The Federal government, at the weekend reacted to the growing clamour by state governments for the authority to procure automatic arms for the use of their various state security and vigilante outfits.
The worsening insecurity situation in the country is pushing many states to either independently or through regional arrangements, form internal security networks, to tackle new forms of security threats within their domains. Daily, Nigerians are under all forms of attacks – from kidnapping for ransom, to banditry, armed robbery, ritual killings as well as all forms of terrorism etc making the country look like a Banana Republic.
With the formation of such security/vigilante outfits, questions have been asked on how effective and functional they would be without being equipped with high-calibre weapons, especially considering the nature and level of armament of the elements posing the threats.
The governor of Ondo State, Rotimi Akeredolu, who have remained in the fore front of the campaign took the federal government on over alleged refusal to grant the Western Security Network (WSN) known as Amotekun, the authority to wield automatic weapons, like AK47, in the course of their task, alleging double-standards as he claimed the same authority had been granted same to a northern state.
Also, just on Thursday, the Benue State governor, Samuel Ortom, during a ceremony marking the Passing-Out Parade of the state’s security outfit, known as the Community Volunteer Guard (CVG), issued a month ultimatum to the federal government to grant his state’s request for the permit to arm the new outfit with automatic weapons. The governor claimed that he had applied to the federal government for permission to be granted to the state security outfit to bear sophisticated arms to confront the terrorists operating in the state that are heavily armed but all to no avail.
Fielding question on the growing demand by states to acquire automatic weapons for their various internal security outfits, while briefing State House correspondents at the end of the National Security Council meeting presided over by President Muhammadu Buhari at the Presidential Villa, Abuja, the Chief of Defense Staff, General Lucky Irabor, warned that no state or state governor in Nigeria has the authority to acquire weapons of the caliber they are requesting for.
Gen. Irabor, flanked by the Ministers of Interior, Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola, and that of Police Affairs, Mohammed Maigari Dingyadi, said that the deployment of high calibre weapons, such as the AK-47 rifles, among others, lies strictly within the purview of the federal government security agencies. Irabor, however, advised citizens to be weary and always read between the lines when certain requests are sought by state governors.
He said, Nigerians (Journalists) must be able to read between the lines when certain comments are made, to elicit certain reactions, as opposed to the reality with respect to what the security setting is.
Shedding light, he explained that AK-47 and, indeed, “firearms fall into two major categories. You have the automatic weapons and the ones that we may classify as non-automatic weapons, which some of you may even have if you have the appropriate licences. Talking about the Pump Action, which is the very common ones, and sometimes even the Dane guns some of the hunters use.
“What is involved in the class that mentioned has to do with automatic weapons. There’s no state that has been given licence for that,” he declared, adding that the sole responsibility of licencing lies with the federal government agencies, and to be used by government security agencies and not quasi security forces. “So, you do not ask for what you do not have power to acquire,” General Irabor stated.