The Benue State Governor, Samuel Ortom recently called on the Federal Government to grant licenses to responsible citizens to carry sophisticated weapons such as AK47 rifles to deter criminals from attacking innocent and helpless Nigerians.
Governor Ortom’s call was premised on the need to face insecurity headlong to prevent incessant loss of lives through the activities of criminal elements bearing dangerous weapons illegally.
As expected, the call generated, and is still eliciting reactions with majority of individuals and groups across the country supporting the call, describing it as timely and laudable.
Those who agree with the governor are of the opinion that private people have to possess means of self-defense since the security agencies need help from responsible Nigerians who have become prone to constant attacks by criminals.
Of the one hundred and ninety-five countries of the world, over one hundred and fifty have gun licensing laws which allow private citizens to posses certain kinds of arms for self-defense, hunting and sport shooting.
Notable among these countries are the United States of America, United Kingdom, Canada, Brazil, Chile, China, India, Cambodia, Israel, Japan, Croatia, Denmark, Czech Republic and El-Salvador.
Even in Africa, nations like Botswana, Djibouti, Gambia, Kenya, Lesotho, Liberia, Mozambique, Namibia, Rwanda, Senegal, Sierra Leone, South Arica and Swaziland have legislations permitting private ownership of firearms.
Incidentally, most of the countries that allow private ownership of firearms are not facing the legion of security threats that Nigeria is currently experiencing.
That makes it imperative for the Federal Government to consider the latest call by Governor Samuel Ortom.
Like the governor suggested, the government can regulate the caliber of arms to be owned by private citizens. Whoever wants to own the approved firearms would need community leaders and other relevant authorities as guarantors and must take responsibility in the event of misuse.
Apart from given genuine reasons like threats to lives and property, citizens must attain a certain age, be subjected to background checks, and must be without a record of domestic violence and mental health issues before they qualify to posses arms.
Those permitted to own firearms must also ensure that they acquire them only from licensed agents and the arms must not be carried around if the permits to own them do not allow that. There must be no transfer of ownership and those bearing guns must constantly make themselves available for periodic checks.
If the Federal Government heeds the advice of Governor Ortom and allows responsible individuals to possess firearms under strict regulations, the incessant and senseless killings of Nigerians by illegal gun-bearing merchants of death would be minimized.
It is however sad that some people are deliberately taking capital of the statement by the Governor for another voyage into cheap political debates, pretending to be unaware of the overwhelming need for self-defense.
Particularly worrisome is that some Benue people are trying to berate the governor for granting amnesty to repentant criminals at the dawn of his administration and is now stressing the need for *responsible* persons to have AK47 rifles for self defense.
Governor Ortom used the words *responsible* citizens in that call and it is worthy to note that those people were not really *responsible* at that time he granted them amnesty and they possessed dangerous weapons like Kalashnikov, General Purpose Machine Guns, Pump Action and other sophisticated assault rifles illegally.
The desperation to undermine the governor even when the world is with him on an issue is very unfortunate. The act leaves one wondering why a Benue indigene, in a bid to play politics, would clandestinely justify why criminals wielded sophisticated weapons and terrorized their own people.
Why would a Benue son or daughter question the governor’s decision to mop up arms from criminals and curb violent crimes in the state?
Those who are from areas that are constantly under attacks by criminal elements like herdsmen, bandits, kidnappers, terrorists and other blood suckers will understandably wish that the federal government listens to governor Ortom and other Nigerians by doing that which is becoming a convention globally.
Those who feel that Benue people particularly don’t need to posses firearms legally do not seem to wish the state well and should know that they must always have one voice when it comes to the security of lives and property.
At this time when majority of Nigerians are standing with governor Ortom on his bold call, Benue people, who are victims of persistent killings by merchants of death must not be making utterances that suggest that they are not with him on that position.
*HAGHER IS A PUBLIC AFFAIRS ANALYST/JOURNALIST FROM BENUE STATE.*