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Column No.6: Who is dragging Katsina into the Wild, Wild West?

When I read yesterday that Katsina State Governor, Dikko Umaru Radda, said individuals should be allowed to procure weapons such as AK-47s and RPGs to…

When I read yesterday that Katsina State Governor, Dikko Umaru Radda, said individuals should be allowed to procure weapons such as AK-47s and RPGs to protect themselves, because bandits freely buy them, I felt a number of ways. While I was busy getting outraged, I read on, as he absolved governors of blame for security challenges bedevilling their states. To be honest, I thought there would be a twist at the end, where he would make sense, and possibly offer a solution to the ever-present problem of banditry, especially in Northern Nigerian states. I was wrong. All it was, alas, was an exercise in epic buck-passing that only Nigerian politicians can pull off. But it wasn’t all a mess, as Radda, at a ‘media chat’ in Abuja reported by newspapers, stressed that his administration would not leave any stone unturned in ensuring they were crushed. Now, I want to remind His Excellency of a few things.

Still from the media chat reports, Governor Radda’s tough guy stance fell flat after he countered himself with the following: “I will not go begging bandits to come for negotiations. Let us deal with the situation. If they are weak, let them come out, let us negotiate and we will reintegrate them back into society. They are our people, our brothers, but we cannot protect a criminal.” Frankly, it comes across as confusing, and not well-thought-out. I love Katina, and the people of Katsina, so it would be delightful if a well-rounded approach that does not confuse citizens with constitution-defying braggadocio is reached.

In Nigeria, the question of whether citizens should bear arms is a contentious one, and it’s important to critically examine the implications of widespread firearm ownership. While the right to self-defence is arguably fundamental, allowing citizens to bear arms may lead to more harm than good. The most immediate concern surrounding civilian gun ownership is the risk of escalation in violence. We’re already grappling with numerous security challenges, such as insurgency, banditry, and ethnic tensions. Allowing widespread gun ownership among citizens could exacerbate these problems. The easy access to firearms increases the likelihood of confrontations and gun-related disputes, potentially leading to more fatalities.

Our country, mind you, already faces the challenge of illegal arms proliferation. Allowing citizens to bear arms could inadvertently contribute to the illegal arms trade, as weapons could end up in the hands of criminals or insurgents. This could further destabilize the country and compromise national security. An armed citizenry can foster a culture of vigilante justice and mob violence. In the absence of proper checks and balances, individuals might take the law into their own hands, potentially leading to wrongful accusations, extrajudicial killings, and a breakdown of the rule of law.

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Increased civilian gun ownership also raises concerns about the risk of accidental injuries and suicides. In households with firearms, the likelihood of accidental shootings, especially involving children, can be substantially higher. Access to firearms may provide individuals contemplating suicide with an easier means to carry out their intentions. The presence of firearms in households can have psychological and ethical implications. It may lead to increased fear and paranoia among individuals, affecting their mental well-being. Additionally, the ethical burden of using lethal force in self-defence situations can lead to moral dilemmas and long-term psychological consequences.

While the right to self-defence is important, widespread civilian gun ownership in Nigeria carries significant risks and challenges. Escalation of violence, lack of proper training, illegal arms trade, overburdened law enforcement, vigilantism, accidental injuries, and ethical concerns all raise serious doubts about the wisdom of allowing Nigerian citizens to bear arms. Instead, it is imperative to focus on strengthening law enforcement, implementing sensible gun control, promoting community policing, and investing in alternative methods to enhance security and promote peace in the nation.

Let us also not forget that Nigerian law has strict regulations regarding civilian firearm ownership and possession. To the best of my memory, the primary legal framework governing firearms in Nigeria is the Firearms Act, Chapter F28, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria 2004. This act regulates the acquisition, possession, and use of firearms in the country, with some key provisions and regulations regarding civilian ownership. It prohibits the possession of automatic firearms, such as machine guns, submachine guns, and any weapon of a similar description. Anyone wishing to own or possess a firearm in Nigeria must obtain a license from the Inspector-General of Police, and they are typically granted for personal protection, sports shooting, hunting, and specific professional or occupational purposes. Not citizens wanting to stave off ‘bandits’.

Maybe what Governor Radda should consider is the following: Supporting and strengthening law enforcement by investing in better training, resources, and personnel for law enforcement agencies can help maintain security more effectively. There’s also community policing, thereby encouraging community involvement, which can foster trust and cooperation between citizens and law enforcement. Also, implementing strict regulations on firearm ownership can reduce the risks associated with civilian gun ownership. Our leaders should please do well by seeking wholesome solutions to our problems, without resorting to quick fixes that could end up worsening our already dire situation, and dragging Katina State literally into the figurative Wild, Wild West.

 

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