Zamfara Community Protection Guard, A Child of Need–Galadi
Please take a look at your background?
I am Attorney Bello Galadi from Shinkafi LG, Zamfara State. I graduated in law from Usmanu Danfodio University in Sokoto. I was admitted to the Nigerian Bar in May 2007. I started my legal career in Kaduna as a private lawyer. In January 2009, I chose an appointment with the Zamfara State Government as a legal adviser. I worked at the Department of Justice for six years before returning to private legal practice. I am currently a private attorney with offices in Gusau, Kaduna and Abuja. I am a Past President of the Gusau Branch of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) (covering Zamfara State).
I am in active politics. I ran for Member of the House of Representatives in 2019 as part of the National Rescue Movement (NRM). In 2021, I moved to PDP and competed for the office of National Legal Counsel. I was also one of the PDP gubernatorial aspirants in Zamfara State in 2022.
The safety of life and property of citizens is the responsibility of the government. How do you juxtapose this constitutional provision with the position of the Zamfara State government, shifting this responsibility to its people?
According to Article 14 (2) (b) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (1999 as amended), the primary responsibility of every government is to protect the life and property of its citizens. Any government that has transferred this responsibility to its people is a failure. I understand the governor’s frustration. As long as he is Governor of Zamfara State, it is his constitutional responsibility to protect our life and property. He must do everything in his power to protect us.
What is the position of the law, in relation to the policy of the Zamfara State government which obliges individuals to acquire firearms for self-defence?
The decision was made in error and was not supported by any constitutional provision. An ordinary citizen of Zamfara State cannot afford a weapon worth 1 million naira.
By law, the highest caliber firearms that the Commissioner of Police is empowered to license are sidearms otherwise known as double-barreled or pump-action. It cannot license individuals on AK-47s or AK-49s or machine guns. Logically, how can a citizen with a sidearm, who has no basic combat training, face a bandit with an AK-47 or a machine gun?
Critics of this new Zamfara security deal believe that allowing Nigerians to own guns will lead to anarchy and war. What is your opinion on this?
The people of Zamfara are mostly illiterate. Logically, how do you expect an illiterate person to use the weapon only in the authorized manner? It is suicidal for the government to go ahead with this safety net. The moment there are four million weapons in the hands of the four million inhabitants, the sovereignty of the state will be called into question.
Does a state governor have the prerogative to order the commissioner of police to issue a license to citizens to acquire guns?
According to its nomenclature, the governor is the head of state security. Unfortunately, he has no control over the military, police, DSS, NSCDC, or any other state-based security service. There is no reporting line between the governor and the police commissioner. The Commissioner of Police receives instructions from the Inspector General of Police, who receives orders from the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
Under the current circumstances, the police commissioner may not comply with the governor’s orders to license citizens to acquire firearms, as the directive is contrary to federal government firearms policy. Recall that in May 2021, the federal government decreed a firearms embargo which has not been lifted until today. I don’t know how the governor will circumvent this position of the federal government. The recent rejoinder made by the Chief of the Defense Staff will tell you that the Governor is alone on policy.
In fairness, the current administration of Zamfara State has deployed several tactics to checkmate the relentless attacks across the state, but the monster seems to have defied all logic. Do you see the newly inaugurated state government committees doing the magic?
I totally agree that the government has deployed several tactics to quell the banditry activities in the state. I am a living witness that the state government spends huge resources to support state security agencies. Even in 2021, the governor distributed 200 brand-new Toyota Hiluxes to state security agencies. He even donated brand new Toyota Hilux vehicles to the Nigerien government to support them in the fight against cross-border banditry.
The Governor inaugurated several security-related committees.
Unfortunately, the security situation in the state is deteriorating every day. What the governor has failed to do is identify the root causes of the problem and devise strategic plans on how to fix them. There should be free education up to degree level. Poverty must be reduced to the lowest level. The government should create jobs for people. Give free drugs in hospitals. There should be quality drinking water in urban and rural areas.
There should be good roads in our towns and villages. Fix the problem of corruption and fix our justice system. If the government can achieve this, in a short period of time, I assure you, Insha Allah, banditry in Zamfara State will become a thing of history.
On the recently inaugurated commissions, I have reservations about the composition and direction of the commissions put in place by the Governor. The committees have been politicized, as such I don’t expect much from them.
When calls for state police ended a stillbirth, state governors in the Southwest region settled for Amotekun. In your opinion, would the establishment of a similar security team be relevant in the fight against banditry, kidnapping and cattle rustling in Zamfara State?
Strictly speaking, the issue of security is squarely the prerogative of the federal government, as it falls under the exclusive legislative list of the Second Schedule to the Constitution. However, since the federal government has failed to provide security, state governors have no choice but to stand up in defense of their people. This is how the idea of Amotekun was born in the Southwest.
The security team is unconstitutional, so to speak. But he was a child of necessity. It is not out of place that the governors of the North-West reflect in this direction and propose a similar security device and do not wait for bandits to surround the whole region. While it is difficult to have the cooperation of the seven state governors in the region, any serious governor should think about the security measures necessary to protect his people.
In the case of Zamfara State, I personally support the idea of a community protection guard initiated by the Zamfara State government. If guards are given the necessary support, they can make our communities safer. They should be the only class of people to bear arms. They should not be used by the government against the opposition. Their training should be provided by conventional security agencies. They are expected to reach every nook and cranny of Zamfara State. Their weapons should be superior to those possessed by bandits. They must be made to respect the rights of citizens. Their rules of engagement should be clearly stated. Their financing should be well thought out by the government for sustainability.
Banditry thrives in Zamfara State, does this mean that the deployment of kinetic and non-kinetic approaches by the security apparatus is not working?
The government has deployed both kinetic and non-kinetic approaches to address the problem. At the start of this government, the governor engaged the bandits in reconciliation and peace agreement. There was a reasonable degree of peace in the state at this time. Unfortunately, after a few months, the attacks resurfaced after the dialogue collapsed.
As a Shariah state, the government must be guided on the best approach to engage with the bandits. In Islam, the government does not dialogue with a bandit who has been captured or subdued. A sincere bandit who has surrendered his weapons should be reintegrated into society and should not return to his former profession of banditry and, any bandit who is not ready for dialogue, the government should use its apparatus to arrest him, investigate, prosecute and punish him according to law.
Incidentally, the Governor approved the Banditry Act which provides for the death penalty for bandits. There should be a banditry commission in the state to handle all intelligence and investigation of banditry offenses. The Commission should be composed of persons of unquestionable integrity, competence and ability. A special court should be designated as a “banditry court” to prosecute cases of banditry in the state. The maximum duration for any case before the court should be two months.