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New gun mandate in Zamfara State might cause a lot more harm than good and could even lead to civil war

29 June 2022
Reading time: 5 minutes

After countless attacks by bandits and other armed criminals who are killing and maiming residents in Zamfara State, the government has given residents a mandate allowing them to buy and carry guns to defend themselves.

RNI spoke to a resident and a security analyst from Zamfara State to get their views on the new ruling.

Usman Muhammad, from the Maru Local Government Area, said: “I support the mandate because lives are being lost and kidnappings happen almost on daily basis. But now that the state is allowing us to carry licensed weapons, it must support us by making the guns available so that we can protect ourselves.”

He said the decision would get the support of most of the communities because they needed to be able to defend themselves from the constant attacks by bandits, insurgents and other armed criminals.

But Muhammad Abdullahi, a resident of Maiduguri in Borno State, did not agree with the decision.

“All we want is peace because it guarantees that we can live in safety in the country. Security personnel are the only ones who should carry weapons. I’m not sure that civilians should be allowed to own guns. It is not safe for some individuals to be armed. They could use the guns on those who are not criminals,” he said.

“The poor should not be allowed to be armed. Only security personnel, who are in charge of protecting communities, should carry arms. In my view, I think there could be a huge problem if the majority of people in communities own weapons. The poor people should just keep on going to work, get some food and look over their families.”

Abdullahi Yunusa, also from Maiduguri, said: “I’m against the new rule that gives residents the right to own weapons in the name of self-defence. Only members of the government and security agencies should be the sole administrators managing weapon ownership, not civilians.

“I believe politics is playing a role in this decision. Zamfara State politicians could be currying favour to garner votes. This mandate allows every type of person to own a gun and use it to their advantage. There are extremists, enemies and groups who might have disagreements and will use their guns to sort out the problem. That’s not in self-defence. Innocent civilians could be killed just because they are having an argument with someone. I believe the government should recruit more troops instead and encourage them to fight the banditry and all other forms of insecurity in Nigeria.”

Maiduguri resident Abubakar Sadiq told RNI reporter Aisha Jamal that he supported the mandate.

“I support the new rule because of what is going on now in Nigeria. Bandits and other criminal elements are still attacking and killing many innocent people. Kidnappings and even massacres are still a way of life for many individuals who are unarmed and who are at the mercy of their attackers. If community residents had weapons, they could tackle their attackers head on. They would be able to fight back. They would at last be able to protect themselves, their families and their properties.

“When the insurgency in Borno State was at its worst, it was the youths who sat down and decided it was time to face insurgents and fight back. That’s when they used to pick up sticks so that they could chase the attackers away. And that was when peace began to be restored in Borno. I do not think that it’s a bad thing for the citizens in Zamfara State to own guns. They will be able to protect themselves and I believe they will achieve peace once the attacks and threats are no longer there.”

James Gala, a security analyst in Zamfara State, told RNI that protecting the lives and properties of citizens should be the sole responsibility of the security authorities.

“It is the responsibility of the state government to protect citizens and properties but, at this time, even though people are suffering so much from the insurgency, the farmer-herdsmen crisis, banditry and kidnappings, as well as other crimes, I still do not believe the proliferation of small arms to the public as mandated in Zamfara State is acceptable.

“There are already a lot of arms in society which, I believe, will continue to be a threat to the nation’s security. The arms should be confiscated. For authorities to allow citizens to become licensed gun owners and to buy guns in the name of self-defence is not the solution. There are some people who should not be allowed to own guns because they might have bad intentions. They should not be given the task of protecting themselves and their fellow civilians because that is the job of the security forces,” Gala said.

“Most of the civilians who are now allowed to own guns have not undergone any military training. Allowing anyone and everyone to own a gun could lead to a civil war among communities.

“The outcome could destroy society and it would be evident that the government had failed by making the wrong decision.”

Gala said the federal and Zamfara State governments should look into the decision again and take into account that the guns might not be used only to protect civilians from criminals.

“There are better ways to tackle insecurity. Allowing all and sundry to own guns could cause a lot more harm than good. There is enough violence in the state without civilians adding to it by taking the law into their own hands when arguments and disagreements break out. I believe that only trained security personnel should be allowed to carry arms.”


About the author

Aisha Sd Jamal