Challenged by Escalating, Frequent Deadly Kidnappings for Ransom in FCT/Abuja Residents Bear Arms for Self-Defense

Kidnapping or abduction for ransom has become deadly in Abuja, the nation’s capital city, also called the Federal Capital City (FCT). The deep-seated problem where nobody feels secure has lingered. And seems to have defied solutions. But rather than just watch themselves slaughtered; some residents have had to devise strategies of self-defence. While some take to the kinetic, others seek the non-kinetic approach to secure their lives. Juliet Jacob Ochenje evaluates the measures being deployed by some communities in the FCT to prevent any attacks and invasions by the dare-devil kidnappers.  

Nation’s Capital Becoming Horror City

The problem of insecurity in Nigeria has become a major worry for its citizens, who are perplexed about how the country reached such a terrible state where everyone feels unsafe.

More worrisome is that the situation is only getting worse and is now completely unmanageable. Nearly every day in the FCT, Abuja the dastardly act of kidnapping for huge ransom and even killings occur. Is the nation’s capital becoming a city of horror? This is the question on everybody’s lips. The kidnapping is intensifying. Suffice it to say that kidnappers are on the loose.

International Community Advisory on Security Threats

The international community has been unrelenting in issuing advisory cautions to their citizens living in Abuja and its environment. Such warnings have always been anchored on the threat posed by the state of insecurity in Abuja of late. It cannot be argued that the recurring nature of insecurity across Nigeria poses a significant threat to the safety and welfare of its people.

Insecurity Spreads Across Country

For example, in the southwestern part of Nigeria, there has been a significant increase in cybercrime, armed robbery, kidnappings, domestic crimes, extrajudicial killings, conflicts between herders and farmers, ritual killings, and banditry.

Meanwhile, the southeastern region has become a haven for ritual killings, commercial crimes, secessionist movements, kidnappings, clashes between herders and farmers, attacks by unidentified gunmen, and banditry.

The south-south area is still plagued by threats from militancy, kidnappings, and environmental protests.

For more than ten years, the northeastern region of Nigeria has experienced a long-lasting humanitarian crisis. This crisis has been caused by the Boko Haram insurgency and the Islamic State in West Africa Province (ISWAP).

Simultaneously, the northwest region is facing problems with illegal mining, ethnic-religious violence, and banditry. Due to these challenges, insecurity in Nigeria has become a major concern for the citizens as it has resulted in the loss of thousands of lives and destruction of property.

Scenarios in FCT

Even the federal capital territory is not safe. Just this year a lot of kidnapping has been recorded in Abuja.

The resident of the FCT barely sleep with their two eyes closed. The rate of kidnap in Nigeria’s capital city in recent months has left residents afraid for their safety.

Africa Health Report reporter observed that the current environment of uncertainty has led to a decrease in economic activities, specifically affecting nightlife establishments like night markets, hangout spots, and recreational and entertainment venues. As a result, there has been a significant decline of some per cent in economic activities.

In response to the alarming increase in kidnapping and killings within Abuja, a significant number of residents are opting for self-help measures to tackle the problem, particularly in the urban areas of the capital residents and authorities in the FCT are becoming increasingly concerned about the significant rise in insecurity. Abuja was previously seen as a haven from the security issues afflicting other areas of the country, the capital city is now grappling with a growing problem of criminal activity, particularly kidnapping.

Self-Help

The self-help includes vigilantes both registered and unregistered with various arms, in some areas like Ushafa in Bwari Area Council gates were set up in certain locations to prohibit motorcycles from entering after 7 pm, while cars are restricted from accessing the area after 9 pm.

Also because of the various attacks and invasions many estates in the Lugbe area of Abuja called Trade More, Pyakasa, Penthouse and some other areas around there, barely sleep at night and these are elite estates. It is shocking that in such highbrow estates, kidnappers invade there just anytime they want to and attack residents. But the worst hit in recent times is a place called Keti. Sadly, almost every day, they strike and kidnap residents. The perpetrators have become so daring that they even boast of sacking the community. Sometime in December, the kidnappers invaded Keti and killed the traditional ruler for resisting abduction.

Because of the incessant attacks residents are leaving the area in drove.

Also because of this, you find villagers and communities adjoining those areas resorting to defending the highbrow estates because they’re armed and they stay awake all night.

Ned Nwoko

Given the self- defense option of fighting insecurities a Senator representing Delta North Constituency, Ned Nwoko has explained how his proposed bill will allow Nigerians to bear arms for self-defense following the increased rate of insecurity across the country. The lawmaker had earlier called for the introduction of a bill that allows civilians to own and carry firearms.

He said, “Talking about my bill, it is not just about people carrying arms, or just going into a store to buy arms, there are measures that have been proposed and they are very strict. In America, every citizen has a right to bear arms and it is enshrined in their constitution. In Nigeria, it is not like that, so what I am trying to do specifically is to have a system where people who are willing to carry arms are given the opportunity. One of the first conditions to be met is that every local government area must have a gun shooting school and if you want to bear arms, the first thing to do is to get trained on how to use them in every local government area, there will be shooting schools run by former military officers which are owned by them.

“Now, when you have been certified to have gone through the training, the next thing you will do is to go to your King, Emir, or Oba who will give you a letter certifying that you’re from that particular place and the next thing is to go to two doctors and those two doctors must certify that you are mentally fit to bear arms and then you go to your local government chairman who must also confirm that you’re from that particular LG. Then, you’d go to the Divisional Police Officer of that locality and the DPO must confirm that you do not have any criminal records and you’re not a wanted person.

Nwoko said the bill was proposed after careful consideration of the plights of Nigerians in the hands of those who have made themselves security threats.

CAN, North-Central Zone

But Pastor Simon Dolly disagrees with Nwoko. Hear his perspective on the issue. “Instead of encouraging the proliferation of firearms, we place great emphasis on praying for peace in our nation and encourage our followers to support the government in its primary duty of protecting all citizens. We also emphasize values such as tolerance, unity, forgiveness, brotherhood, and cooperation in our teachings and interactions with our followers, as these values are crucial in cultivating a harmonious and safe society”.

He made this position also during an interview.

Dolly, the Secretary of CAN, North-Central Zone, highlighted the importance of abiding by the law and promoting peaceful methods of conflict resolution.

According to him, regardless of the circumstances, carrying weapons without proper authorization is against the law and could potentially result in further disorder and insecurity in the country. As religious leaders, it is our responsibility to advocate for lawful and peaceful ways of resolving conflicts. Acknowledging the complexities related to firearms in Nigeria, Pastor Simon Dolly called for a comprehensive approach that addresses the underlying causes of insecurity.

Communities in Imo to Flush Out Bandits

On the 8th of February 2024, it was also reported that following the rising wave of kidnapping in some communities in Imo State, the affected communities have resolved to hire the services of local hunters and Aguleri Boys, a vigilante group, to flush out the bandits from their forest.

Speaking with Africa Health Report, Dr Law Mefor, a Forensic, Psychologist based in Abuja has this to say, “Nigerians are legally allowed to own some types of weapons, up to pump action firearms with a police Inspector General’s license. The current point of contention is whether or not Nigerians should be allowed to carry handguns and military-grade firearms, such as AK-47s. To be honest, I don’t think they should be allowed to carry military-grade firearms. Let me be silent on pistols, please. However, I want to say that some groups of people based on factors like age, education, marital status, and social standing may be permitted to carry handguns that will be supplied by the Police. With guns, we shouldn’t be liberal with cults all over the place. The cost of such a policy is high for the US. State police, Community Police, and even regional Police are what are urgently required now so that agents can receive the necessary training, orientation, and legal and ethical guidance. The country also needs to have in place Nigeria Rangers, to keep the peace in our forests.

Other Levels of Policing

 “A large number of Nigerians are indeed purchasing firearms for criminal and self-defense purposes. It is concerning that there are a lot more firearms in private, unauthorized, and inexperienced hands. The increase in weapons has brought about a rise in terrorism, kidnapping, banditry, and insecurity. However, given the increasing level of unrest and the fact that kidnappers are now targeting people in their homes, it is hard to hold Nigerians responsible for obtaining firearms illegally for self-defense. People have the fundamental right to life, and if they are unable to obtain weapons legally, they have the right to use any means necessary to defend their lives, including obtaining weapons illegally. For this reason, I argued here and elsewhere that for the country to effectively combat insecurity, the government must immediately establish other levels of police in the country. The only way to prevent citizens from wanting to obtain weapons to protect their family and self is to do that. The normal guy would choose to die in combat rather than be treated like a rat by criminals.

Estate Defense

“I’ve heard that some estates are moving forward with estate defense. For instance, vigilantes have been hired by my estate. They carry single and double-barreled weapons sparingly. However, I won’t be shocked if they carry covert military firearms. Yes, since kidnappers now visit estates in broad daylight and abduct people from their houses, some estates have wisely adopted extraordinary measures to defend themselves. It’s currently in style. Even at home, people are no longer safe. I even advise all estates in the country to do the same but work closely with the police for legal cover.

“Already, security is so poor and unbearable. Remember the Newtonian law in Physics: Action and reaction are equal and opposite. Let Nigerian people and groups figure out how to protect themselves and help the police. The security framework of the country has proven to be incredibly inadequate, thus what the populace is doing for themselves should be viewed as self-defense and augmentation.

Right to Life as A Crucial and Essential Human Right

“Indeed, I did discuss the right to life as a crucial and essential human right. Since self-preservation is the fundamental law of nature, the 1999 constitution clause originates from that principle. Nigerians need to seize hold of this natural law and unite for self-defense. With 220 million people dispersed throughout 176,606 wards, 774 LGs, 36 states, and a federal capital area, it is impossible for the 371,000 police officers and men to adequately patrol the country. To make matters worse, in addition to having a glaringly insufficient number of officers, the force also receives inadequate pay, equipment, and training. You can understand why it is now necessary for citizens to take additional steps to increase security and for the government to establish several tiers of law enforcement, especially police. Nigeria is merely acknowledging the existence of insecurity, doing very little to cure it. The police are the primary security agency, but the government refuses to take the necessary steps to establish a complete security architecture despite the actions of terrorists and bandits, as well as the expanding ungoverned areas and developing fault lines. Our level of hypocrisy has now rendered most Nigerians vulnerable and open to violent deaths anywhere they now turn, even their homes offer no succor as of today, including the federal capital territory Abuja, which is an irony.

Killer Herdsmen

“I recently wrote against this development. Killer herdsmen have gained a lot of confidence since Buhari’s catastrophic presidency. The Fulani socio-cultural organization in Nigeria, Miyetti Allah Kautal Hore, has now established the Nomad Vigilante Group only for their benefit and the defense of their cattle. What will happen to the country, I now question, when farmers organize their own Farmers Vigilante Group to defend themselves and their farms? To defend themselves, both vigilante organizations may soon transform into militias and engage in positional warfare against one another. Farmers should be permitted to carry the same types of weapons if the government permits herdsmen to do so. As a nation, let’s take security seriously for once.”

In a conversation with African Health Reports a legal Practitioner, Ifeanyi Nrialike emphasized that the current security challenge in Nigeria is of utmost concern. The Nigerian security forces are facing overwhelming circumstances, to the extent that even State Governors and former Governor of Zamfara, Alhaji Bello Matawalle, are advising their citizens to take matters into their own hands for self-protection. This sentiment has been echoed by other states, including the Governor of Benue State, among others. What is the Constitutionality of that called?

Supreme Court

He said the Supreme Court in the case of Odunlami V Nigerian Navy (2013)12NWLR(PT.1367) Page 20 @ P.48* thus… that.” *By Section 286 of the criminal code, when a person is unlawfully assaulted and he did not provoke the assault, the law expects him to defend himself. He is expected to use such force on his assailant as would be reasonable to make an effective defense.

However, Such Defense must not be intended to cause death or grievous harm. Furthermore, self-defense can only be considered if there was an unlawful assault that was not provoked by the accused person

All efforts to speak with the FCT Police Command on the issue were abortive as calls and SMS to seek an interview with the police public relations officer in the FCT, SP Josephine Adeh, did not yield a positive response. However, she later wrote: “There is nothing like that in FCT”, in a reply to one of the SMS sent to her phone by our reporter.

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