The Minister of Defence, Bashir Magashi, has warned that those picking up illegal arms against state actors would be punished.
Mr Magashi stated this on Wednesday at the State House shortly after the decoration of the Chief of Army staff, Faruk Yahaya, as a lieutenant general.
He said the Nigerian Army has been given the mandate to go after those in possession of arms.
The minister’s warning comes in the midst of heightened insecurity in the country majorly attributed to the proliferation of light arms and small weapons.
This trend has led to various forms of insecurity resulting in the death and kidnap of thousands of Nigerians.
Disgruntled politicians have often been accused of being behind the proliferation of illegal firearms around the nation.
A former Head of State, Abdusalami Abubakar, said recently that there are over six million weapons in circulation around the country.
Briefing journalists after the event, Mr Magashi said Mr Yahaya has been given the marching order to put an end to insecurity.
He said the new army chief had since started his job very well.
“Well, I think like every other chief, his mandate is to bring to an end to banditry, kidnapping and the Boko Haram issue and right from his assumption to date, there is a lot of improvement in the way we have been fighting this war.
“The planning is thorough and the activities are going according to operational plans and I am sure with that kind of arrangement, we will get out of the insurgency problem,” the minister said.
Mr Magashi said those perpetrating insecurity in parts of the country would be brought to book as the law would take its course against them, adding that those picking arms against security personnel would also be punished.
He said, “If you commit an offence, you will be arrested, tried and if you are guilty you will be punished. But for anybody picking arms against a soldier, you know what that means and we will also treat him according to the law.”
Giving more explanation on the president’s comment that criminals would be treated “in the language they understand”, the defence minister said whoever carrying a weapon “would be gotten rid of”.
“I don’t think there is anything wrong to get rid of an enemy if he also wants to get rid of you and that is what the president is saying; you cannot own a weapon illegally and be allowed to stay alive because that weapon can be used against you.
“We will take on anybody who is carrying arms. Nigeria will not allow that to continue to happen. That is our message,” the minister warned.
Also speaking, Mr Yahaya said the army under his leadership would give its best to ensure that current security challenges in some parts of the country are fully addressed.
He also pledged his unalloyed loyalty to the President and Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces as well as the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
“I want to most sincerely appreciate the President and Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces for the confidence reposed in me and now being decorated Lieutenant General and Chief of Army Staff.
“I want to pledge my unalloyed loyalty on behalf of the officers and men of the Nigerian Army. We would also continue to do our very best to arrest the current insecurity, which includes insurgency and other violent crimes.
“We are already getting successes and we will leverage on that including our experience in this job and by the grace of God we will get there,” Mr Yahaya said.
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