The Federal government, on Friday, responded to the growing clamour by state governments for the authority to procure automatic arms for the use of their various state security and vigilante outfits.
Recall that the worsening insecurity in the country has made many states to either independently or through regional arrangements, formed internal security networks, to tackle new forms of security threats within their domains.
With the formation of such security/vigilante outfits, questions have arisen on how effective and functional they would be without being equipped with high-calibre weapons, especially considering the nature and level of armament of the elements posing the threats.
Recently, t he governor of Ondo State, Rotimi Akeredolu, took the federal government on over alleged refusal to grant the Western Security Network, known as Amotekun, the authority to wield automatic weapons, like AK47, in the course of their task, alleging double-standards as he claimed the same authority had been granted a northern state.
Also, just on Thursday, the Benue State governor, Samuel Ortom, during a ceremony marking the Passing-Out Parade of the state’s security outfit, known as the Community Volunteer Guard, issued a month ultimatum to the federal government to grant his state’s request for the permit to arm the new outfit with automatic weapons.
The governor claimed that he had applied to the federal government for permission to be granted to the state security outfit to bear sophisticated arms to confront the terrorists operating in the staye that are heavily armed but all to no avail.
Fielding question on the growing demand by states to acquire automatic weapons for their various internal security outfits, while briefing State House correspondents at the end of the National Security Council meeting presided over by President Muhammadu Buhari at the Presidential Villa, Abuja, the Chief of Defense Staff, General Lucky Irabor, warned that no state or state governor in Nigeria has the authority to acquire weapons of the caliber they are requesting for.
Gen. Irabor, flanked by the Ministers of Interior, Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola, and that of Police Affairs, Mohammed Maigari Dingyadi, said that the deployment of high calibre weapons, such as the AK-47 rifles, among others, lies strictly within the purview of the federal government security agencies.
Irabor, however, advised citizens to be weary and always read between the lines when certain requests are sought by state governors.
He said, Nigerians (Journalists) must be able to read between the lines when certain comments are made, to elicit certain reactions, as opposed to the reality with respect to what the security setting is.
Shedding light, he explained that AK-47 and, indeed, “firearms fall into two major categories. You have the automatic weapons and the ones that we may classify as non-automatic weapons which some of you may even have if you have the appropriate licences. Talking about the Pump Action which is the very common ones, and sometimes even the dane guns some of the hunters use.
“What is involved in the class that mentioned has to do with automatic weapons. There’s no state that has been given licence for that,” he declared, adding that the sole responsibility of licencing lies with the federal government agencies and also to be used by government security agencies and not quasi security forces.
“So, you do not ask for what you do not have power to acquire,” General Irabor stated.
Corroborating, Aregbesola debunked the governors’ insinuation that state executives also have powers to procure fire arms for their local security outfits.
“No state government has been empowered to arm any of his security operatives or agency. Non. So, the false claim that the state government is empowered by the federal government to have his own vigilante or sub national security outfit is false, absolute false!
Continuing, the Minister of Interior explained the conditions precedent before licence to bear arms could be obtained for local use, but which, according to him, the governors had failed to meet.
“There is a procedure for whoever wants to legally bring in any weapon to follow. And whoever is authorised by the law of the land, to bring in legitimate ammunition, including the army, must go through that process.
“So, whoever wants to import ammunition, armaments or weapons is advised to go through the legitimate process of such activity or act.”
Also on the issue of application for the purchase of firearms, the Minister of Police Affairs said “government had made it categorically clear that it has not issued licence to any state government or to the organisation to purchase firearms for subnational security measures.
“So, for anybody to say he has given timeline for the federal government to issue you licence, I think he should know that there are due process that one should follow to secure such licences.
Dingyadi advised “those concerned to please follow the due process to ensure that they get the appropriate response of the federal government on the matter.”