Arms and The Herdsmen

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The authorities could do more to curb the growing problem of illegal proliferation of arms

Recently, soldiers of the Guards Brigade of the Nigerian Army arrested a truckload of herdsmen in Abuja. The herdsmen, according to the army, said they were on a mission to recover their stolen cows. Assorted ammunition, including pump action rifles, was recovered from them. Although the army said the herdsmen were in custody, pending further investigations, it is worrisome that dangerous weapons, including high calibre firearms, are in massive circulation among non-state actors who have been terrorising citizens.

In times past, the nation had been informed of similar arrests of gunmen as well as large cache of arms that were never followed up as there was no known arraignment or conviction of the culprits. We hope that this latest arrest will be different as we await the speedy conclusion of the investigations promised by the army to be followed by a diligent prosecution of the criminal suspects by a competent court of law. We make this minimum demand because the dangers of proliferation of illegal arms and ammunition are too obvious and the consequences too grievous to contemplate.

In recent times, violent crimes, including armed robbery and kidnapping have been on the increase. And of more concern is the spate of violent inter- and intra-communal clashes leading to death and maiming of hundreds of citizens. The most dangerous trend, however, is the marauding herdsmen who have virtually declared war on farming communities in both the north and the south of the country, killing hundreds of people and in some instances, sacking whole communities.

On Monday, the Ukpabi Nimbo community in Enugu State was invaded by these rampaging herdsmen who killed and maimed several of the villagers. Although President Muhammadu Buhari and other stakeholders have made the usual statements to condemn the brazen act of mass murder with a pledge to investigate, we believe that these violent crimes would not have been of this magnitude if the criminals did not have access to arms. The authorities, therefore, must curb this growing problem of illegal proliferation of illicit arms. A starting point in resolving the problem is to determine the source of these arms and how they get into the hands of the herdsmen.

Our security agencies, particularly the police, Department of State Security Services, the Nigeria Customs Service and the Nigerian Immigration Service, need to up their game and find answers to nagging questions with a view to permanently stopping illicit importation of arms into the country. They must find the perpetrators of this gun-running crime and bring them to justice.

There are compelling reasons why the authorities must act very swiftly. Following the lackadaisical attitude of the security agencies and the federal government towards reining in the sophisticated gun-wielding herdsmen, there is a growing perception that otherwise law abiding citizens may have to make their own security arrangements to secure their lives and property. This feeling that help would not come from official quarters have intensified with the extension of the aggression of the herdsmen to the southern part of the country as more farming communities fall under their unprovoked attacks.

Such feeling of insecurity and the compelling urge for citizens to arrange for their own defence can only worsen the situation on the ground. Private or community arrangements for security against gunmen would require private accumulation of arms. In this bid to balance terror, our country runs the risk of becoming home to massive illicit arms with assured disastrous consequences.

It is for this reason that we call on the federal government to prep up the security agencies for the task of checking the menace of illicit arms in the hands of criminal elements, be they herdsmen, kidnappers or armed robbers. This task is urgent and the consequence of failure is too grave for the imagination.

QUOTE: Such feeling of insecurity and the compelling urge for citizens to arrange for their own defence can only worsen the situation on the ground. Private arrangements for security against gunmen would require private accumulation of arms. In this bid to balance terror, our country runs the risk of becoming home to massive illicit arms with assured disastrous consequences