Possession of firearms that do not comply with the highlighted provisions of the Firearms Act and the Firearms Ordinance is a crime punishable by up to 5 years` imprisonment. Section 3 of the Robbery and Firearms (Special Provisions) Act provides for a fine of N20,000.00 (twenty thousand naira) or imprisonment of at least 10 years or both for each person convicted of illegal possession of firearms under the Firearms Act. We rely on generators for stable electricity and often have to pay electricity distributors to build the necessary infrastructure in our neighbourhoods. We dig boreholes to provide our own water and pool our resources to repair damaged roads in our communities. Churches, families and strangers on social media are filling the void left by the lack of social security. Civil servants remain unpaid for months and citizens are increasingly forced to turn to private schools and private hospitals. It is even common to pay the police to conduct private investigations into crimes. Yet a government that has given so little is asking its citizens to pay for guns and use the same self-help attitude to resist gangs and terrorists. The Nigerian government fails to provide security for the same reason it doesn`t offer other amenities: it doesn`t want to. Our government is not accountable to its citizens and does not recognize any obligation to provide public services. Government officials know that gun ownership will not protect Nigerians from growing insecurity. So why do these officials continue to propose private possession of firearms as a national security measure? Any reasonable observer should conclude that the rot in the Nigerian security sector cannot be solved by liberalizing the possession of weapons. Even ignoring the fallibility of such proposals, it is still fair legal access.
If the Firearms Act is amended to create a licensing system, processing fees would likely be unavoidable, if only to cover the operating costs of the bureaucracy. Even if the law is completely abolished and licensing is not necessary, weapons, ammunition and weapons training require money and access that may not be available to the average Nigerian worker. In any case, a security strategy based on individual gun ownership will at best lead to a two-tier situation where the rich are protected and the poor are not. The poor tend to travel unprotected on the street, while the rich steal or use police escorts. Poor children are more likely to be in remote boarding schools, and their families are more likely to live in rural areas. The northeast, where insecurity is highest, also happens to be the poorest part of the country. For all these and other reasons, a privatized defense strategy ensures that those most at risk of violence are those who are least protected. It should be noted that despite the possibility of possession of firearms granted by the Firearms Act, a private Nigerian citizen does not have access to all types of firearms, even with a license.
A firearms licence can only be granted for the possession of long guns (shotguns, pumping operations and shotguns). The Firearms Act expressly prohibits the private possession of handguns (pistols or revolvers), machine guns, military weapons, bombs, grenades, etc., and a licence for this type of firearm cannot be granted. More importantly, the experience of other countries shows that weapons do not make people safer. In the United States, the National Bureau of Economic Research found that states that passed “right to bear” laws increased the number of violent crimes by up to 15 percent a decade later. It is puzzling that Governor Ortom cites the United States as an example of the benefits of widespread gun ownership, given the situation in that country. The average gun owner in the U.S. is much more likely to shoot themselves or a family member than an intruder. Having a gun in the home correlates with higher rates of suicide and accidental deaths. It also appears to exacerbate the seriousness of violence in the partnership. Even in the event of an attack, armed civilians are even worse off than those who do not.
A 2009 study by the American Journal of Public Health found that citizens who carried firearms were more likely to be shot by their attacker with their own weapon than to successfully defend themselves. The most likely outcome of encouraging Nigerians to buy weapons for their own protection is an epidemic of murdered family members, rising suicide rates and more casualties when attacks take place. This dynamic not only leads to alienation and growing insecurity, but also raises an important practical question for gun advocates in Nigeria: how exactly is gun ownership supposed to protect Nigerians from state violence? If the October 20 protesters had had weapons in their hands and retaliated to the army, it would have been only an excuse for the state to label them criminals and respond with even more state force. If we do not expect civilians to be able to reach the maximum level of state violence, individual weapons cannot be the solution. In 2017, the Nigerian Air Force bombed a camp for displaced people in Borno, killing at least 236 civilians. Perhaps proponents of self-defense would argue that these internally displaced people should have simply bought anti-aircraft weapons to protect themselves. If a licence is revoked, revoked or terminated, the licence holder is required to confiscate the firearm and deposit it in the public armoury. The licence holder should also inform the police of the deposit of such a firearm. This procedure also applies if the licensee intends to leave the country without the firearm. The licensee should also inform the police before transferring or selling the firearm. If a licensee dies in possession of a firearm, the person responsible for his or her estate may legally possess the firearm for a period of 14 days, after which he or she loses the firearm and deposits it in the public armoury. Some government officials believe Nigeria can overcome growing insecurity if more Nigerians own weapons.
In August last year, Samuel Ortom, governor of Benue State, asked the federal government to allow citizens to arm themselves, taking the example of the United States: “This is a proposal that the federal government should take seriously, because in America, people are allowed to carry sophisticated weapons, but life still goes on.” Similar requests were made by Kabir Marafa, Senator of Zamfara Central, in 2018 and only in February 2021 by Darius Ishaku, Governor of Taraba.