Until Wednesday, March 2, 2021 when President Muhammadu Buhari gave a shoot-on-sight order on anyone seen illegally carrying about AK-47 in the country, the current administration had been seen to be bias in matters relating to who should or should not carry fire arms.
In recent times, attempts by Governor Rotimi Akeredolu of Ondo State and Sunday Igboho, an activist, to flush out herdsmen that had been proven dangerous to the people of Ondo and Oyo States, respectively, received the Presidency’s angry frown.
But on the strength of the President’s shoot-on-sight directive, Governor Willie Obiano of Anambra State has declared that any herdsman found carrying gun(s) in the state would be treated as a criminal.
Recently, a middle-aged business mogul was arrested for shooting his pump action rifle during his house warming celebration at one of the big estates in Amuwo Odofin Lagos.
The business mogul, who imports sanitary wares, was carried away in a double celebration of a new house and recovery from coronavirus, which he contracted last year.
Though he was released after four hours in detention and after verification of the license of the gun, many, especially friends and guests of the celebrant were sad that security agencies have failed to accost millions with illegal guns across the country.
The worst for them is the Federal Government’s double-standard in prosecuting the illegal wielders of guns, a sad situation, which has resulted in many firearms in dangerous hands in recent times.
Today, wielding an Ak-47 rifle by herdsmen, bandits and kidnappers is commonplace, while Boko Haram is claimed to carry more sophisticated arms than the Nigerian Army.
Moreover, several ranges of other guns and locally-made rifles are just for asking by whoever needs them, while further putting Nigeria in a precarious security situation.
Blaming the escalating security challenge on Nigeria’s double-standard in the fight against terrorism and violence, Junedi Amachree, a retired security personnel, lamented that the kind and seriousness of military onslaughts in tackling security challenges in the southern part of the country are never same in the northern part.
“If the way security challenges were tackled by the Nigerian Army in Odi, Bayelsa State, in Ogoni, Rivers State, in the IPOB saga in South East and most recently, the killings in Obigbo in Rivers State, was also the same way it is being tackled in the north, the bandits would have been all dead by now. Why is the army weak when it concerns the north? he asked.
Amachree is worried that the Federal Government would not stop illegal gold miners in Zamfara State, who they accused of flying in arms for bandits, but would quickly fly the Airforce jets to Niger Delta, as if gold in Zamfara is not part of Nigeria’s commonwealth.
“It is wrong to stop illegal refineries and oil bunkering in Niger Delta, while bandits mine Nigeria’s gold in Zamfara unchallenged,” he said.
Of course, some brave governors, especially those from the middle belt region, where most of the killings by killer herdsmen frequently occur, are decrying the Federal Government’s double-standard in addressing insecurity in the country.
Darius Ishaku, governor of Taraba State, who has severally accused the Abuja of bias in the handling of security challenges in the country, has maintained that his people need arms to protect themselves as the Federal Government and its security operatives can no longer guarantee their safety.
“If we cannot be able to provide security for our citizens, then allow all the citizens to buy AK-47, because if everybody is licensed with AK-47, I swear, nobody will come to your house, and peradventure he does, then it depends on who is faster.
“In a situation where we are all gagged with one security system that has been unable to work and we are told to sit down and be counting the day our turn will come, I do not agree with it,” Ishaku emphatically said.
The Taraba State governor is not alone in this demand. Samuel Ortom, governor of Benue State, also toed the same path recently, when he bluntly accused President Buhari of bias towards his Fulani tribesmen, reminding him that he is the President of Nigeria not the President of the Fulani tribe where he hails from.
Wondering aloud, the Benue governor asked, “Why is the Federal Government being silent about these Fulani herdsmen? When will the Federal Government come out and criticise and arrest herdsmen carrying AK-47? When are they going to do that? Are we second (-class) citizens in this country? Why, (is) the Fulani man superior to a Tiv man? I am not their slave; a Benue man is not a slave to any Fulani man in this country.”
Insisting on justice, equity and fairness, the governors said that, “Whatever is happening to a Fulani man should also happen to a Tiv man. That was why I called the Federal Government to license me and many others to have guns, to have AK-47 too. Because, if I have my AK-47 and a Fulani man is coming there, he knows that I have and he has, then we can fight each other”.
Ortom reminded President Buhari that: “You are the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, you are not the President of Fulani. You are the President of everybody and I owe you a duty as a stakeholder in this nation to let you know that what is going on is wrong and this has the potential of dividing this country, which will not be in the interest of anyone – some of us believe in the unity of this country.”
Imotemi Kuye, an alumnus of the National Institute for Policy and Strategic Studies, Kuru, and security expert, explained that the crux of the issue and reason many are crying foul is the disarming of some people and justifying the arming of others, who ordinarily should not near gun.
“Governor Ortom was right when he cried out that the failure in security is caused by the Federal Government and that Abuja is biased. It is truly unfair to disarm his people and allow visitors in his state to carry arms, which will end up killing his people”, Kuye said.
Shehu Garba, spokesperson of the President, has severally pushed theories to absolve the Federal Government of the blame, but his efforts keep meeting hard rock as many concerned Nigerians keep wondering why Abuja would ban some groups that are not violent in nature, while leaving out some others that had been rated globally as the most dangerous group in the world. They also wondered like Governor Ortom, why no arrest has been made of the herdsmen that carry out the heinous activities across the country, including giving people slow deaths.
Considering the recent declaration of Zamfara State as no-flight zone, some public analysts noted that there would have been no need for the no-flight zone if the Federal Government had listened to the outcry of people some years ago that bandits and herdsmen were being supplied arms by helicopters and jets in remote areas.
But some aviation experts think that the Federal Government can apprehend the arm suppliers, cut their supplies and curb violence if it is serious about it.
According to Nosa Ige, a retired commercial pilot, who now does private chartered flights, every helicopter or private jet in Nigeria is registered and the movement can be tracked. “The jets claimed to be used to drop the arms for the bandits and herdsmen can be tracked, the pilot and passengers apprehended if the Federal Government is serious about it. All we need do is to get the civil aviation authority to get the detail for their prosecution”, he said.
So far, the government’s double-standard in fighting insecurity, as in many other policies of government, is coming at a huge cost, with many lives and properties top among the losses.
The worst still is that Nigeria is about facing the worst food crisis in the country as farmers no longer go to farm because of the fear of being kidnapped or being forced to make payments to gain access to their farmlands.
All these have impacted negatively on Nigeria’s image globally, yet the Federal Government is still pretending that arms drop from heaven for bandits and that some people should be allowed to carry arms while others wait for the same arms to kill them. It is unfair, as governor Ortom once decried.
Governor Ortom however, was beside himself with joy after the President’s shoot-on-sight directive, saying: “The order would also make the communities safer for displaced farmers to return to their ancestral homes.”
He said: “I wish to commend Mr. President for his recent order against those bearing AK-47 rifles. This, I am sure, will reduce the high rate of criminality, banditry and militia herdsmen attacks on our farming communities,”
He noted that President Buhari had done the right thing by listening to the calls he and other concerned Nigerians made on the need for the Federal Government to act faster and decisively to save the country from degenerating into a state of anarchy.
“I don’t only criticise, I also commend where necessary. And I want to say shame on those sycophants who were bashing me for writing to Mr. President because he has finally heeded my advice,” he added.
The governor noted that Nigeria belonged to all its citizens and only justice and equity anchored on the rule of law could guarantee the unity and stability of the country.