by Dare Lawal
The governor of Zamfara, Abdulaziz Yari Abubakar, is proposing a radical new strategy for combating the menace of insecurity in the state.
Zamfara, which has been relatively peaceful, was the scene of some violent attacks two weeks ago which left scores dead and now the governor has proposed what he views to be a potentially effective solution. He plans to arm the vigilantes.
Gov. Abubakar said the rifles which would be distributed to the vigilante groups have already been bought and were in the custody of security agencies in the state. Once approval is gotten, the state government intends to start distribution of the arms which according to the governor, would be for self-defence only.
Only three months ago, on 18th April, while the president inaugurated the Tanimu Turaki led committee on Dialogue and peaceful resolution of conflict in the North (Boko Haram committee), he also inaugurated a less reported but equally important 17-man committee on proliferation of small arms and light weapons, chaired by Amb. Emmanuel Imohe. The president was obviously worried about the increasing number of untrained civilians in the possession of weapons all over the country.
The history of how some of those weapons got into the hands of the civilians in the first place followed a similar trajectory as the current one ongoing in Zamfara. In states like Borno, Rivers, Delta, where armed militancy became an issue, government officials are believed to have armed vigilante groups who later declined from returning the weapons afterwards.
The Nigerian senate on Thursday kicked against the plans by Gov. Yari. They however requested that President Goodluck Jonathan deploys more security personnel to Zamfara and other states with similar security challenges.
Many Senators expressed worry that arming vigilantes have serious security implications and was subject to abuse.
“Zamfara and other states with peculiar security challenges will better address their security problems by requesting for additional security personnel and other assistance rather than setting up armed groups that may soon go out of control,” said Senator Basheer Garba Mohammed (Kano/PDP) who led the debate on the Zamfara motion during plenary.
The Senate Deputy Leader, Abdul Ningi (Bauchi/PDP) suggested a panel should be instituted to investigate the reported purchase of weapons in a bid to establish where the Zamfara State governor got the authority for the arms purchase.
The consensus is that although one cannot dispute the clear threat of gunmen wreaking havoc in the state especially in recent times, arming civilians could potentially lead to more chaos and insecurity.