Senators Divide Over Zamfara Governor’s Plan To Arm Militias

Governor Abdulaziz Yari  of Zamfara State
Governor Abdulaziz Yari of Zamfara State

Members of the Senate on Thursday differed on the plan of Governor Abdulaziz Yari of Zamfara State to arm a local militia in order to assist the police in fighting crime in the state.

A motion brought by Senator Basheer Mohammed and 49 others called attention to the governor’s plan, warning that the move was capable of worsening the country’s fragile security situation.

The motion prayed the Senate to urge President Goodluck Jonathan “to prevail on Yari to rescind his decision to arm vigilance groups in the state with rifles.”

The senators, after an intensive debate on the motion, rejected the request and instead asked the President “to deploy more security personnel to Zamfara and other states with similar security challenges.”

Mohammed, who expressed concern over the security challenges in Zamfara, said, “The easy access to arms by groups that are neither trained nor authorised to bear arms is partly responsible for the security challenges experienced in many parts of the country, including Zamfara State.”

He noted that Zamfara and other states with peculiar security challenges would better address their security problems by requesting additional security personnel and other assistance rather than setting up armed groups that might soon go out of control.

Senator Sha’aba Lafiagi, the Vice-Chairman of the Committee on Intelligence and National Security, noted that Yari had purchased the arms before seeking the Inspector General of Police’s permission.

He said, “The truth is that the governor has acquired the arms and ammunition; he now approached the IG to grant him permission. Why is it so easy for anybody to acquire arms without hindrance? We have to do all we can to put a stop to illegal acquisition of arms.”

However, Senator Kabiru Marafa from Zamfara State opposed the motion, saying the report was speculative and unreliable.

Praying that the motion be thrown out, he said the intention of the Zamfara State Government had not been fully ascertained, noting that any discussion would be unnecessary.

Senator Ali Ndume also opposed the motion, saying armed criminals easily assailed Nigerians because they did not have guns.

According to him, with arms, curtailing the activities of criminals can be easier.

His comment also that some senators had guns had to be withdrawn, after the Deputy Senate President, Ike Ekweremadu, noted that the allegation was sweeping and unfounded.

Leader of the Senate, Victor Ndoma–Egba, noted that the anxiety associated with the debate was unnecessary, arguing that it was time to discuss the issue of state police.

He pointed out that governors were already spending so much in supporting the police in their states, saying, “It is time to begin to consider the issue of state police in the face of current challenges.”

Senator Adegbenga Kaka noted that the country was under-policed given that less than 400,000 police were policing 160 million Nigerians.

Senator Victor Lar said Yari only re-echoed the frustration in the polity as many governors were wishing to have state police, noting that they were more concerned about regime security and not national security.

“We should resist the temptation of arming local militias in the face of the insecurity problems, it is not tenable for 400,000 police to adequately take care of 160 million people,” he said. [Punch]