BEYOND the worsening challenge of having a lot of fire arms, even machine guns on our streets we have a more horrible problem in the manner of people that bear the munitions. Angry people; hungry people; crazy people; greedy people; serial killers; maniacs; psychopaths; thugs; robbers; murderers; and even children now brandish guns freely on our streets and nobody querries them even when our laws have not allowed everyone to own or bear arms.
Aside the brazen legal abberation in such development, the real worry therein is in appraising what those who have been trained or certified to bear arms have done with it in recent times. Members of Nigerian Police are duly trained to bear guns and other munitions but what some officers and men of that system have done with the munitions has rattled the nation. The increasing spate of indiscriminate killing of innocent Nigerians, in cold blood, by Police cops has not only shocked the nation, it has so deeply embarrassed the Inspector General of Police (IGP), Adamu Mohammed, that unlike most of his predecessors, he responded early to the sordid story by mulling a downgrade on the form of ammunition some cops would soon be bearing.
Cases of Police shooting of unarmed civilians have been a plethora across country in the last two quarters. Between late last year when the killing of a female National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) member in the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja by cops caused a stir and some days ago when a young lady accompanied by her boyfriend was killed in Lagos, there has been several other incidents of such brazen bloodletting. A young man in his 20s was gunned down for nothing while he was watching football in a match ‘viewing centre’ in the Alimosho area of Lagos. Similar developments have been reported in Rivers and Edo states.
The cases are just many. They now crop up in the news in such a number and frequency that no sane person can describe the shooting as cases of ‘accidental discharge’ as they used to be dubbed in Nigeria, up until the 1990s. These ones now appear like predetermined actions or results of skewed orientation. It is such that about a month ago, a police man shot dead a Nigerian Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC) officer in the presence of his wife and children in Abuja.
Reports of the matter no longer sell newspapers because things have degenerated to the level that for just N100 (one hundred naira) the cops on the street can kill.
Not only the cops, even the arm-bearing personnel of Nigerian Customs Services (Customs) now fire at unarmed citizens. A story broke recently of a Customs operator that shot dead a young Edo man who returned from abroad some days before. Reason: failure to tip the Customs man. An armature video of the scary event went viral recently and drew public condemnation, forcing Customs authority to react in denouement.
Stories of soldiers in the army, navy and air force who fired their hot bullets into unarmed Nigerians also come up regularly to the embarrassment of the country.
The danger in this development is that those who cannot control themselves while in possession of the fire arms the Nigerian tax payer procured for them are actually the ones who are duly trained and certified to bear them for official duty. If we cannot feel safe with Police cops; Customs personnel; NSCDC; soldiers et al holding guns, who are we going to be comfortable with? Is it the neighbourhood watch man who roams the grassroots with his pump-action riffles of which he has no training on how to handle or the hunter with a den gun he inherited from his father without any understanding of the basic temperament required for fire arms handling?
May be, we are indirectly being made to understand that we should all have our own guns whether produced by a local blacksmith or procured as ‘Belgium’ from an underground seller of second-hand items from abroad where such stuff are sold without neither, manuals, users’ guide nor spare parts.
The horror here is in pausing to ponder the level of barbarism in a man who picks a gun and fires at his unarmed brother or sister. When one notes that the fellow with such a raw, brutish and , mundanely criminal short fuse while holding a gun in public is actually the one we trained and certified it becomes easy to imagine the abyssmal nature of things here.
Are we really taking note that there are now guns and hard drugs everywhere, and the young men who parade the streets with the arms (including the law enforcement agents and soldiers) as well as the ones who bear theirs illegally are the ones who dope themselves daily even while on one form of duty or the other with fire arms. Why won’t a drugged fellow kill at the slightest prod?
The fact that there are lots of stress and disenchantment in the land, from joblessness to lack of social safety nets, to hunger, tumble of value system, lethargic anger and more worsens the case. The fact too that most Nigerians now cannot tell in whose hands they are safer between the cop and the bandit should give the authorities of Nigeria, especially, the law enforcement and security agencies a very serious cause for concern. We must therefore act, and be seen to be doing something actively to end the scourge.