Insecurity: Self defence to the rescue

The security situation in Nigeria has continued to deteriorate with growing concerns in many quarters and calls for self defence on the rise even as some opt for community policing and state police. In this report, BENJAMIN SAMSON examines self defence and community policing as panacea to kidnapping and other violent crimes in the country.

The President Muhammadu Buhari-led administration came into office basically on the promise of bringing to an end Nigeria’s security issues. However, the situation has since gone from bad to worse.

From Benue, Taraba, Niger, Kaduna, Katsina to Zamfara, Nasarawa, Kogi, Sokoto, there has been a reign of terror that has continually left the citizens at the mercy of bandits/terrorists or supposed killer herdsmen.

Calls for defence

Following the series of attacks by gunmen in various communities in Plateau state which have led to the killings of many people and destruction of their properties, the state House of Assembly has called on residents to defend themselves.

The House also gave Governor Simon Lalong two weeks to address the security challenge in the state.

The Chairman of the House Committee on Information, Philip Dasun, who gave the ultimatum at a press conference in Jos, last Friday, said the decision was part of the resolution reached by the lawmakers during their plenary and had been communicated to the governor.

Dasun said, “On behalf of the Plateau State House of Assembly, I wish to sympathise with the Government and People of Plateau State on the barbaric and dastardly killings that have been taking place in different communities of Bassa, Barkin Ladi, Bokkos, Jos North, Jos South, Mangu, Riyom, University of Jos Community and recently that of Yelwa Zangam.

“The House condemns all these killings in totality, all these killings are unacceptable and condemnable. We commiserate with the families of all those who lost their loved ones during these attacks.

“We strongly call on Plateau people to practically stand up and defend themselves and their communities, as the conventional security design is no longer guaranteeing our safety as a people.

“We commend the youths on the Plateau for sustained coordinated and organized campaigns against the killings and as well the courage to make it go viral by sending strong messages to the world using the dead bodies of the mayhem on the social media and the streets of Jos; the display of the corpses in the House is a sign that they recognised the authority of the House of Assembly as an institution that can speak for the people. We greatly appreciate that action.

“As an assembly with people at heart, we call on Plateau state citizens to have confidence in us with renewed commitment as we have given two weeks to the governor to take action on the resolutions the House has forwarded on security matters and how to restore peace.

“We call on the Executive Governor of Plateau state, Rt. Hon. Simon Bako Lalong, to come up with a statement defending us as a People and to bring back renewed commitment to the cause of Plateau.

“We are still expecting with high hopes, the President to also come up with a statement about the killings in Yelwa Zangam just as he did in the killings of travellers along Rukuba Road and to also indicate a sign of justice or we will see him as being reflexive about the conflict in Plateau,” the lawmaker added.

…Masari too

Similarly, the Governor of Katsina state, Aminu Masari, recently called on resident in areas prone to activities of bandits to acquire weapons and defend themselves.

According to a statement by his Media Aide, Malam Abdu Labaran, the governor noted that it was morally wrong for people to submit cheaply to the bandits without any attempt to defend themselves.

The governor stated this during his visit to Jibia to condole with the families of 10 people that were crushed by operatives of the Nigerian Customs Service (NCS) through reckless driving while pursuing smugglers.

He said security was everybody’s business and not the responsibility of the government alone, stating: “It is the people’s meek submission that emboldens the bandits to continue with their heinous activities with murderous frequency.

“People must divorce their minds from the mistaken notion that security is government’s sole responsibility alone.”

Call for state police

Also, while defending his call for self-defence,  Masari said if the country truly intended to get a hold of the deteriorating security situation, then, it must embrace multi-level policing otherwise called state police.

The governor, who reiterated his recent call for the people of Katsina to procure arms and defend themselves, added that his government had began to train people to defend themselves.

While decrying the growing insecurity in the country, Masari expressed concern that the number of policemen available to his state was less than 3,000 and not enough to protect the citizens.

Masari, who spoke in an interview monitored on national television at the weekend, therefore, reiterated his support for state police, stating that there was need for it to be accommodated in the constitution.

According to him, working with the Nigeria Police Force, his administration had been training people to defend their villages and communities.

“Knowing full well how long it will take the police to improve its capacity to be able to provide the much-needed security for villages and communities are you saying people should fold their arms?

“If somebody slaps you, the natural instinct is to raise your hands up, and if he comes with a stick, you take a stick to protect yourself,” he said.

He said his administration was about completing the training of 500 vigilantes, who were trained by the police and armed forces, stating that in the coming week, training for another 500 would be completed.

He said the target was to have 3,000 trained vigilante working with the police and other security agencies.

“The situation we have on ground is such that bandits would come to a village, kidnap and collect over N500,000 from villagers and in some cases get N5 million from them.

“And in the same village, when you say come let us contribute and train these vigilantes to defend them at night, they would not give you N20,000,” he said.

…Afenifere too

Similarly, the Pan Yoruba group, Afenifere, has asked the federal government to immediately approve state police to enable states to protect themselves from the various acts of terrorism, kidnapping, herders/farmers clashes that pervade Nigeria.

Afenifere made the demands in a communiqué issued at the end of a meeting presided over by its leader, Chief Ayo Adebanjo in Sanya-Ogbo, Ijebu Ode, on Tuesday.

It said, “In view of the fact that Nigeria nation is fast moving into the precipice, there is the need by the federal government to urgently put a halt to various acts of terrorism, kidnapping, herders/farmers clashes and the like.

“This, government can do, by immediately allowing states to have their own police. In fact, the security apparatus should be democratised down to the local level.

“Every community must be at alert to realise that they must defend themselves from bandits who seem to have declared war on Nigeria.”

More support

Arguing in favour of self defence and community policing, another legal practitioner Victor Ikot-Osin told this reporter that self defence was not only legal and constitutional, but also in tandem with the natural instinct of humans.

He said, “While some people viewed Governor Masari’s patriotic clarion call with political lenses, the question on the lips of most Nigerians is: has the governor said something novel?

“Was his call contrary to natural instinct and even the national discourse at the moment on how to save life and property which he swore to defend? Should the citizens watch idly while marauders and murderous elements decimate them through endless attacks?

“They argued that Governor Masari’s call, which is not different from what many Nigerians, including highly-placed individuals, had re-echoed at different times, is not only legal and constitutional, but also in tandem with the natural instinct of humans.

“The thinking is that Section 33 of the 1999 constitution of Nigeria (as amended) emphasizes the sanctity of human lives. It states explicitly that no one shall be intentionally deprived of his life, save in execution of the sentence of a court in respect of a criminal offence of which he has been found guilty.

“Also, section 286 of the Nigerian criminal code envisages the need for self-defence when it provides explicitly for conditions under which one can resort to self-help. ‘If the nature of the assault is such as cause of reasonable apprehension of death or grievous harm…’ it is lawful for him to use any such force to the assailant as is necessary for defence, even though such force may cause death or grievous harm.

“Those opposed to Masari’s position cited concern about the likelihood of more weapons in the hands of non-state actors. But security experts have contended that while their position is true, there are weapons in the hands of non-state actors already.”

Dissenting voices

However, in a chat with Blueprint Weekend a Law lecturer at the Nasarawa State University, Keffi, Dr Ovey Ishaku, said call for self defence is an invitation to anarchy.

He said, “The call for Nigerians to arm and defend themselves is an invitation to anarchy in the land and it is most unfortunate that they are coming from leaders, who as governors or lawmakers have a stake in the security architecture of the country and should be doing everything possible to protect the citizens. I, therefore, in very strong terms, condemn the call.

“It is worthy of note that this call is not only a recipe for lawlessness but an indicator that the government has failed in its responsibility of securing the country from criminal elements.

“It is also very unfortunate that such calls are being made at all considering the fact that the country is already battling the proliferation of arms, most of which are in the hands of people who ordinarily should not have them. Also, one of the reasons banditry and kidnapping keep growing is that these criminals have easy access to arms.

“Therefore, if citizens were to take this advice, several persons will be in possession of arms, and the chaos that will trail it will be too much to handle. We call on our leaders to exercise restraint while speaking.  No amount of frustration should push a leader to promote illegality.”

Also, speaking with Blueprint Weekend, a gender activist Bunmi Dipo-Salami said asking Nigerians to defend themselves against criminals would lead to arm proliferation.

She said, “While I admit that insecurity is, indeed, a major challenge facing the nation today. However, I am worried about the danger in advocating that Nigerians should defend themselves against criminals.

“One can only imagine a situation where everyone is armed. The chances are that in no time, we will all end up dead.

“I urge the government to rise up and act decisively and put measures in place so as to end kidnapping, banditry, and all other forms of criminality plaguing the country.

“The government controls the coercive instruments of state. To that extent, there ought to be no excuses for inaction in the face of inescapable challenges of governance, because they are in office to solve problems and not to explain their failure in doing so.

“It is imperative that the government intensifies efforts to ensure security of lives and property at all times. For an administration that came into office with the mantra of security as one of its cardinal tenets, this expectation from the people is peculiarly urgent.”

Case for community policing

Meanwhile, the federal government has asked Nigerians not to take up arms illegally to defend themselves against bandits.

The Minister of Police Affairs, Muhammed Dingyadi, stated this recently during the second annual ministerial media briefing at the Force headquarters in Abuja.

Reacting to the call by Governor Masari for self defence he said, “I think we should know that we are in Nigeria, where everybody is entitled to his opinion. I think the governor has the right to canvass for what he thinks it is right in his state.”

“Of course, we shouldn’t expect the people to just be sleeping without taking measures to ensure that they secure themselves, they secure their neighbours and they secure their communities. That is the essence of community policing.

“So, we need to have the support and partnership of Nigerians in the efforts we are making towards fighting crimes and criminalities. I think that is what the governor is talking about.

“Everybody should contribute his quota towards fighting crimes. We are not saying people should take arms illegally.”

The minister, who acknowledged the insecurity in the country, said citizens should play their role in securing their communities.

“What we’re saying is that people should get ready in whatever it takes to do so, to ensure that we protect ourselves, we protect our neighbours, we protect our communities,” he said.