Defence Minister under Fire over Call for Self-defence

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•PDP, ACF, CAN slam Magashi

Chuks Okocha in Abuja and John Shiklam in Kaduna

The Arewa Consultative Forum (ACF), the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) and the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) yesterday berated the Minister of Defence, Maj. Gen. Bashir Magashi (rtd), for asking Nigerians to defend themselves against bandits.

Magashi, speaking against the backdrop of the abduction of 42 people, including pupils from the Government Science College, Kagara, Niger State in the wee hours of Tuesday, had told reporters in Abuja that the bandits were having a field day because they knew people in communities they attack would not fight back.

He told Nigerians to resist the attacks by bandits and stop running away like cowards.
Reacting, the spokesman of the ACF, Mr. Emmanuel Yawe, said the minister’s comments demonstrated his insensitivity to the plight of Nigerians.
He said: “If he was quoted correctly, the minister ought to withdraw it. He also owes Nigerians and particularly, the victims of these terrorists’ acts an apology for such comments are insensitive and demonstrate a complete misinterpretation of our plight as lawful citizens.

“If soldiers armed to defend us are yelling and running helter-skelter from Boko Haram and bandits, what does he expect ordinary unarmed mortals to do?”
The Chairman of the Kaduna State chapter of CAN, Rev. Joseph Hayap, slammed Magashi for his comment.
He stated: “The twist of words by many government officials in the past few weeks showed that those in government know what is happening, but do not like it when citizens speak out.

“For example in Kaduna State, the governor who was angry with people for challenging him when he said he paid killer herdsmen to stop killings in Southern Kaduna, is now saying he will not negotiate with bandits, which was the same problem some of us had with his approach.”

He added that if leaders pay attention to what Nigerians are saying, “we will not wait till we have lost many innocent lives to bandit before we start talking about the right thing that ought to have been done.”
He, however, welcomed the self-defence advocacy by many Nigerians, adding that those who made the proposal have been accused by the government of fuelling the crisis.

“Thank God, the Minister of Defence himself is now saying what we have been saying. These bandits are not spirits; our people, therefore, should not wait for police or military whenever these evil groups attack them but instead defend themselves,” Hayab said.
The PDP demanded the sack of the minister for asking unarmed Nigerians to confront and defend themselves against armed aggression by bandits and terrorists.

In a statement by its National Publicity Secretary, Mr. Kola Ologbondiyan, the party described the statement by the minister as reckless, irresponsible and a confirmation that the Buhari administration has surrendered to outlaws and has no determination to fight them.
PDP said it was unthinkable that a government would describe unarmed victims of armed aggression of terrorists and bandits as “cowards” while those elected and given the necessary resources to defend them hide in the comfort and safety of their offices in Abuja.

“Such disposition to security, a statutory responsibility of government, goes to validate apprehensions that our nation is indeed descending to a failed state under the Buhari presidency, where the government can no longer perform its duties while unarmed citizens are left to confront bandits and warlords,” the party stated.

It said given the silence by the Buhari presidency, it showed that the comment by the minister represented the disposition of Buhari and his security team towards protecting Nigerians.
PDP explained that such statement by the Buhari administration, at the time it ought to be scaling up its security strategies to guarantee the safety of all Nigerians, have been emboldening bandits, terrorists and kidnappers to escalate their atrocities against the compatriots.

Meanwhile, the National Chairman of the PDP, Prince Uche Secondus, has supported the call by the National Assembly for the declaration of a state of emergency on security.
Also, a former Deputy Senate President, Senator Ike Ekweremadu, has listed how Nigeria can restructure its security architecture through a bipartisan approach within 10 days.

Secondus, at the inauguration of the party’s electoral committee in Abuja called on the National Assembly to do the right thing that will bring peace and security in the country before, during and after elections.
“We have been overwhelmed in this country with insecurity. I called on the president to wake up. I call on call the federal government to declare a state of emergency on security,” he stated.

Ekweremadu called for a bipartisan approach to addressing the security crisis.
He urged party loyalists, the media, civil society and well-meaning Nigerians to put narrow political, partisan, ethnic, religious and sectional interest aside and seize the opportunity of the ongoing constitution amendment to immediately pull the nation back from the brink.