Nigerian opposition and ruling party members are finally agreeing to end sectarian killings in Plateau State using all available resources.
The central State has seen a surge in violence in recent weeks causing at least 150 deaths from 31 Jul. to 24 Aug. according to Markus Kanda, the Chairman of the Youth Wing of Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN).
In May 2019, President Muhammadu Buhari signed an executive order revoking all gun licenses in Nigeria, tightening already rigid gun control policies in the country. The order did not retrieve over 6,145,000 guns in the hands of “non-state actors” according to SBM Intelligence.
These guns likely owned by militants outnumber those owned by the Nigerian security forces which have 586,600 guns, according to SBM Intelligence. Last February, the Nigerian Minister of Defense, Maj. Gen. Bashir Magashi admitted that the country’s military was “so overstretched”, calling for self-defense.
Series of protests for the rights of Nigerians to defend against armed attacks have emerged since the Minister’s comments. The latest by Plateau State lawmakers on 28 Aug, leading to a reported sealing of the State Legislative House by securities followed a similar protest on 15 Aug by the Governor of Buhari’s home State of Katsina, Bello Masari.
Leaders of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) Party in Plateau State have opposed self-defense, but supported the hiring of volunteer guards.
“The Council wishes to call on all its citizens including politicians to refrain from influencing and encouraging citizens to resort to self help; this when encouraged will allow for proliferation of arms in our society with attendant negative consequences in the near future,” said Mr. Pam Dung Gyang, leader of the Plateau APC Elders Council in a press conference on 3 Sep.
“It will be in the interest of Plateau State if the Plateau State Government revisits and identify the youths of Plateau State that were trained abroad in security and intelligence gathering by the last administration as contained in the transition committee report, so that they are merged with the 3000 vigilantes trained by this current administration,” Gyang said.
More than 4000 recruits of a local volunteer watch unit known as Operation Rainbow were trained by the Israeli International Security Academy (ISA) between 2011 and 2013. The unit licensed and supervised by the Nigerian Police was established to remedy shortfalls by federal securities.
On 4 Jul. 2018, Mr. Idris Wase, the current Deputy Speaker of the Nigerian House of Reps said during plenary that 300 of those trained were killers. Mr. Wase, then a floor member representing Wase constituency in Plateau State rehashed an earlier claim by a pro-Islamic newspaper – Daily Trust that the watch unit was a “killer squad” trained by Israeli assassins.
The former Governor of Plateau State – Jonah Jang – a member of the PDP who was criticized as persecuting Muslims has denied the allegations, and the unit is still maintained by the present APC Government, but with chiefly new recruits.
The call for the restoration of the old recruits is the first since 2015 when the APC took power in Nigeria, that both parties are agreeing on security management.
Mr. Wase had yet to respond to request for comments as of publishing time.