By Okodili Ndidi (The Nation)
Chief of Defence Staff (CDS) Lucky Irabor yesterday faulted the directive by Zamfara State Governor Bello Matawalle to residents to bear arms in a bid to protect themselves against bandits.
Irabor said the call was not right because the Armed Forces and other security agencies were handling the challenges posed by criminal elements.
He also said Matawalle does not have the power to make such a pronouncement.
The CDS spoke with reporters at the opening of the Joint Exercise for the National Defence College and War Colleges of the Armed Forces of Nigeria, code-named “Exercise Grand Nationale,” in Abuja.
The governor had in a statement by the Information Commissioner, Ibrahim Dosara, at the weekend said the Police Commissioner, Ayuba Elkana, had been directed to issue licences to people to carry arms.
Dosara said the state government had concluded arrangements to distribute 500 forms each to 19 emirates for those willing to obtain guns.
He also said security agents had been mandated by the governor to shoot motorcyclists on sight to remind them that the ban on commercial use of motorcycles was still in force.
The Police Commissioner had earlier warned that the ban on arms possession by unauthorised persons was still in place.
Irabor, who said police commissioners had no power to issue licences for people to bear arms, emphasised that security agencies are only “instruments of policy implementation.
He said: “If what I read is true, I do not also think that the governor has the power to instruct the commissioner of police to issue licences, because the commissioner of police does not have the powers to issue licences,”
According to him, the 1999 Constitution only gives such power to the Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces.
He was however, added that it behoves the Attorney-General of the Federation to clarify whether or not a governor had such powers.
The CDS said: “I believe that, in my view, it is not the right way to go. Of course, there are actions that members of the security agencies and the armed forces, in particular, the police and other security agencies, are doing to address insecurity in Zamfara State and its environs.
“Beyond that, of course, there are other legal issues, other issues of governance, issues that the government could have addressed using the instrumentality of the law that are available for him to bring greater peace and security.”
Irabor added: “But as I said, I do not intend to say much about it, but I believe that the Federal Government, using the Attorney-General, will look at the details of that press release and give further instruction.
“I believe that what we are doing in Zamfara State and of course, across the states of the federation, is in deference to the provisions of the 1999 Constitution.
“So, we are there because we are there to give support to the civil authority, in this case, the police.
“We do not need to restate what the issues are that have led to the deployment of the military across the country but then like I said, we are doing the very best to ensure that peace returns to every part of the country”.
Also yesterday, the Concerned Northern Forum (CNF) kicked against the call by Mattawalle, saying it could lead to abuse.
The forum however, urged the Federal Government to deploy more security personnel to the troubled state and empower vigilance groups to do more intelligence gathering.
”We are not against self-denfence but; We can’t support the decision directing civilians to bear arms. We are all witnesses to the inability of developed countries to stop the consequences of gun violence,” the CNF said in a statement by its spokesman, Abdulsalam Kazeem,
The group “sympathised with the government and people of Zamfara State over the current spate of insecurity and the untold hardship the situation caused them despite their loyalty to constituted authorities.”