Why Each State Governor Should Constitute Local “Well Armed” Vigilantes Now – Resolving The Legal Tapestry

By Othniel A. Ikpibako


The current security situation in Nigeria is nightmarish. The report from security intelligence and non security communities is distressing. They all point to one fact that bandits and terrorists have occupied all the forests in Nigeria: most of these bandits and terrorists are non-Nigerians, flocking in from neighbouring countries; daily, they kill tens of people. Governor Ganduje had lamented a few days back that Kano forests have been occupied by bandits and expressed an intention to call in military support.

I would state emphatically that the call for the military in this regard is actually the first port of call, especially when dealing with armed bandits and terrorists of this magnitude; moreso, these bandits and terrorists are trained in the art of war. Also, in contrast to the police, the military should be able to and functionally deal with any external aggression, not related to the civilian population. However, from our incumbent reality, a call to the military is not likely to achieve any desired effect: either the Nigeria military is overstretched or they have affection for these bandits and terrorists.

Resolving the Legal Tapestry

In jurisprudential thinking, the first societal common good is the security of lives and properties. This as well is the foundation of the Social Contract whereby a people cede their rights to a government in return for protection. Hence, once a government has failed to secure lives and properties of the citizenry, the government is in fundamental breach of the Social Contract. That government automatically loses legitimacy and MUST be impeached in a democratic society.

Having observed that the Nigeria military cannot be counted upon, from the current reality, to protect lives and properties, against the bandits and terrorists, a jurisprudential solution is imperative. Right to life and property are fundamental rights and in human rights thinking, human right norms take precedence over other norms, be it in the same constitution. Again, the fundamental nature of human rights has succeeded in elevating the individual as a subject of international law. Hence, by whatever means, the lives and properties of the citizenry must be protected. The multi-billion naira question, however, is how do the citizenry defend themselves against well armed bandits and terrorists, in the face of failure by the Federal Government which is constitutionally required to do so?

The constitution makes ‘arms, ammunition and explosives’ part of the Exclusive Legislative list which means that only the Federal Government has the constitutional power to deal on such matters. However, in the face of obvious and patent failure by the Federal Government to protect lives and properties, a legal tapestry of bearing arms, resolvable in favour of the citizenry, show.

Firstly, sections 33 and 43 of the Nigeria Constitution guarantee the right to life and property respectively. Also, same Section 33 of the Constitution legalizes self-defence, defence of another and defence of property to the point of taking the life of the aggressor. The summary of the foregoing, is that everyone has the right to live and own properties such fundamental rights must be protected and defended by whatever means, particularly by bearing arms proportional to arms of the bandits and terrorists. This Section 33 of the Constitution, being a fundamental right provision, supersedes the Exclusive Legislative list, owing to the fundamental nature of human rights.

Secondly, is the jurisprudential doctrine of necessity where a law can be violated to avoid harm or danger. Hence, the Exclusive Legislative list of the constitution which vests in the Federal Government matters of ‘arms, ammunition and explosives’ can be violated to avoid harm of the incumbent daily massacre and destruction of lives and properties. In other words, the citizens can validly bear arms presently without any license from the Federal Government to protect their lives and properties, since same Federal Government has failed and failing to protect their lives and properties in fundamental breach of the Social Contract.

The Option of Local “Well Armed” Vigilantes

One cannot agree more that for everyone to be left to bear arms indiscriminately, would constitute intransigent future problem, after the current harm might have been dealt with. This does not mean that everyone does not have the right to bear arm presently for their defence, from the above legal analysis. However, an organized system of collective defence is called for.

Since the Federal Government has failed in its constitutional duty to protect lives and properties of the citizenry, the next organized system is the State Governments. They can and should constitute local “well armed” vigilantes. The Western Security outfit (Amotekun) and incumbent Eastern Security outfit (Ebube Agu) are right steps in the right direction. Other states must as emergency follow suit. In addition to the formation of these security outfits, however, they must be “well armed” and decentralized to each local government in the relevant state. In concise words:

  1. The State Governors, either unanimously since the insecurity is nationwide, or as a block such as the Southern Governors, as emergency, should form local “well-armed’ vigilantes in their individual states. The formation of Amotekun and Ebube Agu, are right steps; however, these security outfits must be ‘fully armed” as well. Other States as emergency must follow suit by constituting “well-armed” security outfits;
  2. The security outfits must be decentralized to each local government in the state of at least 100 men in each local government, under the control of retired security personnel indigenes of the relevant state;
  3. To finance the security outfits for effectiveness, State Government should temporarily suspend infrastructural development and channel resources, without any form of looting, into security, because security is an emergency.

Othniel A. Ikpibako holds Master of Laws and Master of International Law and Diplomacy and a current researcher in International Law.

Limitation of Action (Volumes I & II) which analyses the statutory and equitable principles of the Law of Limitation. And Contemporary Law of Evidence in Nigeria (Volumes I, II & III) with a section-by-section analysis of the Evidence Act 2011. Written By Dr. Amadi Jerry

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