Nigeria as at present appears like a country under siege. There is suspected proliferation of light weapons. There is violent killing everywhere. Life is not much valued any more in our land drawing from the manner precious lives are wasted. Consequently, many are calling for freedom to bear arms in self defence.
Last month, the House of Representative Committee on Federal Road Safety Commission (FRSC) alerted Nigerians that the road watchers will now be authorized to bear arms in the course of their duties. This has been received in some quarters with mixed feelings.
The Committee chairman made the disclosure at the floor of the house in a budget defence and budget performance review.
According to the Committee, the need to empower them to bear arms was orchestrated by the need to curtail the excesses of road users in the country. They further hinted that the 1992 Act that established the agency mandated it to use arms. Interestingly, since then the FRSC has carried on its functions without arms.
Further justifying the proposal, the FRSC Marshal stated that “70 operatives of FRSC had either been shot dead by armed robbers or knocked down by overzealous drivers, hit- and- run drivers. The deaths would have been prevented if the officials were armed”
In fairness to the road marshals, the effort to bring people to book in a country like ours where indiscipline is the order of the day will likely attract indignation from the perpetrators who are prepared to do anything to extract their own pound of flesh. Other law enforcement agencies are also so exposed.
It is not out of place however, some efforts has to be made to give the operatives some kind of protection to avoid loss of lives. News Echo wishes to differ in some respects with the opinion calling for the use of arms in the light of the following factors.
We do not think that this represents the right response given that since the Act was enacted the agency had operated without arms and has been recording tremendous successes keeping accident rate so low. Arming the operatives will further antagonize them against unruly undisciplined road users who may choose to get more vicious.
Again, it is not very clear that the government at present has factored this into the budget. Besides, huge capital outlay will be expended in procuring the arms. Coming at a time the government is groaning under the heavy weight of other expense items makes it appear a herculean task. The government may not likely see this as a priority project.
The capital expenditure will further be exacerbated by the need to train the operatives on the use of the fire arms as well as providing related services in warehousing the hard ware and other administrative needs. The FRSC activities are dispensed in all the 774 local governments in the country and that is quite massive.
There are already so much arms in the society used by other security operatives. There are also many that are illicitly procured. More authorization of arms will further militarize the society in a civilian regime. People have had to make wrong use of arms assigned to them. Heeding the call will increase the opportunity of abuse.
Again, there is need to question what guarantee is there that arming road safety operatives will ensure that further attacks against them will be eliminated. Experience abounds in our society where security operatives who already bear arms are not spared the experiences the FRSC are battling against.
There are experiences where some officials get over zealous in the performance of their duties. Arming them with guns will only increase their chances of inflicting more harm if they choose to become vengeful.
We would rather suggest that consideration be given to supporting the road safety people with some other security personnel with a view to strengthening their operations. Nigerians appreciate the good efforts the agency has been doing especially in saving lives. No effort should be spared in getting them deliver their best.
It is quite doubtful if bearing arms is one of such efforts. The government may need to revisit this issue once more and not act hastily.