As Nigeria’s security situation worsens, the government is increasingly appearing hopelessly helpless. For a country that has perhaps one the most restrictive gun laws and arms regulations in the world that prohibits the possession of light arms and small weapons by citizens, the current situation of widespread proliferation of these prohibited category of weapons is indicative of a near total breakdown of law and order.
In addition to the Boko Haram insurgent group, an estimated 22 armed groups, prominent among which is the fourth most dangerous group in the world, killer herdsmen, are operating within Nigerian territory. Lacking an effective border security system, Nigeria has become a thoroughfare for killer herdsmen pouring into the country from all over West and Central Africa that have successfully converted its internal contradicting fault lines into criminal economic advantages either as mercenary fighters or self-helping bandits.
With a population of nearly 200 million people occupying a land area of 923,768 square kilometres, Nigeria’s combined security services strength of less than 700,000 men and women under arms, which is maintained with an annual provision of a poor sum of about $5 billion, has become overtly stretched and unable to secure the land and peoples of Nigeria. With military operations in all the 36 states of the federation, the Nigerian Army that traditionally is at the frontline of the defence of Nigeria’s territorial integrity against external aggression has, unfortunately, been drawn into internal security operations as the Nigerian Police Force primarily charged with this responsibility appears totally overwhelmed by the current spate of insecurity.
As a result of the overstretching of Nigeria’s security services, large swaths of land areas and peoples are left ungoverned, making it easy for armed non-state actors to occupy and assert their criminal suzerainty within an otherwise sovereign country. Bandits that were previously ravaging the North West by cattle rustling, kidnapping, armed robbery, plunder and mass murder are gradually spreading their tentacles across central Nigeria and penetrating deep into the forests of the South. In the North East, the Boko Haram insurgents have transmuted into a formidable fighting force that is organized enough to take on hard targets of military installations and daredevil ambushes on military convoys, thereby inflicting heavy casualties on officers and men of the armed forces in what can be described as the highest recorded loss since the end the Nigeria-Biafra civil war in 1970.
Rated as the third most terrorized country in the world, Nigeria is currently under siege by armed non-state actors and other criminal gangs that have made the lives and properties of citizens very insecure on the highways, in the workplace and even at home. In the ongoing onslaught, nobody is sure of being spared the terror of these vicious, blood-thirsty, money-mongering criminals, resulting in loss of lives and properties of citizens that are domiciled, hence unprotected, in vast ungoverned territories across Nigeria.
The acute failure of Nigeria’s governing authorities across all strata of government to contain the current endemic state of insecurity is manifested in its expression of helpless hopelessness. In a clear demonstration of admittance of the loss of monopoly of legitimate force of violence to armed non-state actors, the authorities in Nigeria, now humbled in weakness, have resorted to negotiations with fanfare with criminal gangs of bandits or simply abdicating their roles as commander-in-chief and chief security officers on earth to God in heaven.
For an administration that has been living in denial of the grim reality of the deteriorating state of insecurity under its watch, President Buhari’s politicisation of national security matters by consistently claiming phantom victory over Boko Haram insurgents has boomeranged, as his security architecture has been castrated, leaving his security forces prostrate in the face of worsening insecurity. The call for spiritual warfare through concerted efforts at de-radicalization and prayers for divine intervention in the war against terror by military authorities is suggestive of an inherent military fatigue on the side of the Nigerian state against armed non-state actors.
Following the call for spiritual warfare by Gen. Tukur Buratai, then Chief of Army Staff, the Governor of Borno State, Babagana Zulum Umara, sealed a contract with Saudi Arabia-based Muslim prayer warriors to redirect their cosmic energy towards defeating the deadly Boko Haram insurgents.
While the call for concerted efforts at de-radicalization to stem the rising tide of recruitment into the rank and file of the Boko Haram terror group is a valid one, it is, however, only a long-term strategic solution that is not the responsibility of the army but that of civil authorities, in collaboration with the leadership of the Muslim community in Nigeria. The role of the army as well as other security agencies is to fight to restore security of life and property in a peaceful, lawful and orderly environment.
Similarly, the call for prayers to defeat Boko Haram insurgency and other forms of insecurity is stretching negative religiosity exceedingly far. Prayers alone don’t defeat armed enemies, bullets are needed. In response to the recent drone attacks on its oil facilities, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia didn’t engage the services of prayer warriors, but is currently scaling up its $70 billion defence facilities to forestall future attacks while also considering the sensible option of ending the senseless war of aggression in Yemen.
To contain the current spate of insecurity in Nigeria, more bullets are needed and fewer prayers. When faced with aggression and war, Muslims were not urged to pray alone but to fight in self-defence. Quran chapter 2 [Al-Baqarah], verse 190 reads thus, “Fight in the way of Allah those who fight you but do not be an aggressor. Allah does not like aggressors.”
Faced with the current reality of the inability of Nigeria’s security forces to secure the entire stretch of the Nigerian territory, there is an urgent need to review Nigeria’s gun laws to allow for a limited civilian armament initiative to enhance the lethal capabilities of law-abiding citizens at self-defence. To underscore the point that more bullets and fewer prayers are needed at this most desperately dangerous times, the Borno State government, while waiting for the expected divine intervention, has followed up with the physical engagements of thousands of skilled hunters armed with Dane guns and protective charms to fight the resurgent Boko Haram insurgency.
It has become expedient for the Nigerian state to consider adopting a modified version of America’s Second Amendment that allows law-abiding citizens of Nigeria to possess small arms and light assault weapons for the purposes of self-defence. This will allow for the proper arming of the Civilian JTF and any such community-evolved security arrangement to enhance their lethal capabilities at repelling criminal, armed non-state actors that are terrorizing the Nigerian people. To effectively contain and defeat the current influx of criminal elements in the society, there it is imperative to arm the good people.
With the current level of uncontrollable proliferation of arms among the various criminal groups in Nigeria, it will amount to double jeopardy for the current ineffectual weapons control to be effected only on law-abiding citizens. The situation can’t possibly get worse than it already is. If the Nigerian state cannot maximally effect its own arms regulation laws, then the time is ripe to relax the laws for citizens who, despite the easy access to illegal weapons as a result of overt proliferation, have chosen to remain law-abiding, to legally acquire arms in the defence of their lives and properties.