence-led security. I am passionately appealling to state governors to put in place solid security network devoid of politics.
They should endeavour to use their security votes to get information, which they can work with. In every state, there are a battery of state-owned security agencies that are ready to cooperate with the government in power. But they should allow them to do their work professionally as that would be in the interest of the state.
Let me add that the report from the UN may be exaggerated because, apart from what we hear now in the North East, no other part of the country is witnessing such onslaught, and the security agencies in this country are working. The only problem is that politicians have intervened in areas that they ought not to, thereby jeopardising the work of the security agencies. I do not subscribe to the figure being bandied and claims that Nigeria harbours the highest amount of illegal arms in these parts. I say this with every amount of responsibility.