You don’t have such powers, Irabor faults Matawalle on arms bearing

• I can’t issue gun licenses to Zamfara residents, CP says
• Lawyers, Northern group kick against governor’s call
• Catholic Communicators, Southern, Middle belt leaders decry worsening insecurity, church attacks
• Over 20,000 flee Katsina communities over insecurity
• Aareonakakanfo backs Matawalle’s directives, urges other governors to follow suit

Again, the thorny issue of federalism was put to test after Sunday’s call by the governor of Zamfara State, Bello Matawalle, urging residents to bear arms to defend themselves against marauding bandits and terrorists.

The Chief of Defence Staff, General Lucky Irabor, yesterday, stated that the Zamfara governor lacked the powers to instruct the Commissioner of Police of the state to issue gun licences to the public.

In an interview at the Joint Exercise for the National Defence College and War Colleges of the Armed Forces of Nigeria, code-named ‘Exercise Grand Nationale,’ in Abuja, Irabor expressed his disapproval at the measures taken by Matawalle to secure his state against insurgency.

“I do not think that is the right way to go. I do not think that the governor has the power to instruct the Commissioner of Police to issue licences because the Commissioner of Police does not have the right to issue licences,” he said firmly.

“The basis for asking citizens to bear arms, I am yet to know. I believe that the Attorney General of the Federation will look at the Constitution, what the laws say and what the powers of the governor are to be able to do this.

“There are other legal issues of governance that the governor could have addressed using the instrumentalities of the law available to bring greater peace and security.”

Irabor also clarified the position of the Armed Forces in the current administration, adding that it is not subject to directives from state governments.

“The armed forces are only an instrument of policy implementation. We do not take instructions from state governments, we have a Commander-in-Chief, and the Constitution gives the right and powers to the Commander-in-Chief. So, we are there to give support to the civil authority, in this case, the police,” he said.

ZAMFARA State Commissioner of Police, Ayuba Elkana, has said he cannot issue gun licences to residents of the state, adding that the embargo on firearms is still in force and the police have stopped issuing licences to citizens who wish to own guns.

“I have not received any directives, and also, there is a ban on firearms licence, and we don’t give licence. I am yet to receive any directive. Let me see the directive first before I can comment. I have not seen the directive, so I cannot comment on compliance.”

The CP also said the government’s call on residents to bear arms for self-defence was a no-confidence vote on the police.

“There is nothing like a vote of no confidence, please. This is a farming season, and you cannot get police or any security to be following everybody to the farm.

“They are attacking people on the farm; that is the problem. It is not as if we are not doing our job; we are doing our best. Of recent, we rescued many people (from bandits),” Elkana said.

While encouraging residents to apply for licences, especially farmers, Zamfara is planning to start with 500 gun licences in each of the state’s 19 emirates, which will mean nearly 10,000 guns in private hands.

Zamfara is following after Katsina State which had earlier reported the policy of increasing private gun ownership as a response to insecurity due to banditry. Katsina governor, Bello Masari, had in December last year, said it is Islamically allowed for one to defend himself against attacks.

“One must rise to defend himself, his family and assets. If you die while trying to defend yourself, you will be considered a martyr. It is surprising how a bandit would own a gun while a good man trying to defend himself and his family don’t have one.”

THE leadership of Concerned Northern Forum (CNF), however, has kicked against Mattawalle’s call, urging the governor to re-examine his position on arms. The forum argued that arms-bearing is an economic tool in the hands of citizens against others, and allowing such may lead to more abuses.

While commending Zamfara governor’s effort to stem the tide of insecurity sweeping his state, the forum appealed to the Federal Government to deploy more security personnel to the troubled state and empower local vigilante groups with the expectation that such measure will help in local intelligence gathering.

In a statement by the spokesman of the group, Comrade Abdulsalam Moh’d Kazeem, said: “We are not against self-defence but we can’t support the decision directing civilians to bear arm themselves, because we are all witness to the failure of developed countries with accurate data to stop the consequences of gun violence.

“Though we are aware that the governor is only trying to score a cheap political point, we appeal to him to face governance squarely with all sincerity of purpose and accept responsibility, at any rate, the era of chasing shadows is over. By the way, he does not even have the right in the first place to direct the state CP to give interested citizens licence because the police is a federal agent and they are not answerable to him under Section 214 of the 1999 Constitution.”

HOWEVER, the highest decision-making organ of the Aare Onakakanfo of Yoruba land, the Aare Onakakanfo-in-Council, yesterday, supported the move by Matawale, directing citizens of the state to obtain guns to defend themselves against bandits.

Rising from its quarterly meeting, held at the Aare Onakakanfo’s palace in Lagos, the Council, in a statement signed by the Gbonka Aare-Onakakanfo of Yorubaland, Gboyega Adejumo, urged other governors in the Southwest to take a cue from the new development.

The Yoruba traditional chiefs stated further that the Southwest can no longer tolerate the activities of terrorists masquerading as bandits and kidnappers killing innocent people at will.

“Zamfara governor has literally opened the eyes of other governors across the country. Taking up arms in self-defence is a global practice that should be encouraged, once it is backed by the law for it to serve its purposes. It indicates the breakdown of the security architecture in Nigeria.

“There’s nothing bad if citizens take up arms to defend themselves. That is a normal practice all over the world. We have been raising our voices on the need for Nigerians to secure themselves with whatever they have.”
LEADERS from the South-South and Middle Belt Forum (SMBLF) have decried the worsening state of insecurity across the country, including kidnappings and growing attacks on churches.

Arising from an emergency security meeting in Abuja, the leaders led by Chief Ayo Adebanjo (Afenifere-South West), Dr. Pogu Bitrus (Middle Belt), Senator Emmanuel Ibok Essien (PANDEF-South-South) and Ambassador Okey Emuchay (Ohanaeze Ndigbo-South East), said insecurity in the country is worsening by the day, with devastating impacts on the welfare and livelihood of ordinary Nigerians.

In a similar vein, the Catholic Communicators in Nigeria under the auspices of SIGNIS, have condemned the incessant killings of priests and other innocent Nigerians by bandits, kidnappers and terrorists.

They said the increased attacks on Catholic churches in recent times, which have led to the loss of many lives, including that of priests, could spiral into an orgy of violence that may have grave consequences on the peace and unity of the country.

In a release signed by the President of the Association, Very Rev. Fr. Patrick Alumuku, and the General Secretary, Mr. Tony Agbugba, yesterday, the group noted that the time has come for all Nigerians irrespective of their religious inclination to be more security conscious.

They particularly implored all churches and mosques to put in place stringent security measures that would enable them to defend the clergy, the worshippers and the facilities henceforth.

Two parish priests and three others were kidnapped in the rectory of St. Patrick’s Catholic Church, Gidan Maikambo, in Katsina State’s Kafur Local Government Area (LGA), on May 25, 2022, have been released.

Rev. Fr Christopher Omotosho, Director of Social Communications for the Catholic Diocese of Sokoto, confirmed the development in a statement issued yesterday. The statement listed those released to include Fr. Stephen Ojapa, Fr. Oliver Okpara, Mr Hassan Hassan, and Ms Ummie Hassan.

This is as gunmen killed two other Catholic priests in Kaduna and Edo states on Saturday and Sunday. On Sunday, Christopher Odia, the administrator of St. Michael Catholic Church in Ikabigbo, Etsako West LGA, and the Principal of St. Philip Catholic Secondary School in Jattu, Edo State, was kidnapped and later killed by terrorists.

More than 20,000 people have so far fled their communities in Jibia Local Council of Katsina following a spate of attacks by terrorists. Of the number, over 15,000 of them are currently staying at the Government Girls Secondary School, Jibia, which was converted to a temporal Internally Displaced Persons (IDP) camp. The rest, it was learnt, have relocated to neighbouring Niger Republic.

Speaking with newsmen yesterday in Jibia, the chairman of the IDP camp, Sada Salisu, identified communities where they fled from to include, Farfaru, Zango, Garin Maiwuya, Shinfida, Kwari, Gurbin Magarya, Sambe Tsauni, Tsamben Kolimbo, among others.

Salisu said some of the IDPs were on their farms and children had gone to school when terrorists attacked their communities, and that some of the children at the IDP still wore their school uniforms to date.

He said that many of the IDPs had stayed at the camp for more than 100 days and that so far, the camp has recorded 15 deaths and 35 births.

He, however, said that the IDPs were concerned about when they would go back to their villages to till their farmlands as the wet season had since commenced.

LAWYERS have, however, disagreed over the call for citizens to bear arms. According to Dr. Abdulfatai Sambo, an associate Professor of Law, Faculty of Law, University of Ilorin, by Section 14(2)(b) of the Constitution, the security and welfare of the people shall be the primary purpose of government. Relinquishing the responsibility to individual citizens is the failure of the government.

He said: “By section 130(2),215(2&3), items 17 & 45 of the Exclusive Legislative List, section 3 Firearms Act, the governor does not have much control in terms of security and any control in terms of possession of firearms. The President has to grant a licence for possession of firearms.

“Nevertheless, the governor’s directive can be said to be mere advice for the qualified people of Zamfara to apply for licences to bear arms. The discretion lies in the President, whether or not to grant such licences.”

An Abuja-based lawyer, Godwin Ogboji, said the call to arm citizens is an admission to the complete and total failure of the government to protect its citizens that have voluntarily surrendered their security to the government.

“The call, without any corresponding guidelines to the regulation of the use of these arms is a call to anarchy and chaos in the society. More so, there is a range of guns that the police can legally licence and these types of guns are no match to the sophisticated weapons used by bandits and terrorists causing mayhem in Nigeria with the poverty level in Nigeria, how many law-abiding people can afford a gun when the cost of guns range from N500,000 and above?”

Aondo Jerry said the position of the law is explicit under Section 3 of the Firearms Act, which prohibits anyone to be in possession or control of arms and dangerous weapons.

He said: “I totally disagree with the position of the Zamfara government and advice further that it is in conflict with the law and even with the President’s directives to gun down on sight whoever is in possession of dangerous weapons. If allowed as suggested, it will cause a state of confusion ahead of the 2023 general election with the proliferation of weapons ongoing in the country.

Another Abuja-based lawyer, Joseph Ekwe, noted that self-defence is contemplated by Section 33(2)(a) of the Constitution. “Section 33 (1) provides thus: ‘Every person has the right to life, and no one shall be deprived intentionally of his life, save in execution of the sentence of a court in respect of a criminal offence of which he has been found guilty in Nigeria.

“Right to life of every person is highly sacrosanct except where the person takes another person’s life or has been convicted of a criminal offence by a competent court.

“Section 33 (2)(a) applies to security agencies and indeed every person under our law. The subsection has given us the right to self-defence in the face of annihilating danger. The subsection did not give only the right to self-defence but also the right to defend our property and has by so doing elevated the status of our property to equate with that of one’s life.

“If the law recognises the importance of property in such a manner as one would reasonably kill in defence of his property against a danger then, one can even do more than killing in defence of his own life from any danger using the proportionate force or force equal to the danger facing his life at that moment. The call by Zamfara governor is timely so that we stop dying like cowards in the hands of unlawful killers.”

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