Nigeria the Next Afghanistan, Says Governor Who Challenges Abuja's Gun-Control Laws – The Epoch Times

Unless rule of law returns to Nigeria soon, the nation will subside into a general civil war reminiscent of Afghanistan, Benue state governor Samuel Ortom told The Epoch Times in an interview.
“From what happened in Afghanistan, we see that one day the president will run away from that [presidential] villa and hand it over to terrorists,” Ortom said, alluding to the departure of the Afghani president in August 2021 as the Taliban army closed in on Kabul.
“The president’s own guards recently were attacked and killed,” said Ortom.
As The Epoch Times has reported during the past 18 months, terrorists have derailed passenger trains, abducted whole student bodies of colleges, and broken into maximum security prisons to liberate their jailed comrades.
Ortom says a national security summit for all the country’s 36 governors is urgently needed. “But the government is afraid of public exposure,” the outspoken governor said.
“If nothing happens to change the situation in the next five years, there will be no more Nigeria. There will be lawlessness everywhere and anarchy, and it will be terrible,” Ortom said.
Numerous subject experts, including former U.S. ambassador to Nigeria John Campbell, have judged Nigeria to be a failed state. 
The crisis of lawlessness due to jihadist insurgencies and rampant kidnapping for ransom has overwhelmed the understaffed Nigerian police, Ortom said.
“Where do you find a nation of 200 million people with only 500,000 police?” he asked. 
Although oil-rich Nigeria is the wealthiest and most populated country in Africa, it is the most dangerous country in the world for Christians, according to Open Doors, an NGO advocating for persecuted Christians.  
Gun-control laws enacted by the federal government prohibit private ownership of firearms, whereas the herding peoples in Nigeria carry assault rifles with impunity, and in response Ortom has demanded an exemption from the government for his volunteer guards.
“I have reported to the federal government the invasion of terrorists into my state and have requested licenses for our community volunteer guards to carry AK-47 rifles and have yet to hear back from them after months,” he said to The Epoch Times.
Ortom, a devout Pentecostal Christian leading a majority Christian state, has clashed with the administration of President Muhammad Buhari, a Muslim and a leader of the powerful Fulani tribe that claims as many as 20 million members in Nigeria.
Ortom initiated a “no open grazing” law in Benue in 2017 that has infuriated the cattle-herding Fulani people. As many as 20 state governors today support similar laws, Ortom told The Epoch Times.
Benue state has trained 500 volunteers to defend rural communities from terrorist attacks by perpetrators who are called by police spokesmen “terrorists”, “bandits,” or “unknown gunmen.”
The volunteers are equipped with vehicles and uniforms and “legally approved weapons” but the weapons they purchase for use are “pump action shotguns,” according to Ortom, whereas he would like to equip them with assault rifles equivalent to those used by the terrorist attackers.
The United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF), on Sept. 6 weighed in with prescriptions to stem Nigeria’s  spiral into chaos.
Poor governance and a complex set “drivers of violence” were behind the loss of life, according to USCIRF, which recommended that Washington restore the designation of Nigeria as a “Country of Particular Concern,” or CPC, for tolerating egregious violations of religious freedom.
USCIRF also called for “a briefing from the U.S. Department of State to explain how it is implementing policy on Nigeria to promote religious freedom and report on the effectiveness of such efforts.
An updated version of the USCIRF report called for the appointment of a special envoy to be appointed who could mobilize all agencies of the U.S. government to do for Nigeria what special envoys have done for other regions of conflict in Africa.
Those recommendations don’t go far enough, according to former assistant secretary of state Robert Destro.
“USCIRF is making recommendations at a 60,000 foot level, but you will never find out where the U.S. aid money goes, and what they are using it for,” Destro told The Epoch Times.
At least $2.1 billion was obligated to be spent by U.S. agencies in 2021, most of it coming from the Department of Defense, Destro said, adding, “but Department of State is throwing money at a problem but not getting down to the grassroots level to see how it is spent, and which nonprofits [are] on the ground?” he asked.
“Peace-building programs in conflict areas that cannot be monitored by U.S. government employees because the locality is too dangerous need to be reevaluated,” Destro said.
“International Committee on Nigeria [ICON] welcomes the call for a special envoy to Nigeria,” according to Kyle Abts, executive director of ICON.
“We believe that a special envoy, working directly with the various agencies of the U.S. government alongside the Nigerian government, would improve the veracity of reports of human rights violations, ethno-religious violence, insecurity, corruption and inflation.
“Additionally, the recommendation to condition aid is welcomed as long as it encourages civil society activities that promote religious freedom and access to justice for the victims,” Abts said.

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