About two months ago, the Katsina State governor, Aminu Bello Masari, in an interview with Leadership newspaper, said his government will train additional 600 members of the vigilance group in arms handling to complement the effort of security operatives, in curbing the menace of banditry and kidnapping in the state. Governor Masari said it is the responsibility of the government to protect the property and lives of the people.
In justifying further the decision to arm the vigilantes and the modus operandi, the governor said; “So, I think we have done what we could within the limited resources as a state government, because ours is to support the security agencies to also work on our own vigilantes which we are doing, training them. And very soon at the Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corp (NSCDC) College, we will train an additional 600, teach them how to handle firearms, attach them with the police and arm them through the police. So, this is what we are doing and will continue to do that until normalcy is returned to our communities.”
Remember that Katsina is the home state of the president and commander in chief of the armed forces, Muhammadu Buhari. Also, recall also that within that same period, in July, some dare-devil armed men had attacked the convoy of the president in the state.
The attack on the presidential convoy led to at least two injuries, according to the official narrative, while the main prison in Abuja, the Nigerian capital, was also attacked.
Also, two police officers were killed in the same Katsina State where the attack on the president’s convoy took place. Another senior police officer was also killed in a separate incident in the state.
The primary function of any government, it is said, is securing the lives and property of the citizens. Anything short is considered a failure of governance. The country is currently in turmoil over the spate of insecurity. We are all agreed on that. But we seem to disagree with the presidency, whose responsibility it is to secure the lives of the people, on how best to go about securing the nation.
While the Federal Government is insistent on maintaining the status quo which is not working, majority of Nigerians think that the states should be more empowered to do more than just parroting the mere fact that they, governors, are the chief security officers of their states, while in reality, an ordinary police commissioner in the state can defy the order of the elected state governors.
This failure at the centre exacerbated the insecurity in the land which in turn led to not a few Nigerians becoming more vociferous in the call for state police.
Governor Rotimi Akeredolu of Ondo state recently declared that his government is set to acquire arms to protect the people of the state under the doctrine of necessity to fulfil its legal, constitutional and moral duty to the citizens of the state.
Governor Akeredolu has chosen to stand and be counted at a time when it has become more politically expedient to pretend that all is well when in reality the situation on ground speaks to the very opposite.
Trusting Governor Akeredolu to never mince words, he had a week ago faulted the Federal Government’s objection to the use of arms by the Western Nigeria Security Network, codenamed Amotekun Corps, while allowing its equivalent in Katsina State to bear weapons.
The governor, who is chairman of the Southern Governors’ Forum (SGF), in a statement, insisted that the Ondo State government will defend its people, stressing that the denial of the right of Amotekun to bear arms to protect the people of the state violated the tenets of federalism.
Advocating that equity and justice are required in Federal Government’s relationship with all the component units, Akeredolu said: “The video making the rounds showing the equivalent of the Amotekun Corps in Katsina, obtaining the approval of the Federal Government to bear arms is fraught with great dangers.
“Denying Amotekun the urgently needed rights to legitimately bear arms is a repudiation of the basis of true federalism, which we have been clamouring for.
“That Katsina was able to arm its state security force with the display of AK-47 means we are pursuing ‘one country, two systems’ solution to the national question.”
He further raised the alarm that the Katsina situation conferring advantages on some, in the face of commonly faced existential threats, “means our unitary policing system, which has failed, is a deliberate method of subjugation that must be challenged.
“The Independence agreement was based on a democratic arrangement to have a federal state and devolved internal security mechanics. We must go back to that agreement.
“Denying Amotekun the right to bear arms exposes the Southwest to life-threatening marauders and organised crime. It is also a deliberate destruction of our agricultural sector. It is an existential threat.
“We want to reiterate that what is sauce for the goose, is sauce for the gander. The Ondo State government under the doctrine of necessity has decided to fulfill its legal, constitutional and moral duty to the citizens of the state, by acquiring arms to protect them.
“This is more so, given that the bandits have unchecked access to sophisticated weapons. The state government cannot look on while its citizens are being terrorized and murdered with impunity. We will defend our people.”
Akeredolu’s defiant stance cannot be faulted especially when it is realized that Ondo State had over time, under the Buhari administration, come under very vicious attacks by armed bandits who from all indications were being patronized and treated with kid-glove by the federal government until they grudgingly accepted to classify them as terrorists.
The most unfortunate being the attack of St Francis Catholic Church in the heart of Owo town, on Sunday, June 5, 2022. Left in the wake of the attack were over 50 innocent people, among them children and women, killed in the gory attack. Not only did the harpless governor weep on beholding the grim sight of mutilated bodies and blood everywhere with some body parts sticking to the high roof of the very huge church to underscore the magnitude and impact of the explosion, he also wept while the victims were buried in a mass grave.
Trust the federal government to always rush to counter comments or actions against these bandits, the same way they did when they deviated from the main issue surrounding the suspected killers of Mrs Funke Olakunrin, the daughter of the Afenifere leader, Reuben Fasoranti, and were threatening fire and brimstone against those they accused of ethnic profiling, they have again jumped in the fray and warning Akeredolu against arming Amotekun.
As it is, what the unfortunate position of the federal government suggests, is that whereas it is okay for these felons, murderers and non-state actors to bear arms, states must continue to be under the yoke of insecurity with a police force that is not only ill-motivated but under-staffed.
If Akeredolu had not threatened to arm Amotekun, two months after Katsina vigilantes were already seen training with sophisticated arms, the federal government would just have carried on and pretended like it was not aware of the move by the Katsina State government.
Whereas I would not blame Masari for taking that step, I do not see why the federal government would now want to stop Akeredolu from arming Amotekun, except that the action of the federal government is consistent with its double-standard in dealing with issues concerning the nation. If a threat to the president’s life could have prompted the presidency to allow Katsina vigilantes to bear arms, is the federal government saying the lives of other citizens do not matter to them?