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Arming Vigilante In Zamfara: Another Militia In The Making

Last week, the decision of Zamfara State Governor Abdulaziz Yari to arm vigilante groups in the state drew condemnations from the Senate...

Last week, the decision of Zamfara State Governor Abdulaziz Yari to arm vigilante groups in the state drew condemnations from the Senate and some prominent Nigerians. In this piece, JONATHAN NDA-ISAIAH, x-rays the reasons why arming the vigilante is a bad idea


Zamfara State, one of the most peaceful states in the north was in recent times a bloody zone as gunmen had repeatedly attacked some villages in the state leaving behind a trail of deaths and destruction.
On June 19 this year, some gunmen attacked a village in Zamfara and killed at  least 48 people including the district head, chief imam and the local vigilante leaders.

This was the deadliest in the series of bandit attacks on villages in Zamfara State over the past two years.
In November last year, 20 people were shot dead in a similar attack in Kabaro town. A month earlier, 27 were killed in Dangulbi, while in Birnin Magaji, 15 were killed in February 2012. These were preceded by the August 2011 attack in which 19 died at Lingyado town.

In most of the attacks, it was believed that the gunmen were trying to exact revenge from vigilantes who had previously arrested armed robbers terrorizing local traders.

This act prompted the state, Governor Yari Abubakar to purchase arms for men of the state’s vigilante groups to improve security in the villages. But the move was met with widespread condemnation.

The Senate rejected the plans by the governor to arm vigilante groups in Zamfara with rifles on the grounds that it is capable of further jeopardising the fragile security situation in the state.

The Senate however approved the motion to request  President Goodluck Jonathan to deploy more security personnel to Zamfara and other states with similar security challenges

This was contained in a motion sponsored by Senator Basheer Garba Mohammed(Kano central PDP) and 50 other senators

The senate noted the concern of the governor of the state over the security challenges and his efforts to solve the problems as well as sympathize with all Zamfara citizens and that the states will better address their security challenges by requesting additional security personnel and other assistance rather than setting up armed groups that may soon go out of control

However, despite the criticism the state government will go ahead with its plans to provide arms for men of the vigilante group. According to the governor, the firearms are for self defence and to check the incessant attacks by gunmen. He said the firearms had been purchased with collaboration of the security agencies and now in the custody of the state police command for the federal government to issue a permit to that effect.

Going by this development, it seems we have not learnt from history. Arming of vigilante groups in the state is a bad idea and judging by what has happened in some states, like in the Niger Delta region where it is reported that some of the governors armed the militants to fight their perceived enemies. Later, the militants became too powerful and started kidnapping and stealing crude oil, that singular action of arming the militants then  may crash the economy soon. The militants took up arms in the state and amnesty was offered to some of them to drop their weapons.

Some were offered lucrative contracts of guiding some crude oil pipelines and its no coincidence that the rate of crude oil theft has increased astronomically since then and if unchecked is threatening to derail the economy. In the north it was rumoured that the state governor in one of the states gave arms to the then unknown group Boko Haram to also fight his political enemies in the state. Some years later, not only has Boko Haram outgrown the state, they have spread across the north east zone of the country .Due to insecurity in the north east part of the country, the economy of the north is worse for it.

Although the plan of the governor of Zamfara is borne out of a genuine desire to protect his citizens from attacks from the gunmen who have laid siege in some villages in the state, the vigilante may become too powerful and in the process of trying to protect the citizens another monster may be created. The country is still bruising from the activities of the Niger Delta Militants and Boko Haram and cannot afford another militant group. Also arming the vigilante is an indictment on the police force. It shows they have failed in their basic responsibility of protecting the citizenry. The average policeman in Nigeria is more concerned with his pocket than trying to secure the citizens. They cannot protect themselves talkless of the citizens. Instead of providing arms for the vigilantes, the police and military should be reinforced and better motivated so that they can perform their basic functions which is to protect the citizens.

(Leadership)

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