Arms: Why Amotekun, Benue corps may not get AK-47 licence

There are strong indications that moves by some governors to secure licences for their respective volunteer corps to carry assault rifles and combat the raging insecurity in their domain may continue to hit a brick wall.

This is because the embargo on the issuance of fresh firearms licences imposed on the police since 2013 have yet to be lifted, repeatedly bringing to naught efforts by some states to arm their security outfits and defend residents in their domain.

Sources in the police told Saturday PUNCH that there was no plan to lift the embargo due to the insecurity across the country. They ruled out the possibility of lifting the embargo anytime soon, saying plans by the governors to write the President may not yield any result.

The latest to declare his intention to request for the licence was the Governor of Benue State, Samuel Ortom, who said on Thursday after inaugurating the state’s Community Volunteer Guards, that he would legally procure Ak-47, Ak-49 and other sophisticated weapons for the guards.

He lamented that the Federal Government had consistently failed to disarm terrorists rampaging through the streets, killing people, abducting innocent persons and destroying people’s property, as he noted that no fewer than 5,000 persons had been killed in the state since 2015.

“The issue of AK-47, AK-49 and other weapons are the prerogative of the president of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. That is why in my inauguration speech today, I said we will seek, and by tomorrow, I’m submitting a letter to the president to grant a licence for AK-47, AK49 to our community volunteer guards,” he said in an interview on Arise TV on Thursday night.

While the Firearms Act allows the president to exercise his powers to grant licence through the Inspector-General of Police, successive IGPs prior to the emergence of Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.) as the President in 2015 had retained the licensing embargo.

Prior to Ortom’s statement on Thursday, governors Bello Matawalle of Zamfara State and Aminu Masari of Katsina State had asked the residents of their respective states to defend themselves, owing to the worsening insecurity across the country. Despite the opposition by the Chief of Defence Staff, General Lucky Irabor, Matawalle insisted that residents of the state must carry guns.

Similarly, governors in the South-West had while establishing the Amotekun Corps expressed their desire to arm the members of the vigilance group. They had written to the Inspector-General of Police to secure a licence for the Amotekun Corps, but the request, according to findings, has yet to be approved.

The then Force spokesperson, Frank Mba, had said the police would follow laid-down rules in considering the request.

Meanwhile, an aide to Ortom confirmed to Saturday PUNCH on Friday that the governor had yet to write the letter as promised, but that he would do so next week.

Some top commanders of the Amotekun Corps also told The PUNCH on Thursday that they were still making efforts to secure the licence.

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