BusinessDay

Insecurity: Zamfara’s desperate measure against banditry

These are desperate moments in Nigeria when people and even governments seem to be desperate in their thinking and actions. Such a moment played out recently in Zamfara State when a controversial pronouncement was made by the state governor, Mohammed Bello Matawalle.

Governor Matawalle was reported to have urged his subjects to get guns to defend themselves against rising attacks by bandits, thus putting himself in the news for the wrong reason.

To press home his resolve, the governor has directed the state Commissioner of Police, Ayuba Elkan, to issue licence to those willing and qualified to obtain guns to defend themselves as bandits have turned the state into a killing field with most homes in the state living in anguish.

Besides approving obtaining guns, the state government has also ordered for the recruitment of 200 additional Community Protection Guards in each of the 19 emirates of the state, to increase their manpower and strengthen its force and capacity to deal with the bandits.

We see the state courting anarchy. In all intents and purposes, the action smacks of failure of governance which Nigerians have been contending with over the years. It is a negative development that sees the government outsourcing its statutory responsibility of protecting lives and property to the people

To further ensure the efficiency and effectiveness of these measures, as well as their proper implementation, government has also formed special committees to receive intelligence and deal with the activities of informants.

It is pertinent to recall that the state government had also made efforts in the past at getting the bandits to drop their arms and embrace amnesty. The state restricted vehicular movements, shut down markets and also shut down telecommunications networks to frustrate the bandits’ communication.

We understand the precarious situation in Zamfara State where bandits and other non-state actors have turned the state into a theatre of war with blood-letting going on without let or hindrance and many families are now in almost perpetual mourning mode.

Some of these measures are commendable but the decision to license citizens to get guns to defend themselves is, in our view, a desperate measure that can only produce a desperate result, leading to a desperate situation that will do no one any good.

We see this latest government’s outing as a desperate measure that may backfire with unintended consequences such as breeding anarchy and creating more bandits, hence we align with Leo Irabor, the Chief of Defence Staff (CDS), in taking exception to that decision.

Ibrahim Dosara, the Zamfara State’s commissioner for information, explained that the state took the decision following the recent upsurge in insecurity in the state. We commend the state for taking action, but we see everything wrong with the type of action it has taken.

We see the state courting anarchy. In all intents and purposes, the action smacks of failure of governance which Nigerians have been contending with over the years. It is a negative development that sees the government outsourcing its statutory responsibility of protecting lives and property to the people.

It remains to be seen what the state government wants to achieve positively with this decision that could, if not reversed, consume more of the citizens than it will save. We wonder how many of the citizens of the state with a population of about 9.3million have the means to acquire guns.

It should however be put on record that the Zamfara narrative is beyond the state and it simply signposts imminent collapse of the Nigeria state unless something urgent is done to contain it.

Read also: Zamfara: Irabor faults Matawalle’s directive to citizens to bear arms

We join Femi Falana, a human rights lawyer and Senior Advocate of Nigeria, in calling for an urgent meeting of the Nigeria Police Council which is made up of the President, Inspector General of Police and the 36 governors to review the security situation in the country.

To a large extent, this development signposts a critical stage in the deteriorating security situation in Nigeria because whenever states and governments start throwing their hands in heaven and directing the very victims of failure of leadership to bear arms and resist terrorists and insurgents, who have reason to fight the state, then there is no better explanation of a failed state.

That is the situation in Zamfara and we call on all concerned to rise to the occasion. Perhaps, in our view, time has come for the federal government to listen to the clamour for state police which many believe could be an antidote to the failings in the chains and commands in the Nigeria Police.

If unavoidably Zamfara citizens, including farmers, go ahead with the government’s instruction to procure and bear arms, so be it. But we appeal that normal checks should be adopted to ensure that weapons do not end up in the hands of dangerous people. It could be counter-productive.

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