Northern villagers procure weapons to fight bandits

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Many communities in North West and North Central are contributing money to buy guns and other weapons to protect themselves against bandits, terrorists and other criminals.

Wealthy individuals are also reportedly buying personal guns to protect themselves against aggression or buying weapons for groups.

Villagers in Niger, Zamfara, Kaduna, Plateau and Katsina States are on the lead as many communities in States having security challenges have stockpiled assault rifles to protect themselves.

The states have been in the spotlight for many years as most of the stories coming from there are about killings and destructions mostly by sundry criminals.

While the residents could not go to farms or markets for fear of invasion, some of them rarely sleep in their houses at night.

Community leaders and residents who spoke to our correspondents said they resorted to self-help because security operatives have not been deployed to protect them or the few deployed are overstretched.

It was gathered that the community leaders were only amplifying the position of their governors who at different times expressed frustration with the level of insecurity in their domains.

As chief security officers in their states, they had said they were helpless when it comes to security matters even as in some cases they “formalise” the activities of vigilantes, hunters and other non-state actors to beef up security.

For instance, Governor Babagana Zulum of Borno State had severally noted that the use of local vigilantes had helped in addressing the numerous security challenges in his state.

While receiving an award in Owerri in May this year, he had said: “We in Borno State have been experiencing security challenges for over 12 years, however, a lot of transformation is taking place but part of what we are doing to put under control the security situation in the state is to engage the local vigilante; they have taken over the policing of the state to the extent that they had driven the insurgents far away from the state to Sambisa Forest.”

Reports revealed that while some communities bought Dane guns, others buy pistols, revolvers, pump-action and in some cases AK-47 rifles.

Many of those who discussed the matter with our reporters said apart from reaching consensus at the community level, they rarely push to get a licence from relevant authorities before buying the arms.

A source from a community that had suffered from several attacks in Shiroro Local Government told Daily Trust that even though they did not have access to the type of sophisticated weapons being used by bandits, they have already resorted to self-defence using locally made weapons.

“Recently, we killed about 10 bandits when they came to attack us,” he said. Another source from a community in Rafi Local Government, which had also been attacked severally said they did not support arms procurement.

“It was suggested that we should buy arms but our community didn’t support it because if it solves the problem now, it will lead to another problem in the future,” he said.

“If communities have problems with one another in future, they will use it against each other,” he said. An effort to get the Secretary to the State Government, Alhaji Ahmed Ibrahim Matane to speak on the matter proved abortive as of the time of filing the report.

In the last three years, some communities bedevilled by insecurity in Kaduna State have found ways of acquiring arms to defend themselves against banditry.

Our correspondent reports that communities in Kaduna’s Birnin Gwari, Giwa, Igabi and Chikun Local Government Areas have narrated how they now assign young men to keep night vigil of their communities against impending attacks by bandits.

A member of a community in Giwa LGA revelaed that, “We know for a long time that government cannot protect us and so, we now protect ourselves and we don’t need any permission from anyone to do so.”

Another villager from Igabi LGA told our correspondent that when they defended their communities sometimes in a shootout with bandits, the bandits then shift their attention to other vulnerable communities who do not have the firepower to defend themselves.

“We have noticed that there is no point running from our homes because they will still come back. So, it is better to stay back and defend our homes even if it will cost us our lives,” he said.

Reports further gathered that it has been the same in some communities of Plateau State where local blacksmiths make local firearms for communities to defend themselves against attacks.

“Some of us have obtained a licence from the relevant authorities and went ahead and bought pump-action,” a merchant who does not want his name mentioned, said.

“Even AK-47 is not difficult to buy these days because some people import them provided you are ready to pay. This is the only way to protect yourself, your family and your wealth,” he said.