Plans by some state governments to arm their local vigilante groups for the purpose of securing their territory against banditry and other criminal activities may have been dashed completely, as the Chief of Defence Staff (CDS), General Lucky Irabor on Friday insisted that no state governor in the country has the authority to acquire high caliber weapons.
Irabors’s explanation was in reaction to the request by some governors seeking to arm their local security outfits.
According to General Irabor, citizens should be weary and always read between the lines when certain requests are sought by state Chief Executives.
The CDS was joined by the Minister of Interior, Rauf Aregbesola and his counterpart, Minister of Police Affairs, Mohammed Maigari Dingyadi while the trio briefed newsmen after a National Security Council meeting presided over by President Muhammadu Buhari at the Presidential Villa, Abuja.
It will be recalled that Benue state Governor, Samuel Ortom had recently claimed that he had requested an AK-47 rifles license but had failed to receive a response from the federal government after three months.
The Governor on Thursday consequently gave the administration a one-month deadline to approve his request to obtain an AK-47 license or he will seek counsel from his people on the best course of action.
He spoke during the passing out procession of the second batch of the State Volunteer Community Guards at IBB Square in Makurdi, the state capital.
Also, Governor Rotimi Akeredolu of Ondo State, recently faulted the Presidency on the denial that it has not granted permission to the Katsina State local security outfit to bear arms.
Specifically, Akeredolu had queried the granting of permission to the Katsina security outfit, whereas other state security outfits were denied the to bear arms.
But, fielding questions on firearms, General Irabor declared that the deployment of high caliber weapons such as the AK-47 rifles among others lies strictly within the purview of the Federal government security agencies alone.
He said Nigerians (Journalists) must be able to read between the lines when certain comments are made, to elicit certain reactions, as opposed to the reality with respect to what the security setting is.
He explained further that AK-47s and, indeed, “firearms fall into two major categories. You have the automatic weapons and the ones that we may classify as non-automatic weapons which some of you may even have if you have the appropriate licenses. Talking about the Pump Action which is the very common one, and sometimes even the dane guns some of the hunters use.
“What is involved in the class that mentioned has to do with automatic weapons. There’s no state that has been given license for that,” he declared, adding that the sole responsibility of licensing lies with the federal government agencies and also to be used by government security agencies and not quasi-security forces.
“So, you do not ask for what you do not have the power to acquire,” General Irabor stated.
Corroborating, Aregbesola debunked the governors’ insinuation that states Executives also have powers to procure firearms for their local security outfits.
“No state government has been empowered to arm any of his security operatives or agency. Non. So, the false claim that the state government is empowered by the federal government to have its own vigilante or sub-national security outfit is false, absolutely false!
Continuing, the Minister of Interior explained the conditions precedent before a license to bear arms could be obtained for local use, but which, according to him, the governors had failed to meet.
“There is a procedure for whoever wants to legally bring in any weapon to follow. And whoever is authorised by the law of the land, to bring in legitimate ammunition, including the army, must go through that process.
“So, whoever wants to import ammunition, armament, or weapons is advised to go through the legitimate process of such activity or act.”
Also on the issue of application for the purchase of firearms, the Minister of Police Affairs said, “the government had made it categorically clear that it has not issued a license to any state government or to the organisation to purchase firearms for subnational security measures.
“So, for anybody to say he has given a timeline for the federal government to issue you license, I think he should know that there is due process that one should follow to secure such licenses.
Dingyadi advised, “those concerned to please follow the due process to ensure that they get the appropriate response of the federal government on the matter.”