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A Case For A Liberal Firearms' License Regime

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Fellow Nigerian who is so pretentiously religious that you oppose the call for the Nigerian Government to introduce a liberal firearms licensing regime in Nigeria, how would you feel if you returned home in one of the state capitals or even your countryside with your newly wedded wife after a beautiful two weeks honeymoon in in the United Arab Emirate's city of Dubai and on the same night you are attacked by a lone gunman who before you say jack descended on your new wife after retrieving all your telephones and locked you up in one of the rooms and then proceed to test the forbidden fruit for which you had laboured all these years before she agreed to walk down the isle with you?

Will you go down on your knees to pray for him after he had had enough of your new wife and stolen as much things as he needs and zoomed off in his motorcycle?

On many occasions in many homes all across the length and breath of Nigeria this same agonizing experience is what many people face without the slightest possibility that the so-called law enforcement agents would come to their rescue or even be capable of carrying out science/evidence-based investigations that would result in the eventual apprehension of such animalistic creatures who terrorize Nigerians and rob them of their hard earned resources even as many young women are raped repeatedly by this night marauders.

Take a typical case of a village in Imo state whereby the only police post nearest to it is about several kilometers away and indeed what you identify as police post is only a makeshift contraption made up of ramshackle shafts and huts that could take at least three operatives who in any case are not sufficiently armed and trained and are indeed angry for being posted to the village which they see as punishment posting rather than being posted to township and cities whereby they could become lucky to be detailed by their divisional police officer to go for some private security duties in a house of one of the rich politicians or businessman no matter how dubious such a character is.

This is the scenario in most of the villages I know in my home state of Imo as well as many other states in Nigeria and the consequence is that since no one is charged with the duty of protecting these ordinary Nigerians, they are left to their own design and fate meaning that they are vulnerable to all varieties of attacks by the several freelance armed hoodlums that currently parade about in Nigeria.

What now obtains in many states of Nigeria is that the moment any well to do person intends to visit the countryside to be with his/her parents [who in any event are protected all through the year on the sponsorship of the bread winner son/daughter] or indeed distant relations that person will surely make independent arrangement on how to secure himself/herself and what this means is that the nearest divisional police officer would be approached for private security and heavy money exchanges hands. By this way, too many cities and townships in Nigeria are grossly unguarded and not protected by those paid with taxpayers money to carry out these duties constitutional. An average political office holder is surrounded all the time by at least twelve armed security operatives paid at public expense and these same members of the public are left to face the vicissitudes associated with an anarchic environment that Nigeria has become. In Borno state for instance since the violent Islamic insurgency began, villagers are killed and their houses destroyed without speedy and effective state government security intervention but the moment these violent extremists had disappeared into God knows where, the state governor will ride in his several chauffeur driven automobiles with a retinue of over five battalions of soldiers and armed police guards to visit the victims left behind after the devastation and he would majestically announce donation of paltry sums of money as compensation and promise to rebuild their houses. So the lives of Nigerians are worth a few pennies while those elected by these same people to govern them democratically have now cornered all the security guards to themselves?

Meanwhile section 33[1] of the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria of 1999 [as amended] clearly spelt out in white and black that every Nigerian has the inalienable right to life. How then do you safeguard this sacred constitutional right to life in a situation of near-anarchy which has exacerbated with the arrival over three years now of armed Islamic terrorists known as Boko Haram who most times invade towns and villages killing, maiming and destroying innocent lives and property of Nigerians and the security forces seems clearly unable to provide security for all people?

The minister of information Mr. Labaran Maku told the British Broadcasting Corporation television in an interview conducted on Friday May 9th 2014 that the North Eastern segment of Nigeria is such a large expanse of land. This is interpreted to mean that the soldiers can not and should not be expected to be everywhere in the three states under emergency rule in the terrorism-prone Adamawa, Yobe and Borno states. If the states that are under partial emergency are not sufficiently protected how much more do you expect that other states would be protected? Little wonder then that in the North West and North Central Nigeria, armed hoodlums suspected to be Fulani herdsmen have been on rampage killing and destroying many lives and villages.

Only on Thursday May 8th 2014, the online version of The Guardian newspaper of the United Kingdom reported that details emerged of a massacre of as many as 300 people close to Nigeria's border with Cameroon, while the Islamist group continued to hold more than 200 kidnapped schoolgirls.

These school girls were kidnapped on gunpoint by the armed Islamic rebels since April 14th 2014 and the leader of this outlawed terrorists group Abubakar Shekau bragged on YouTube that his group would sell those captured innocent girls as slaves. It is suspected that they may have been driven to the border town between Cameroon and Adamawa.

The US president, Barack Obama, was quoted by this British newspaper as saying that the kidnappings and murders in Nigeria, as well as the war in Syria and other conflicts, showed humanity's "darkest impulses".

The latest insurgent attack in Nigeria, according to The Guardian, targeted the town of Gamboru Ngala. Gunmen burned buildings and fired on civilians as they tried to flee. The Nigerian senator Ahmed Zanna put the death toll at 300, citing information provided by locals. This Senator is facing mounting allegations of his suspected links to these same Boko Haram.

Zanna said the town had been left unguarded because soldiers based there had been redeployed north towards Lake Chad in an effort to rescue the kidnapped girls. Witnesses said Boko Haram fighters riding in armoured trucks and on motorcycles had stormed Gamboru Ngala and overrun the town.

A medical officer in the Cameroon army, which has reinforced security at the border, said it believed more than 200 people had been killed in the town. "Some of the bodies were charred. It was horrific. People had their throats slit, others were shot," he said.

Such crude display of bestial barbarism by these Islamic rebels and many other criminal acts of treachery and mass killings by a range of gunmen has made it imperative that the Nigerian government should revisit her strict but unwise stance against individual ownership of guns for self protection.

In many countries of the World firearms licenses are available on certain terms and for some category of law abiding citizens. In Switzerland, gun policies are unique in that able bodied men between the ages of 20-30 are actually required to have fully automatic firearms in their houses. According to a research by Aaron Spulor who posted these information on his blog, this gun policy in Switzerland is in case the emergency militia needs to be called as the country has no permanent army. In Switzerland, a license is needed to own hunting weapons. Brazil has one of the most liberal gun policies in the World. Anyone over the ages of 25 may own a gun if it is registered and kept indoor. In Czech Republic, any one over 18 who has no criminal record may own a firearm although a certain license is required for those above 21 and up. Citizens of Czech Republic may also carry concealed weapons without specifying a reason. In Italy, the constitution does not provide for firearm license but citizens over 18 with unblemished criminal record can apply for a license. Households can have up to three 'common' firearms, six weapons for shooting sports, and an unlimited number of hunting weapons. Aaron Spulor wrote that in Germany, Germans over 18 years of age since the enactment of the weapons Act of 1972 may own a firearm but they must pass a test of 'trustworthiness, knowledge and accuracy' and prove necessity.

In these jurisdictions, there are evidence that crime rates are minimal but in Nigeria whereby Government disallow people from bearing firearms except the useless hunting Dane guns for the village hunters, armed hoodlums have wasted hundreds of thousands of innocent lives and these lives would have been saved if Nigerians with sound mental state and clean criminal records were licensed to carry firearms. Section 220 [1] of the Nigerian constitution clearly supports the issuance of firearms licenses on certain strict conditions since even the wording of that section specifically stated that the National Assembly Shall legislate into being the establishment of military training camps for all Nigerian adults and if such are not yet legislated then the President of Nigeria can order the use of public schools for the purposes of compulsory military training for law abiding adult Nigerians.

Will the Nigerian Government stand idly and watch as armed hoodlums decimate Nigerians in their thousands before it can do the needful to legalize individual firearms ownership under certain regulations? My take is that the Nigerian Government must liberalize firearms ownership in Nigeria as one way of safeguarding right to life since the armed forces and police have proved seriously challenged and unable to be every where to protect the lives of Nigerians and the constitution makes it imperative that the security and welfare of every citizen is the primary duty of government. A stitch in time saves nine.

+Emmanuel Onwubiko; Head; Human Rights Writers Association of Nigeria blogs;

Disclaimer: "The views/contents expressed in this article are the sole responsibility of Emmanuel Onwubiko and do not necessarily reflect those of The Nigerian Voice. The Nigerian Voice will not be responsible or liable for any inaccurate or incorrect statements contained in this article."

Articles by Emmanuel Onwubiko