Nigeria: Divergent Opinions Emerge Over Nigerians’ Right to Bear Arms Following Plateau Killings
By Ahmad Hadizat Omayoza, Mamos Nigeria
On January 2, 2024, the tragic events of coordinated attacks on communities in Bokkos and Mangu local government areas of Plateau State sparked a contentious debate over the right of Nigerians to bear arms for self-defense. The Middle Belt Forum (MBF), Afenifere, and Jama’atu Nasril Islam (JNI) found themselves at odds with the Chief of Army Staff, Lt. General Taoreed Lagbaja, who dismissed the idea of allowing citizens to carry arms, citing concerns of potential anarchy.
The Christmas Eve attacks claimed over 200 lives and resulted in the destruction of numerous properties, prompting calls from various quarters for Nigerians to be permitted to defend themselves against militias, terrorists, bandits, and kidnappers. In a televised interview on Channels Television’s ‘2023: Year of Transition’ program, Lt. General Lagbaja emphasized his opposition to self-defense, asserting that it could lead to anarchy.
“I do not support that (self-defense). I think that is a call to anarchy,” said Lt. General Lagbaja, stating that the Nigerian Army is capable of defending the country, rendering self-defense unnecessary.
The Middle Belt Forum strongly contested the Chief of Army Staff’s position, arguing that restricting Nigerians from carrying arms for self-defense while assailants wield sophisticated weapons amounts to a conspiracy against the people. Dr. Bitrus Pogu, the National President of the MBF, called on the Army chief to reconsider, pointing out the inadequacies of security agencies in protecting citizens from marauders.
Afenifere, a Yoruba socio-political organization, echoed the sentiment that an overhaul of Nigeria’s security architecture is necessary. Mogaji Gboyega Adejumo, the National Publicity Secretary of Afenifere, emphasized that citizens worldwide are allowed to defend their security situation, citing the inalienable right to protect lives and property.
Jama’atu Nasril Islam (JNI) in Kaduna State expressed the view that if security agencies and the military fail to defend citizens, individuals may resort to protecting themselves. Secretary of the group, Ibrahim Kufena, questioned whether people should allow themselves to be killed when those responsible for their security fall short.
Pan Niger Delta Forum (PANDEF) highlighted the citizens’ right to self-defense in the face of government inadequacies. PANDEF spokesperson, Mr. Ken Robinson, urged security agencies and governments to fulfill their primary responsibility of protecting lives and property. He cautioned against recruiting repentant Boko Haram members into the Army, calling it a “terrible mistake.”
However, the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) aligned with Lt. General Lagbaja’s stance, asserting that allowing Nigerians to bear arms without proper authorization could lead to a breakdown of order and security. Pastor Simon Dolly, the Secretary of the north-central zone of CAN, emphasized the importance of lawful and peaceful conflict resolution.
As the debate rages on, with diverse perspectives on citizens’ rights to bear arms for self-defense, the underlying issue remains the need for an effective and comprehensive approach to address the root causes of insecurity in Nigeria. The recent tragic events in Plateau State have reignited calls for a reevaluation of the country’s security strategies to ensure the safety and well-being of its citizens.