PLATEAU KILLINGS: Groups slam COAS on why Nigerians can’t bear arms
January 2, 2024
- By Dapo Akinrefon, Peter Duru, Chioma Onuegbu, Luminous Jannamike & Ibrahim Hassan-Wuyo, LAGOS
The Middle Belt Forum, MBF, Yoruba socio-political organisation, Afenifere, and Jama’atu Nasril Islam, JNI, were yesterday up in arms against the Chief of Army Staff, Lt. General Taoreed Lagbaja, over the latter’s declaration that Nigerians cannot be allowed to bear arms to defend themselves in the face of attack by marauders.
The Army chief’s stance came against the backdrop of calls by groups and individuals across the country that Nigerians be allowed to carry arms to defend themselves against militias, terrorists, bandits and kidnappers, among others, especially given the Christmas Eve attacks on communities in Bokkos and Mangu local government areas of Plateau State.
The coordinated attacks led to the death of over 200 persons and the destruction of hundreds of properties.
But the Christian Association of Nigeria, CAN, agreed with Lt General Lagbaja, saying allowing the people to bear arms to defend themselves against attacks might lead to anarchy.
Speaking on Channels Television’s end-of-the-year programme, ‘’2023: Year of Transition,’’ late Sunday night, Lagbaja had dismissed calls for self-defence, stressing it could lead to anarchy.
It’s call to anarchy — COAS
“I do not support that (self-defence). I think that is a call to anarchy,” Lagbaja said
According to him, the Nigerian Army can defend the country and as such, there is no need for self-defence.
He also said as part of efforts to bolster security in Plateau, more troops were being deployed to the area.
The Army chief said: “I have reeled out our plans for 2024 for Plateau State. The troops that we are deploying to Plateau, are on their way to Plateau now.
“This night or first thing tomorrow, they should be on the Plateau. We are sending more equipment to enhance efficiency of the troops.”
It will be recalled that over 50 villages were attacked in the two local government areas, with President Bola Tinubu calling for a thorough probe.
The assaults have also drawn global criticism, as the UN asked the Federal Government to do a thorough probe into the attacks and bring the perpetrators to justice.
“I call on the Nigerian authorities to investigate this incident promptly, thoroughly, and independently, consistent with international human rights law, and to hold those responsible to account in fair trials.
“The cycle of impunity fuelling recurrent violence must be urgently broken. The government should also take meaningful steps to address the underlying root causes and to ensure non-recurrence of this devastating violence,’’ UN rights chief, Volker Turk, had said in a statement.
Countering the army chief in a reaction yesterday, the Middle Belt Forum, MBF, said the army’s position will not be in the overall interest of the people.
The MBF insisted that any order restraining Nigerians from carrying some form of arms to defend themselves, while marauders move about with sophisticated weapons with which they kill Nigerians with impunity, will amount to a conspiracy against the people.
COAS must rethink his stand — MBF
The National President of the MBF, Dr. Bitrus Pogu, asked the Army chief to rethink his position, especially as security agencies have not been able to adequately protect the people from marauders.
He said: “I completely disagree because the security agencies are not adequately protecting Nigerians who are being killed like chicken. Before now, Nigerians are allowed to carry some categories of arms which are not of military grade.
“If they have such arms, at least they can protect themselves. But when you have people in the bushes with sophisticated weapons whose location is known and yet are left there, and they want Nigerians to stay as chickens to be killed by these criminals, it means there is collusion to have Nigerians killed.
“Nigerians should be allowed to carry at least some arms to defend themselves. Before now, we had some categories of arms, shotguns and so on, which were allowed.
“This should be allowed and should remain allowed. Anything short of that means there is a conspiracy against Nigerians.
“Whoever made that statement should go and have a rethink. Already, there are categories of arms allowed for Nigerians and it should not be stopped. Nigerians should have higher grade arms to defend themselves because it has been proven that security agencies have not been able to protect them.”
Nigerians have right to defend themselves —Afenifere
Reacting to the Chief of Army Staff’s position, National Publicity Secretary of Afenifere, Mogaji Gboyega Adejumo, said there is a need to overhaul the security architecture of Nigeria.
Adejumo said: “We are ripe enough for every aspect of our security architecture to go through an overhaul. The overhaul which we are talking about should be done according to best practices all over the world.
“Security is taken to be the number one prerequisite for peace, for progress, for wealth and development. Without security, you cannot talk about the development of any country because you are killing the people and killing the business.
“With development comes security; if we look at it, Nigeria is blessed with resources but why have we been unable to grow?
“A deep insight will reveal that it is because of lack of security, it is simply because we have not managed our security.
“It is only when people are secure that they will want to engage in commerce and have confidence in investing. The fact that many people are divesting from Nigeria stems from insecurity.
“In best practices around the world, people are allowed to defend their security situation.
Everybody has the inalienable right to defend their lives and property which is enshrined in the United Nations charter.
“The bottom line is that we do not agree with the Chief of Army Staff. Afenifere’s position is that everybody should be able to bear arms to defend themselves because it is going to be a balance of terror.
“If someone knows I am capable of defending myself, he will think twice before attacking me but if he sees me as defenceless, he will attack me. So, we do not agree with him.”
If the Army can’t defend people, should they allow themselves get killed? — JNI
On its part, Kaduna State chapter of Jama’atu Nasril Islam, JNI, said yesterday that though it is not encouraging people to carry arms, they had no choice but to do so, since the Army and other security agencies have failed to secure their lives and property.
Secretary of the group, Ibrahim Kufena, said: “If the security agencies and the military cannot defend the citizens, and the citizens have the means of protecting themselves, should they allow themselves to be killed?”
“ We are not saying we should take up arms, but where the people are being killed and there is no end in sight, should the people allow the killers to continue killing them?
People can defend themselves where govt fails to defend them — PANDEF
In its reaction, the Pan Niger Delta Forum, PANDEF, advised security agencies and both federal and state governments to live up to the expectations of the citizens by ensuring their protection, arguing that people can defend themselves where the government failed to defend them.
PANDEF spokesperson, Mr Ken Robinson, who spoke in reaction to the Chief of Army Staff’s declaration, said: “The truth of the matter is that the primary responsibility of government is the security and welfare of the citizens, and anytime it appears the state is failing to protect the lives and property of the citizens, the option that may be left to the citizens is self-defence.
“We (Nigerians) are beginning to toe that path, given the number of vigilante groups that have been set up by various state governments, such as Amotekun in South-West states.
“Here in the South-South, PANDEF also did a blueprint on regional security presented to the governors since November 2020. There are other groups as those in the North-West and North-East.
“We are going towards the direction where citizens will be forced to defend themselves by securing arms for self-defence.
“So if the Chief of Army Staff is saying that if citizens begin to bear arms to defend themselves will lead to anarchy, then the government should wake up and live up to expectations and ensure that citizens are protected.
“What is going on in Plateau State, and other places such as Zamfara and parts of Kaduna is unacceptable and it must stop. The security agencies and federal and state governments must redouble their efforts to ensure that lives and property of citizens are adequately protected, so we can sleep with our two eyes closed. Otherwise, the last resort would be that the citizens will have to defend themselves”
The PANDEF spokesperson, who advocated massive recruitment, even of more personnel into the Police, however, kicked against recruitment of repentant Boko Haram members.
“We understand now that some Boko Haram repentants are being recruited into the Army, that is a terrible mistake that the government is making.
“We have said it before that recruiting repentant Boko Haram members into the Nigerian Army is completely unacceptable,’’ the PANDEF spokesman said.
Allowing Nigerians to bear firearms, recipe for disaster – CAN
However, the Christian Association of Nigeria, CAN, agreed with the army chief, saying allowing the people to defend themselves would be a recipe for disaster
Secretary of the north-central zone of CAN, Pastor Simon Dolly, said: “As religious leaders, it is our firm belief that the bearing of arms without proper license or the authority to do so, regardless of the circumstances, is a violation of the law and can potentially lead to further breakdown of order and security within our nation.
“It is our duty as faith leaders to advocate lawful and peaceful means of conflict resolution. Instead of promoting the proliferation of arms, we emphasize the importance of prayer for peace in our nation and urge our followers to support the government in carrying out its primary responsibility of protecting the lives and property of all citizens.
“We also stress the values of tolerance, brotherliness, unity, forgiveness, and cooperation in our teachings and interactions with our followers, as these are essential for fostering a harmonious and secure society.”
Recognizing the complexities surrounding the issue of firearms in Nigeria, Pastor Simon Dolly called for a comprehensive approach that addressed the root causes of insecurity.
“We call upon our leaders to prioritize initiatives that promote dialogue, understanding, and the equitable distribution of resources to address the grievances that often lead to violence and conflict,” he added