Adamu Muhammad Hamid PhD
Gov. Matawalle’s open and categorical declaration on the seeming failure of government security instruments and his call for citizens in his state to rise up in arms to defend themselves against violent non-state actors has recently engendered a rancorous controversy. Matawalle invoked the provisions of Section 33(2)(a-c) of Nigeria’s Constitution for the declaration. The Governor’s position on this matter was the clearest among all other governors who made similar proclamations in the past. For example, Gov. Masari of Katsina state and Ortom of Benue state made somewhat similar calls six months earlier.
Governor Matawalle’s stance was borne out of clear frustration over the recent deteriorating security situation in his state and other states in Northwest Nigeria. He has succeeded in breaking the jinx in government officials making it a shrewd strategy to conceal the truth and keep it away from the common man against reaping a bad image as a result. Whenever the government has failed or is wrong, public officials always pretend as though everything was okay, or employ “We’re in control” false enigma. This pretence only exacerbates bad situations and betrays officials’ ignorance of how systems work. To accept and declare the correct diagnosis of a disease is half the treatment! Matawalle’s bluntness is quite admirable. Under Section 14(2) of the 1999 Constitution of Nigeria, it has been provided that the primary responsibility of government is the provision of security of life and property and welfare for citizens. Because the governor tried his best but having as well observed that the current realities in his state cannot keep up to the Constitutional expectation; he damned the consequences of public criticism and went on air to ask citizens to wake up from any illusion that government security structure could protect them, and rise up to legitimately acquire arms to protect themselves. For rational thinking, this is a mark of sincerity and honesty to get down to the brass tags and strike the nail on the head and avoid deceiving his people while they lose their lives every day.
Other governors like el Rufa’i have been vociferous about the precarious security situation in the Northwest zone but only stopped at diagnosing the problem without proffering a solution. For example, the el-Rufa’i made it clear that some highly placed government officials whose responsibility it is to act, chose to look away. He did well by telling the public that in some instances security agencies were privy to intelligence reports on potential attacks, as in the case of the Kaduna-Abuja train attack, yet they would arrange nothing in place to avert it. El-Rufa’i’s proposed solution was always for the zonal cooperation of governors in the Northwest to draft a comprehensive security strategy to wipe the bandit and kidnapper monsters or the indiscriminate shelling of the hideouts of the criminals. This solution isn’t tenable because the governors aren’t the ones to take up arms and head into the bushes to face the criminals. They would still have to fall back on giving instructions to the police and related forces, which would ultimately take us back to the same place we’ve started, which we’re still witnessing today. So, to give any security proposal that would mean relying on our current official security system would mean zilch.
Last two years, Gov. Matawalle and Gov. el-Rufa’i disagreed on the best structural approach to the deteriorating security situation in the Zone. Then, Gov. Matawalle was of the view that non-kinetic means were the best strategy and lasting solution to incessant insecurity. So he wasted a long time looking for violent non-state actors operating in Zamfara for negotiation. El-Rufa’i was right then to have refused to negotiate with any kidnapper or bandit, because, according to him, that would mean glorifying them- and this is true! For a state governor to give an audience to unrepentant criminals means the glorification of crime, a wrong example to younger ones and a bad legacy bequeathed next generation.
Soon after Matawalle’s public statement on citizens’ self-defence against violent non-state actors, a brouhaha of controversy ensued. Politicians and statesmen criticized the stance on account that it could lead to anarchy in a country like ours. But then, Matawalle was vindicated weeks after his statement, when, within 48 hours, the entourage which was to receive the President in Katsina state was attacked, and in a separate incident an assistant commissioner of police was killed while Kuje prison was broken, let loose for prisoners to abscond. The message in the air was, that if anyone thinks he/she is being protected by any government structure, they should think twice. If you think the police would protect or defend you, it failed to defend itself from laying the life of a top-ranking officer, an Assistant Commissioner. If you think anyone was there combat ready to defend or protect you, ok. the criminals are daring the most important or protected personage in the country, the President. So, who are you? A little brat?
Bandits who exterminate citizens in broad daylight, set busses ablaze, killing passengers on board are being hidden and fed in prisons. In fear of human rights nonsense calls by global hypocrites (who kept mum at the brutal killing of Jamal Khashoggi) and other foolish political considerations, there has never been a public execution of no kidnapper or bandit member since the nation’s security situations worsened way back mid-2010s. While such criminals fill the prisons by the passing day, any sensible mind must expect a cascade of prison breaks by the criminals to free their members. This is common sense! Now, freed in the Kuje prison break are about 64 BH members according to reports. Our country must continue to face system collapse because of the heaping fate and injustice to those who lose their lives to banditry, and the justice system that convicts the perpetrators but the government cannot execute them.
Gov. Matawalle had to steer clear and clean his conscience over the appalling and deteriorating security situation in Nigeria, giving imminence to a failed state. For others, their fear is founded on the superfluous loss of human lives and the shadow markets of abduction on the rise across the nation. For example, in the first half of this year, 2022, more than 4,486 lost their lives to the mayhem of violent non-state actors as reported by the Nigeria Security Tracker (NST), a project sponsored by the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR). In January 2022 alone, according to the report, 996 cases of violent killing were recorded throughout the country. In February, 765 cases were tracked; in March, 1,214; April, 917 and 594 in May. Though their activities are now more widespread in the North-central, North-west and South-east, the report went on to state; no geo-political zone had not been trapped in the ire of violent non-state actors. Tuesday this week, in Boto, Bauchi state, one person was killed and three others were abducted.
In Gov. Matawalle’s state Zamfara’s case, as uncovered by the Mass Atrocities Casualties Tracking Report recently, not less than 210 residents were attacked and killed in January; 91 recorded in February; 83 in March; 49 in April and 87 in May. Up to June this year, more than 542 people have lost their lives in the state as a result. Abduction cases are also as high as human life loss.
With this growing ugly trend, for lawyers involved in the controversy of the legality of Matawalle’s self-defence policy, they argued, as provided in Section 14(2)(b) of the 1999 Constitution, the primary purpose of every government shall be the security and welfare of the people. More to the point, the governors no longer need a further justification to grip self-defence than the growing number of victims every day, whose lives were taken.
Other legal practitioners argue that the power to authorize arms possession lies solely in the president of Nigeria. Went on to argue that the right to self-defence is not a rationale that the governors can no longer depend on the Nigeria Police to secure their people. But as a counter, a former president of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), Chief Joseph Daudu (SAN) submitted that the right to self-defence “is God-given and citizens do not need the president to grant it.” Accordingly, the real issue centres on the country’s security structure, which governors like Matawalle argued is so centralized that the Nigeria Police cannot discharge its core function effectively, as enshrined in Section 214 of the 1999 Constitution.
With the explosion of EndSARS protests in 2020, the National Assembly hurried the passing of the Nigeria Police Bill, 2021. The legislation recommended new welfare schemes for the police and the creation of public complaints bureaus to make every police personnel accountable, and the promotion of police personnel should be effected when due. The bill was passed and its full execution is in the pipeline.
Even with the enactment of the Act to full effect, it was argued, that the regime “can no longer substantially address the country’s current security realities”, for many reasons.
First, as Country Representative, Transparency International, Mr Auwal Rafsanjani, a public commentator observed, that practising a centralized police structure cannot guarantee or take care of Nigeria’s insecurity condition. Rafsanjani’s argument is that in a centralized police approach, state governors would not have advocated self-defence if federating units were authorized to establish their own state police. Of course Rafsanjani did not consider also the cons of state police in structural climes such as Nigeria. Among arguments marshalled out against the state, police system was that already the nation was witnessing excesses of careless state governors in party politics. So, if state police were allowed, the move would undermine democracy as state police would be used against opposition… and many other cogent reasons. So the argument for or against state police is not necessary at all; both ways would not solve the insecurity situation in Nigeria; they are just polemical rhetoric in the wake of calls for citizens to acquire arms to defend themselves. At least this proposal would have to be tried momentarily before research and practice pave a workable way.
It is the considered opinion of this column that in the wake of the current reality of Nigeria’s insecurity that citizens in zones worst hit by the menace to, not only be allowed but be encouraged to follow legitimate means to acquire arms for self-defence. They should also be encouraged to carry along their arms as they travel about within the country. Then all licensed arms must be registered in a digitally secure system in the police portal, which can be accessed and authenticated by all police officers on highways and communities at any instance to eschew illegal possession. Nigeria’s laws must also be improved to severely deal with any misuse of the arms even in the form of brandishing them in community disputes and neighbourhood disagreements.
The views expressed in this article are the author’s and do not necessarily reflect WikkiTimes’ editorial stance.