Insecurity and the legality of self-defence

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Factual Pursuit of Truth for Progress

Knowing the overwhelming security situation of the country, the good effort of the security agencies have proven not to be enough, leaving the masses at the mercy of themselves.

Not to overemphasize, insecurity in Nigeria is blowing like wild fire and poison through the wheels of insurgency, banditry, herdsmen attacks, kidnapping and burning of public structures among others.

Kudos must be given to the security agencies for holding on thus far but the limits of their capacity and resources, against these invidious forces of annihilation and the audacity of the attackers have made it necessary to ensure the safety of lives and properties at all cost.

For obvious reasons, the regional security outfits, such as Amotekun in the South West, the Eastern Security Network (ESN), and the EBUBEAGU in the South-East had to come and they are bold statements on the growing shift in the people’s mindset towards self-defence, especially as state protection seem not to be enough.

This also forced an elder statesman and former Minister of Defence, retired Lieutenant General Theophilus Danjuma, to ask Nigerians to defend themselves against killers.

In 2018, he said “You must rise to protect yourselves from these people, if you depend on the Arm Forces to protect you, you will all die”

This might not sit well with some government officials but it has become the reality of the day. To think that he was even defended by a Senior Advocate of Nigeria and constitutional lawyer, Ben Nwabueze, who pointed out that General Danjuma’s call was fully backed by the Nigerian Constitution which guarantees self-defence.

Benue State Governor, Samuel Ortom is another prominent Nigerian who has spoken in favour of self-defence against attacks, using all legally acceptable means at their disposal.

Recently, State Governments have decided to employ traditional means to protect their citizens, especially in the South-west as people have been pushed to the wall with a feeling of helplessness.

Meanwhile, the law in Section 33 of the Constitution, Sub-sections 1 and 2 guarantees all citizens of the country the right to life which cannot be taken arbitrarily by anyone.

Also, the Criminal Code in Section 32, Sub-section 3 states that a person is not criminally responsible for an act or omission if he does or omits to do the act when the act is reasonably necessary in order to resist actual and unlawful violence threatened to him or to another person in his presence.

It adds in Section 286 that when a person is unlawfully assaulted without provocation, it is lawful for him to use such force on the assailant as is reasonably necessary to defend himself.

Also, in Sections 59, 60 and 65 of the Penal Code, similar provisions expressly legitimising self-defence subject to a few restrictions.

We can therefore boldly state that Self-defence is therefore fully covered by law.

Howbeit, it must be the last resort in any case due to the threat it poses to birth in the future. Also, its application poses some obvious challenges especially in the area of the provision of the law that proportionate force should be applied.

The Nigerian Fire Arms Act of 1990 clearly spells out the guns that are licensed and those that are prohibited from being owned by individuals.

Above all, the call for self-defence should be seen as a wake-up call to our leaders who control the security architecture, and the security agencies that the country must not be allowed into anarchy.

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