Godwin Tsa, Abuja
Benue state Governor, Samuel Ortom has on Friday reiterated his call on the Federal government to grant licences to responsible citizens to bear sophisticated weapons such as AK 47 to defend themselves against attacks by criminals and bandits.
The governor further re-emphasized the need for the Federal Government to enact a law that will put an end to open grazing that has always lead to violent clashes between roaming armed herders and farming communities.
Speaking in an interactive session with newsmen in Abuja, the governor reeled out some of his administrations developmental programmes in the state dispelled some media reports that he will soon decamped to the All Progressive Congress (APC).
He insisted that government should instead embrace ranching as it is the global best practice of animal husbandry.
The Benue Governor had during a paper presentation, titled “Insecurity and Governance Challenges in the New Normal” at the virtual meeting convened by Centre for Values in Leadership (CVL), in collaboration with Nigeria Governors’ Forum (NGF), called on the government to grant licences to responsible citizens to carry sophisticated weapons such as AK47 to deter criminals from attacking innocent and helpless Nigerians.
Although the call has since been condemned by some Nigerians, Governor Ortom on Friday, explained that it is predicated on genuine and passionate reasons to curb insecurity and other acts of criminality in the country.
For instance, he said the policy should be backed by a strict legal framework to prevent illegal possession of arms by the citizenry without exception.
According to him, “My call was genuine. It was made out of passion for security in Benue state and Nigeria.It is not a new thing. I am not calling for a new policy, I am just asking for an upgrade of the existing policy on gun licensing in Nigeria.
“This is because of the level of sophistication of criminal activities, banditry and terrorism that is going on. Right now, the policy on ground for firearms is at the Local Government level, which is entitle to issue license for firearms limited to Dane guns.
“At the state and National level, the policy is for the issuance of license for double barrel riffles, pump action machine. You can agree with me that there is no way, AK 47 can compete with Dane guns and double barrel riffles or even pump action machine.
“So, at least, the criminals, terrorists and bandits will now know that when they are visiting to attack, to kill and to destroy property and steal, the people around there have sophisticated weapons like they have, then, they themselves will exercise caution.
“So for me, the call was well and genuinely calling on government to see if we can issue license. Those who feel that it will bring anarchy, I say that already, we have an existing policy on ground so, it is just an upgrade because of the sophistication of criminality.
“In the 1950s and 1960s, we never had AK 47 and killing people in the manner that is happening today, so, for me, I am saying that as Governor of Benue State, I will write to the presidency who has the authority to see to the process a legislation or policy that can allow people to carry arms and it is to the best interest of the country because insecurity I the major problem in the country and not hunger.
“Nobody is talking about economy again. How can you go and borrow money from the bank to invest in a business only to be killed the next day?
“So, as Nigerians, we must find a way just like we did in Benue State. For us we have come to say no to jihadist who came hiding under Fulani herdsmen. We said no because we saw it from the beginning, because the people are not coming to rear cattle, they are coming to take over land and they did not hide it, they said it at different conferences.”
Speaking politically, Ortom admitted that though he was approached to return to the APC by some stakeholders of the party, but after diligent consultation with his people, he has refused and still remains a member of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).