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Arming the law abiding

According to the NSA prevailing security challenges have necessitated the deployment of military personnel in twenty-eight states of the federation carrying out duties they were…

According to the NSA prevailing security challenges have necessitated the deployment of military personnel in twenty-eight states of the federation carrying out duties they were not trained for. This he says is affecting the level of professionalism of the military and also bringing them into unnecessary conflict with the civilian population.

Although mobilizing the military isn’t a permanent solution to today’s security challenges the current situation where our policemen are out-numbered, out-gunned, and out-strategized is unacceptable. Stories of sheer barbarism, terror and unspeakable horrors perpetrated upon Nigerians by armed marauders are too numerous to relate. The situation has deteriorated to the extent that it’s now commonplace for political office holders and affluent businessmen to rent the services of armed police to escort them everywhere and stand watch over their homes while they sleep. Even as the ordinary citizen is left to the mercy of armed marauders certain individuals have up to four policemen assigned to their personal protection.
The knowledge that the general public isn’t in any way armed for protection has emboldened criminals to the extent that nowadays it’s normal for Bank and highway robbers to spend hours carrying out their operations. They act in a leisurely manner with absolutely no fear of reprisals from the general public. It’s become evident that despite all assurances to the contrary our security forces are incapable of guaranteeing the safety of responsible law abiding citizens. Responsible law abiding Nigerians are now living in fear because they can’t protect their right to life and personal liberty for themselves and their families whether in their homes or going about their lawful business. While Boko Harem slaughter and communal killings are taking centre stage, the onslaught of murderous bank and home robberies, killing of policemen, kidnappings and brazen highway robberies continues unabated. The United States of America whose constitution we try to imitate found itself in a somewhat similar situation of descending into anarchy early in its national life.
Their solution was to amend the constitution and uphold the rights of law abiding citizens by stating unequivocally that “a man is entitled to bear firearms in protection of his liberty, his family, and his property”. In Nigeria where terrorism and violent crimes are on the upsurge and no such constitutional right exists, the slide into anarchy continues inexorably. Despite our natural aversion to liberalization of gun controls it’s quite clear that a situation where innocent victims have to stand by and watch while their families, neighbours and security operatives are being murdered can’t be allowed to continue. Government must take urgent action before law abiding citizens’ resort to bearing illegal firearms in self defence.  
The type of weapon criminal’s use has graduated from the machetes, locally made handguns, and factory manufactured pistols of the past to military assault weapons, high explosives and electronic devices. The recent revelation that AK-47 rifles are being sold openly in our northern border towns once again brings into focus the activities of arms smugglers. This open display of military grade weapons which according to reports are being sold for as little as ten thousand naira each highlights the imperative for Nigerian authorities to reconsider arming the law abiding. The truth is that the liberalization of gun control laws is becoming imperative.
Militants and criminals have access to sophisticated weapons which are used to terrorize responsible law abiding citizens who are only permitted to own double or single barrelled shotguns for hunting purposes. The origins of the weapons in the hands of criminal elements should give cause for concern. Reports of munitions missing from police and military armouries as well as arms shipments being detected at the Ports or land borders are commonplace. It’s time the Nigeria Customs Service, State Security Service, police and armed forces wake up to their responsibilities and put a halt to the massive flow of illegal weapons into the country. Available statistics reveal that the defence forces, law enforcement agencies and law abiding members of the public own less than a third of the numbers of weapons currently in the country. The quantity of military grade semi and fully automatic weapons in the possession of criminal elements is such that the balance of security has tilted dangerously in favour of criminals against the law abiding citizens. In his “glory days” when freeing Ghana from incessant military interventions and wiping out the class of corrupt political leaders who were holding his country back Gerry Rawlings said “if we want true democracy we must first democratize the means of violence”. This means that everyone should be trained to handle a firearm and all responsible people should be allowed to posses one for self-defence.
This also means that no one should ever feel that merely possessing a gun gives them the upper-hand to terrorize other citizens. Cynics mistakenly believe that liberalizing gun control laws would lead to a situation where even the smallest disagreements would be settled by gunfire. This isn’t true. Firstly because only the Inspector General of Police would be entitled to issue a permit to responsible persons, secondly the internet is awash with videos of armed Nigerian policemen fighting in public without discharging their weapons.  Supporters of gun law liberalization claim with some justification that the knowledge residents are armed will deter criminals from invading an area. The original guns which American citizens owned were variously nicknamed the “peacemaker” or “equalizer” and for good reason. The Edo State government armed the Okpella Vigilante Group and daytime robbery on that section of highway ceased. If the Zamfara State Government’s decision to arm vigilante groups is to be faulted, it’s only because arming responsible law abiding citizens would have been a better option. Leadership at all levels must act fast to halt our downslide into anarchy. The balance of terror must be restored in favour of law abiding citizens.