The approval by the Federal government that the Katsina State owned security outfit should now carry arms, is causing concern and apprehensions in the political space given the heightened security challenge across the country. This has also created the impression that the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari has been bias and operating on ethnic sentiments.
Although the reasons adduced was to help stem the act of banditry in the state, it is not being viewed that way in many quarters, as the action of the government is now being termed as double standard, with ethnic colouration, since other states and regions with similar outfits have been denied such, in the past, with the excuse that if they carry arms, it would go in conflict with the operations of the conventional security operatives, legally empowered to carry arms in the discharge of their normal duties.
The government’s new stand on Katsina, has brought a new dimension into how insecurity would be tackled. It has also opened up fresh debates on governance and the kinds of systems to be adopted in governing such an enlarged country like Nigeria, where people are no longer safe and their properties not secured.
It has been a divisive debate in the country over the issue state and regional police with the federal government and the north insisting that the present central policing structure is appropriate and adequate because politicians may use state police against opponents and such could also threaten national unity.
Three constitution amendments since 1999 have failed to scale the hurdle and it was becoming an accepted fact that it may remain so for now before suddenly the report emerged of Katsina state security outfit wielding and brandishing AK-47 rifles allegedly approved by the federal government.
It was the issue that raised political tension between the federal government and the South west over the demand to arm its regional security outfit, Amotekun, formed last year over increasing clashes between local people and herdsmen. Federal government’s refusal to approve use of lethal weapons for the region created the notion that the government was indirectly shielding the bandits and exposing the people to attacks.
But it was in Benue state that the matter came to head with the governor, Samuel Ortom, threatening to arm his vigilante group without federal government approval. It has been a sore point in the fight against insurgency and insecurity under this government.
It is believed that this action of government to clandestinely approval for one state without allowing other states interested in arming their networks from doing so.
When the South West security outfit, code name Amotekun, was launched, the governors in the Region, led by Governor Rotimi Akeredolu of Ondo State, applied to the Inspector General of Police for license, to enable the Amotekun corps members carry arms in combatting crime, they were denied on spurious excuses. Different undertones were read into it, as the Fulanis, insinuated that the outfit was formed to victimize them.
Even, the Attorney General of the Federation Abubakar Mallami, declared Amotekun illegal, determined to frustrate its existence but the resilience of the South West Governors, backing it up with legislations in their different states, sustained it .
What is, however baffling, is that those who condemned Amotekun and other vigilante groups in Benue, South East, South-South and South West, to stem insecurity in their states, are the ones now clamouring for such outfits, being backed by the government, which had earlier rejected others, from carrying arms.
Before the latest development in Katsina State,
Hon. Aminu Masari of the state and that of Zamfara, Bello Matawalle, had told their people to purchase arms to defend themselves against criminals, kidnappers and bandits.
This statement was condemned by the Chief of Defence Staff, General Lucky Irabor, as a dangerous one, coming from such high personalities and Chief Security officers of their states, arguing that it would make curbing insecurity and the work of security operatives in the two states, which are the highest zones and homes of bandit, as this could also encourage all shades of people to have access to arms.
That was why a sudden twist and departure from the past by the federal government to singularly favour Katsina, even when the police had said, it has not lifted the embargo, placed on issuance of gun licenses, since 2013, got some state governors angry, accusing the federal government of double standard.
Governors Rotimi Akeredolu of Ondo, state, Samuel Ortorm of Benue State, Seyi Makinde of Oyo State and even that of Bormo State, have expressed their bitterness, over what they described as the sentiments of the federal government, to favour some Northern states security vigilantes to carry arms.
Both Ortom and Akeredolu, who have been on the centre page of how banditry would be curtailed and have adopted series of measures, due to the fact that their two states, are the most affected in the Middle Belt and South West, are not taken the Katsina issue lightly.
The statement of anger and indignation against the Federal government, personally signed by Akeredolu, entitled: “We Believe In One Nigeria, But We Cannot Have One Country, Two Systems,” condemned the double standard being enforced by the Federal Government among state-owned security agencies.
“We want to reiterate, that what is sauce for the goose, is sauce for the gander. Ondo State government under the doctrine of necessity have decided to fulfil its legal, constitutional and moral duty to the citizens of the state by acquiring arms to protect them.
“The video making the rounds showing the equivalent of the Western Nigeria Security Network (Amotekun Corps) in Katsina, obtaining the approval of the Federal Government to bear arms is fraught with great dangers.
“Denying Amotekun the urgently needed rights to legitimately bear arms is a repudiation of the basis of true federalism which we have been clamouring for.
“That Katsina was able to arm its state security force with the display of AK47 means we are pursuing one country, two systems. If the Katsina situation confers advantages on some in the face of commonly faced existential threats, it means that our unitary policing system, which has failed, is a deliberate method of subjugation, which must be challenged.
“The Independence agreement was based on a democratic arrangement to have a federal state and devolved internal security mechanics. We must go back to that agreement.
“Denying Amotekun the right to bear arms exposes the South West to life-threatening marauders and organized crime. It is also a deliberate destruction of our agricultural sector. It is an existential threat.
“This is more so, given that the bandits have an unchecked access to sophisticated weapons. The state government cannot look on while its citizens are being terrorized and murdered with impunity. We will defend our people.”
Governor of Benue, Ortom, spoke in the same vein, saying that he too, would not fold his hands for those who have guns and who could be a sell out, in a situation where nobody can be trusted, to keep killing his people, in the name of one Nigeria, where different rules, are being operated.
Governor Makinde of Oyo State, on his own, categorically said, that the South West, would not allow Amotekun to be under the police; that it would operate differently.
Since the entire South West leaders and their governors are on the same page over Amotekun issues, it has now become a common agreement, that whatever Akeredolu says, on issues that affects the South West, being their chairman, is binding on all.
Some of the issues agitating the minds of Nigerians with the double standard played by the Federal government with the Katsina saga, is that President Buhari has again, brazenly brought nepotism and ethnic sentiments into the polity on issues that affect the North, as his action runs contrary to the law, since the empowerment of a particular state to bear arms must be approved by the National Assembly.
As a public analyst, commentator and publisher, Elder Moses Olorode, who was also the former Press Secretary to the former Governor of Oyo State, Dr. Omololu Olunloyo, said, the present development and threats of insecurity all over the country, calls for the restructuring of Nigeria to give room for true federalism and proper devolution of powers.
He argued that restructuring would give states the opportunity to have their own police and determined their mode of operations, according to the dictates and resources available to them.
Both Afenifere and Ohanaeze Ndigbo, South South and Middle Belt forums had on several occasions called for restructuring to allow for state police, as it was in the First Republic when Nigeria operated Regional governments.
It would also be recalled that the committee set up by the All Progressive Congress (APC), headed by the Kaduna State Governor, Mallam Nazir El-Rufai, in its recommendations, called for the creation of state police. The party has since put the recommendations of the committee into the cooler.