Governor Abubakar Sani Bello has promised to arm the vigilante group in Niger State with pump-action guns to enable them confront bandits and address other security threats.
Speaking at Kasuwan Garba in Mariga Local Government Area of the state when he met with over 200 members of the vigilante in the area, Bello said the security volunteer groups would be armed to confront “these enemies of the people across the state.”
The visit was part of his morale booster for the vigilante groups across the state.
Attacks by bandits occasioned by killings and kidnappings are now a recurring decimal in the region, with the abductions of students adding a new dimension to the fragile security situation.
Some bandits in Niger and other states in the North West have called for the disbanding of the vigilante groups, saying that was the only condition for them to lay down their arms and embrace peace.
But Governor Bello has remained adamant, declaring that henceforth, all vigilante groups in the state would be provided with automatic pump-action guns to enable them to take the fight to the bandits wherever they were hiding.
The governor said there was no amount of threat from the bandits that would force the government to disband the vigilante groups in the state.
“We are not going to disband the vigilante as a result of threat from the bandits.
“Even when banditry activities in the state are stopped, the vigilante will still be there to provide security in the local government areas,” he said.
According to Wikipedia, a pump-action or slide-action “is a repeating firearm action that is operated manually by moving a sliding handguard on the gun’s forestock.
“When shooting, the sliding forend is pulled rearward to eject any expended cartridge, and then pushed forward to cock the hammer/striker and load a new round of cartridge into the chamber”.
The vigilante had complained that lack of modern weapons remained the greatest challenge in their fight against the armed bandits who, they said, were heavily equipped with modern and sophisticated weapons.
Police spokesman Frank Mba said he was yet to see the report on the decision by the Niger State governor to procure arms for the vigilante and therefore could not comment on it.
“I have to see the report before saying anything,” he said.
Mohammed Saleh, a retired police officer, said the governor must have spoken out of frustration.
“Governors are facing a tough time; they are the chief security officers in their states but this is just in name because they don’t control the instrument of coercion including the police and the army.
“That is why you see the governors [turning to] volunteer groups for support.
“So, if you see a governor talking this way, it is because they want to assure their people that they are with them; that they share their pains.
“It is the same context with the way Governor Bala Mohammed of Bauchi State spoke when he said Fulani herders carry AK 47 for self-defence.
“My only fear is that pump action is a child’s play when compared with the kind weapons being used by the bandits.
“My advice for the governors is to coalesce into a single force and sit with the federal government on the way forward.
“This brings the issue of state police. For now, only the FG through the Inspector General of Police can give someone license to carry guns but the truth of the matter is that the security situation is deteriorating and those who took an oath to protect the people must act fast,” he said.