Erudite constitutional lawyer, Prof. Ben Nwabueze, has backed the call for self-defense by former Chief of Army Staff, Lt. Gen. Theophilus Danjuma.
Nwabueze in a statement, explained that the call has become expedient due to seeming inability of the Federal Government to provide effective security for Nigerians who are being murdered daily by well-armed the Fulani herdsmen.
The academic icon and human rights activist warned that “anarchy and ethnic cleansing looms if the current herdsmen killings continues unchecked and unpunished”.
Insisting that the Federal Government must be alive to its duty of protecting lives and property, he stated that “the resort to self-defense is guaranteed by section 33(1) & (2) of the Constitution”, especially in the face of imminent death and helplessness.
According to him “Anarchy and a consequent ‘ethnic cleansing’ loom in the horizon if the attacks, killings, destruction of properties and displacement of people by Fulani herdsmen continue unchecked and unpunished, given the failure or inability of the Federal Government to take action to that effect”.
He maintained that in a situation where communities are continually attacked by armed herdsmen, the only option to guarantee their existence is to resort to self-defense, but warned that such a scenario may lead to unimaginable anarchy.
Said Prof. Nwabueze: “Gen. T.Y. Danjuma (rtd), former Minister of Defence, was only re-echoing the guarantee of the Constitution in a statement recently on Nigerians to rise up and defend themselves against the murderous attacks by Fulani herdsmen and against the larger design at ‘ethnic cleansing’.
“The action which the aggrieved individuals may take in self-defense, guaranteed by the Constitution, must be viewed in the context of the extraordinary situation created by the Fulani herdsmen insurgency and the means they employ using Ak-47 and other sophisticated weaponry.
“Faced by an attack by such means, self-defense using sticks, bows and arrows is futile and meaningless.
“What is the value in guaranteeing a person the right of self-defense and then denying him the appropriate means to exercise the right effectively when the need to do so arises?”
He argued that for self-defense to be effective and meaningful in the prevailing context, it must be by means proportional to the means employed by the attackers.
“Disarming the citizenry and leaving them unprotected against the killer Fulani herdsmen would only render nugatory, to a large extent, the constitutional guarantee of self-defense, viewed again in the context of the extraordinary situation created by the Fulani herdsmen armed insurgency and the failure or inability of the Federal Government to stop it,” he said.
The eminent lawyer noted that Gen. Danjuma did not just get up and call for self-defense, but was moved by the extraordinary situation created by the killer Fulani herdsmen and the Federal Government.
“The result of Nigerians rising up to defend themselves may lead to indiscriminate killings, ethnic cleansing and anarchy. Our hope and wish is that such should not in fact happen. The experience of the United States does not lead us to think otherwise.
“The U.S. Constitution, adopted with effect from 1787, underwent its Second Amendment in 1791. The Amendment provides: ‘A well-regulated Militia being necessary to the security of a Free State, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.
“Should allowing Nigerians to keep and bear arms ever lead to anarchy and ethnic cleansing, then, the blame for that should be laid squarely on President Buhari for failing to disarm the killer Fulani herdsmen at the early beginnings of the conflict.
“Had that been done, the killings, the destruction of properties and the displacement of persons might not have occurred to the point of their escalation to a national calamity, and the point where self-defense becomes a national issue.
“Is it not a shame that the Fulani herdsmen should have been allowed to inflict so much slaughter and havoc on innocent, law-abiding citizens without being disarmed at the initial stages of the conflict and without the wrath of the law being brought down on them?
“And we unashamedly castigate Gen. Danjuma for calling on Nigerians to rise up to defend themselves?” Nwabueze queried.