As Zamfara State Governor, Abdul’aziz Yari Abubakar, has been accused of purchasing guns and ammunition for the purpose of arming vigilance groups, Vice Chairman of the Senate Committee on National Security and Intelligence, Senator Sha’aba Lafiagi made the allegation in the Senate yeterday during a debate on a motion entitled: “The plan of the Zamfara State Governor to arm vigilance groups in the state with rifles.”
The upper chamber was, however, divided as some Senators supported the governor’s efforts to secure the state while others argued that the matter should not be narrowed down to Zamfara, but to other states facing similar security challenges.
However, the Senate, in its resolution, urged President Goodluck Jonathan to deploy more security personnel in Zamfara and other states facing similar security challenges. Senator Basheer Garba Mohammed, alongside 46 other Senators, sponsored the motion.
Meanwhile, the arms are reportedly in the custody of security agencies in the state, pending distribution. Lafiagi said that the governor approached the Inspector-General of Police (IGP), Mohammed Abubakar, for the permit. But there is a snag.
The governor was said to have procured the weapons without a permit from the relevant approving authorities, according to Lafiagi: “I am a member of the National Security and Intelligence Committee…The governor admitted that he had procured the arms and had just approached the Inspector-General of Police for the permit.
“The Inspector-General, from what we heard, is still withholding the approval. But have we asked ourselves this question; how did a governor have easy access to buy and store arms easily? Is it because he has immunity?”
Deputy Senate President Ike Ekweremadu, who presided over the session, described the situation in Zamfara as worrisome. “It’s time the police do something to help the people of Zamfara. We have proliferation of arms, but it is somehow necessary. We should find a way of regulating it. It’s time we look holistically at securing the lives of Nigerians.”
Ekweremadu condemned the manner in which armed men invaded some Zamfara, communities, robbed the people and fled into the forests, only to return another day to rob them. He urged the police to provide security for the citizens, while the issue of legality or illegality of fire-arms possession should be seriously addressed.
Moving the motion earlier, Senator Mohammed raised the alarm over easy access to arms by groups “that are neither trained nor authorised to bear arms and the rate at which groups and individuals now take to armed resistance. He noted that the foregoing was partly responsible for the security challenges experienced in many parts of the country, including Zamfara State.
The senator noted that the governor’s decision to arm the vigilance groups in Zamfara with rifles was capable of further jeopardising the fragile security situation in the state. Immediately Mohammed concluded his motion, Ekweremadu beckoned on Senator Kabiru Marafa from Zamfara State to speak.
Recall that Marafa had on Wednesday this week engaged his colleague, Senator Paulinus Igwe, on the motion, over which they almost exchanged blows, but for the timely intervention of the Sergeant-at-Arms. Contributing, Marafa pleaded with the chamber to disregard the motion on the premise that the reports on which the information was based, are false.
Marafa also told his colleagues that the security incident which was reported in a northern newspaper with headquarters in Abuja (names withheld) happened in November 2012 and the governor never procured arms. Disturbed by the information, Sen. Abdul Ningi called for probe into the “illegal” purchase, stressing that if unchallenged, other states could follow suit. Sen. Ita Enang wondered where Customs officials were when the weapons were being imported into the country, while Sen. Magnus Ngei Abe called for thorough investigation into the matter.
Said Abe: “There’s nowhere in the world where one police force provides security for the whole federation. It’s only in Nigeria that we see this. It would be unjust for us to take action on what the governor has done, based on just a newspaper report…” Supporting Enang, Senator Ifeanyi Okowa asked rhetorically how the guns were purchased.
“How were the guns and ammunition purchased? These are the issues we need to investigate. We need to find out from the governor, the processes he passed through before getting the guns and ammunition. We also need to also ask the police whether they were involved or not…”
Senator Ali Ndume, in his contribution, declared that almost half of the 109 Senators own guns, even although he was opposed to the motion: “The problem we have in Zamfara State is because most of the citizens are harmless…Why is it that almost half of us here own guns?” Senators immediately shouted: No, no, no! This prompted Ekweremadu to ask Ndume to withdraw the statement. “You have to retract that statement…you didn’t go with them to their bedrooms to know that they own guns, did you?”
After making elaborate explanation, where he said that because there is an extant law which allows Nigerians to own guns after a successful application to the appropriate authorities and he believed that his colleagues would have gone through the process, Ndume apologised and withdrew the statement. “I withdraw the statement on the assumption that we don’t own arms…” Ndume said.