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, Daily Trust reports.
Villagers in Niger, Zamfara, Kaduna, Plateau and Katsina States are in the lead as many communities in the 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.
They resorted to self-help because security operatives have not been deployed to protect them or the few deployed are overstretched, community leaders and residents told Daily Trust.
Recall that 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.”
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 Daily Trust, said that apart from reaching consensus at the community level, they rarely push to get a licence from the 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.
However, communities in Kaduna, and Plateau arming selves.
In the last three years, some communities bedevilled by insecurity in Kaduna State have found ways of acquiring arms to defend themselves against banditry.
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, Daily Trust reports.
In some communities of Plateau State, local blacksmiths make local firearms for communities to defend themselves against attacks.
In Zamfara, residents of many communities across the fourteen local government areas of Zamfara State are also stockpiling arms to defend themselves against bandits.
Checks across the communities in the state revealed that residents have since discarded the idea of relying on federal security operatives to defend them.
For instance, in one emirate, there are communities known for their bravery when it comes to self -defence to the extent that the armed criminals also suffered losses whenever they raided the communities.
In some local government headquarters and other relatively bigger towns, some well-to-do individuals are buying arms for vigilantes or Yan Sakai.
The individuals with relatively good financial standings are sponsoring the vigilantes by purchasing locally made arms, torch lights, mackintosh, clubs and machetes for them,” he said.
It was reported that residents had earlier formed and armed local vigilantes or Yan Sakai but authorities in the state disarmed them during the last botched peace deal with the armed criminals.
Later, when they realised that the armed men were not willing to surrender their arms, the vigilante groups rearmed themselves again vowing that they would never give in to intimidation by criminals.
In Katsina, some residents who spoke to our reporter said, though the call from the governor to acquire arms for self-defence could serve as a confidence booster, it was rather late as most of the villages that suffered banditry attacks don’t have the means to acquire arms.