Two Senior Advocates of Nigeria (SAN), Professor Ernest Ojukwu and Mr. Norrison Quakers, gave Lt General Theophilus Danjuma (rtd) their support on his call to Nigerians to defend themselves against bandits.
Self-defence is allowed in law,the two senior lawyers told The Nation, the same line of argument espoused by activist lawyer, Mr.Femi Falana (SAN) on Wednesday.
Ojukwu, a former Deputy Director-General of the Nigerian Law School, said self-defence against attacks does not necessarily mean the government has failed.
He said communities who have organised systems of self-defence only complement the government’s security arrangement.
Ojukwu does not believe that Nigerians defending themselves against attacks would lead to anarchy.
He said: “What has been holding our leaders from saying that? That (self-defence) is the natural course of things. It is a fundamental right to defend yourself. I’m not saying the government has failed, but you still have a duty to defend yourself. It’s a duty.”
On whether Danjuma’s call for self-defence would not encourage citizens to acquire arms, Ojukwu said the vigilante system was a form of self-defence.
He said dispute resolution through dialogue in a bid to forestall crisis was also a form of self-defence.
“We have had a history of local vigilantes for a long time in various parts of the country. In those parts of the country where there are no local vigilance groups, such crimes (herdsmen attacks) have been committed.
“You can still go to some parts of this country where there’s almost zero crime. In some places like Ogoja (in Cross River), there is nearly zero crime because there’s community defence. There’s a total defence of rights.
“But discussing it from the mere phrase seems to be too technical. There are too many issues surrounding the defence of a human being.
“If there is a problem between communities or between certain people, it’s not only defence that is the problem. There are also the problems of mediation, discussion, sharing and interest that is being protected.
“But any community that decides not to defend itself should bear the brunt of their problems, whether or not the government has failed.
“Whether or not the government is said to have failed, there is a duty for everybody in any community to defend themselves. Of course that defence is also to support the government machinery.
“The law itself permits you to defend yourself reasonably. If somebody comes to your house with a knife, you have a right to take a gun. It’s the law,” Ojukwu said.
For Quakers, Danjuma’s call was not out of order and must not be treated with kid gloves.
He said: “The well decorated and respected general, being a one-time minister of defence, made the call from an informed position and should the government treat it with levity, anarchy might not be an option. I believe it is the government’s timely intervention in the allegation that will avert any political turmoil or crisis.
“This allegation of military complicity in the mayhem in the North must be taken seriously. It is a ticking time bomb that must be defused before it is too late.”
Falana ,speaking during a training on libel for reporters of The Nation newspapers said Danjuma was right in his advice that Nigerians should defend themselves against killers.
Falana said the constitution recognises the right to protect oneself from violent attacks.
“What Danjuma said is accommodated under our Constitution,” he said.
”If the government is unable to save you as in the case of the Benue, Kogi and Zamfara attacks, you have a right to defend and save yourself.
“So, if you insult Danjuma that he is inciting violence, that could be a ground for him to sue you for libel.”
Last Saturday, at the maiden convocation of the Taraba State University (TSU), Jalingo, Danjuma alleged that the armed forces had failed to protect Nigerians because they collude with killer herdsmen.
Danjuma said: “The ethnic cleansing must stop in Taraba State, must stop in all the states of Nigeria. I ask everyone of you to be alert and defend your territory, your state. You have nowhere else to go.”