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… Overwhelmed govs prodding citizens to self-defence – Gen. Ikponmwen

…says call inconsistent with govt’s posture on arms acquisition

  • Ekengba: It’s legal for citizens to defend themselves


  • It’s belated, suspicious, suggests failed state – Obiefuna


A security strategist and former Provost Marshal of the Nigerian Army, Brig-Gen. Idada Ikponmwen (rtd), has described the recent advice by some state governors to their citizens to defend themselves against terrorists, bandits and kidnappers as the height of failure of governance and its helplessness in fulfilling its primary duty which is the safety of the lives and property of its citizens.


Ikponmwen, who is also a lawyer, said such calls coming from state chief executives, were indications that the governors have become overwhelmed by the insecurity confronting their states. In the last couple of weeks, at least two state governors in the North West geopolitical zone namely,


Governor Bello Mattawale (Zamfara) and Governor Bello Masari (Katsina) have asked the people of their states to defend themselves against the bandits ravaging their communities. Before this, even the Minister of Defence, Maj-Gen. Bashir Magashi (rtd) had canvassed the same position when he blamed victims of Boko Haram attacks for not putting up any resistance.


Magashi, who spoke on the heels of the persistent attacks and abduction of people by bandits, said citizens should not act cowardly by fleeing any time the bandits’ attacked a community.


But, Ikponmwen observed that whereas security of lives and property is the primary responsibility of any government, millions of Nigerian citizens have become victims of the failure of the government to protect them from these incessant attacks while many have lost their lives.


He explained that under natural law, every individual has a right to defend themselves against aggression, but that in order to avoid anarchy and chaos, the citizens handed over the responsibility of safeguarding the lives of everyone to the government in the social contract signed between the state and citizens many centuries ago.


Ikponmwen disclosed that the right to life as enshrined in Chapter Four of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria connotes that citizens have a right to defend themselves in the face of aggression, but that that right has limitations because of the law that prohibits the average citizens from bearing fire arms.


“When the governors say to their citizens, defend yourself, they are actually telling them that the government has become overwhelmed and helpless and the only option left is for the individual to take up the responsibility of defending their lives, property and community.


“Under the constitution, individuals have the right to protect themselves against any aggression but the problem is when there is a clash between the individual right and the right of another individual.


So, that advocacy for everybody to defend themselves will lead us to a situation where somebody that is more powerful will overwhelm the one that is less powerful by way of resources. This will endanger the wider society,” he said.

Ikponmwen urged the government to give a serious consideration to the clamour by Nigerians for state police, arguing that it will help the state governors to become the Chief Security Officers of their states, not just in name but indeed put them in the right position to handle security matters.


He also advised the federal and state governments to address the root causes of insecurity such as the activities of the killer  herders, instead of scratching the issues on the surface. Similarly, some public interest lawyers have reminded the governors not to abandon the constitutional responsibilities of protecting the lives and property of their citizens.


An Abuja-based lawyer, Oladimeji Ekengba noted that governance is a social contract where the citizens’ donates their rights to the sovereign in exchange for security


. Ekengba said that in a situation where the sovereign cannot provide security for the citizens then the social contract is breached. He, however, observed that it is legal for citizens to defend themselves against aggression.


Another lawyer, Ubaka Obiefuna while reacting to the issue, said that self-defence as against retaliation is constitutionally provided for armless and hapless citizens who are threatened with imminent danger of harm and death.


Obiefuna observed that though the call by the governors of Zamfara and Katsina states was suspicious considering its timing, it was long overdue. Under the constitution, the call by the governors can be interpreted to mean delegation of their duty or deregulation of the security sector which, according to him, suggests a failed state.


“By the provisions of the law, it’s trite that self-defence is permissible as long as it’s not an afterthought, that is to say when the attack is completed. “In the delicate security circumstance we have found ourselves in Nigeria, call for individuals to defend themselves is a welcome development because of the obvious dereliction and complicity of government in the security imbroglio in Nigeria,” he said.


He warned that the call for self-defence may not yield the desired objectives both in the short and long term given the fact that only the government possesses the requisite capacity to rein in the bandits and other terrorists.


He said that when governors who are supposed Chief Security officers of their respective states are helpless, it portends serious danger for the nation at large.


Timileyin Ojo, another lawyer, said that the peculiarity of the security challenge facing Nigeria makes it one which cannot be resolved singlehandedly but collectively.


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