Some senior advocates have described the call by the Katsina State Governor, Bello Masari, for private citizens to bear arms in order to fight bandits, as evidence of the failure of the President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.).
Senior lawyers, including Mr. Ebun-Olu Adegboruwa (SAN) and Ifedayo Adedipe, who spoke to our correspondents in separate interviews, said the call was an admission of failure, adding that both Buhari and Masari should resign.
Speaking at a press conference in Katsina on Wednesday, the governor said it was surprising that bandits owned guns and good people didn’t have any. He said Islam encourages people to defend themselves.
“We’ll support those who come with the initiative to procure arms because residents need to also complement the efforts of security agencies. These people (security agents) don’t have the number to protect the people…Even if we say every policeman should go back to his home state, it’ll still not be enough. So, if we fold arms and decide to do nothing, we’ll be the ones to suffer most,” he had said.
But human rights activist, Adegboruwa (SAN) said the statement from the governor was an indirect call on Buhari to resign.
He added that the fact that the charge came from the governor of the President’s home state showed that the All Progressives Congress-led government had failed Nigerians.
Adegboruwa said, “This has further confirmed that the ruling APC has failed the people. The primary purpose of the government is to protect lives and properties and when the governor from the home state of the President has made a declaration of failure of protection by the government then the President has no business remaining in power.
“In a saner society the calls by the Kastina state governor is an indirect call on the President to resign. They owe us the responsibility to protect us. It is a social contract we made with the government that is why we surrendered our commonwealth to them.
“The pockets of insecurity we are witnessing are a reflection of the dissatisfaction of the society with governance and I don t think we should take it with a pinch of salt. It is not in the place of a governor to arm themselves that is the reason they are in office.”
Also speaking with The PUNCH, 83-year-old senior advocate, Robert Clarke, said the insecurity being experienced was as a result of poverty ravaging the states.
He, however, called on governors to look for means to eradicate poverty in their states in order to combat insecurity.
He said, “The chicken has come to roost. What they created is coming on them. What they are experiencing is a tip of the iceberg, they caused all the problems. They were pocketing what is meant for the citizens, they are reaping what they sowed.
“Their security votes are enough to have kept these boys from the streets. My advice to the governor is that instead of him calling on them to carry guns let him empower them with his security vote.”
But Chief Mike Ozekhome (SAN), in a chat with one of our correspondents, said Masari was only being realistic.
Ozkhome wondered how just 3,000 policemen would be able to secure a state like Katsina State.
He added, “No anarchy will be occasioned thereby. Self preservation is the first law of nature. The government having failed in its primary duties of protecting lives and properties and giving welfare to the people as prescribed by Section 14 of the 1999 Constitution, cannot prevent hapless citizens from defending themselves.
“The governor of President Buhari’s home state was merely being truthful and practical by crying out. What can 3000 policemen do for a vast state like Katsina? Nothing at all.”
For senior advocate, Ifedayo Adedipe, the call could lead to anarchy. Adedipe further stated that advising citizens to buy guns was enough grounds for resignation.
He said, “It is tragic and I do not support that call. That call is dangerous, not constitutional and not befitting of a governor. Is he admitting security has broken down under his watch? He is part of the APC tsunami that wrested power from the PDP under the guise of a change.
“The call can lead to anarchy. I cannot find any justification for the call except an admission of failure. Rather than advise us to get guns, they (Masari and Buhari) should leave office and let competent people come in. They brought this calamity on us. They should look for a way to solve it.”
However, in a statement titled, ‘Government is Duty Bound to Protect the People’, human rights ;lawyer, Mr. Femi Falana (SAN), said instead of asking the people to take the law into their hands, the affected state governments should proceed to establish community defence brigades, train and equip the operatives to protect the people.
Falana, who is the Interim Chairman, Alliance on Surviving COVID-19 and Beyond’, said Section 14 of the constitution provides that the security and welfare of the people shall be the primary purpose of governments. He therefore argued that asking private citizens to bear arms would lead to anarchy.
The activist noted that in addressing the rising wave of terrorist attacks in the North-West, some governors granted amnesty to the so called repentant terrorists and paid huge sums of money to them for rehabilitation but the criminal gangs turned round to use the fund to buy more sophisticated weapons with which they have continued to unleash more dastardly attacks on the people.
The statement read in part, “The Armed Forces, the police and other security forces have not been able to overpower the terrorist groups. Worried over the balance of forces in favour of the terrorists, Governor Aminu Masari of Katsina State has asked the people to acquire guns to defend themselves. While the frustration of the governor is understood, the directive that citizens should arm themselves is an invitation to anarchy and chaos.”
A former Director of the Department of State Services, Mike Ejifor, disagreed with the governor, stating that technology should be deployed to tackle insecurity in the state.
He said, “Two wrongs cannot make a right, you cannot use an illegality to confront legality but I think the governor is concerned and worried. I think he is desperately looking for ways to bring an end to insecurity in his state, do not also let us forget that is the President’s state. I condemn citizens buying guns. Instead, he should resort to technology to solve the problem.”