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Self-defense is a human right: Nigerian attorney and activist sues government over gun laws

Self-defense is a human right: Nigerian attorney and activist sues government over gun laws
AP Photo/Lisa Marie Pane

Even though Nigeria is home to Islamic terror group Boko Haram and its splinter group Islamic State-West Africa Province, which have killed tens of thousands of civilians and created a humanitarian crisis of epic proportions over the past decade, the nation’s gun laws make it nearly impossible for citizens to protect themselves with a firearm. Under Nigeria’s Firearms Act, no person is permitted to possess a gun of any kind unless they’ve received permission from the country’s president or the Inspector General of Police; permission which, as  you can imagine, is rarely granted.

Human rights activist and attorney Malcolm Omirhobo is hoping to change that, however. This week Omirhobo filed a lawsuit in Nigerian federal court against the government after his application to purchase and possess an AK-47 was denied.

Mr. Omirhobo is requesting the court to interprete relevant sections of the Firearms Act, Criminal Code Act, and other relevant laws as to whether it is lawful, legal, and constitutional for the President to refuse to grant him a license to possess an assault rifle for protection of his life and that of his family.

The plaintiff filed the suit on behalf of himself and the Nigerian public.

Other defendants in the suit are the Minister of Defence, the Attorney General of the Federation, the 36 states, and their Attorneys-General.

In a statement outside of the federal courthouse in Lagos, Omirhimbo spoke out forcefully against the gun control regime, telling reporters that the government “is asking us to defend ourselves with bare hands” and asking “how possible is that?”

“They are playing politics with the lives of Nigerians, they are playing politics with the blood of Nigerians, and it’s not fair. It’s not right at all,” said the activist, adding that Nigerians have the right to defend themselves from criminals and terror organizations like Boko Haram.

“All they need to do is give licenses to responsible people,” Omirhobo explained. “Once Nigerians are armed, you will see that the level of attacks will reduce, because when they speak in violence you return that violence. You don’t defend yourself by going to pray, by carrying your Quran… Your speaking in tongues cannot serve as a shield.”

Omirhobo says that only by fighting “fire with fire” can Nigerians protect themselves and their families, declaring that the people of Nigeria need “equal fire power to stay alive.”

Self-defense is perhaps the most fundamental of all human rights, but it’s a right routinely denied to millions of Nigerians unless, as Omirhobo says, they’re able to fight off terrorists armed with machine guns by using their bare hands. I have no idea how strong his legal case is, but from a moral perspective its unconscionable that the government would hamstring the ability of responsible citizens to protect themselves against individual criminals and organized terror groups intent on murder and destruction.

Omirhobo and the government defendants are due back in court for a hearing next month, and I’ll do my best to follow along from thousands of miles away. The human rights campaigner’s fight for the right of self-defense is a worthy cause, and one that Second Amendment supporters in the United States should cheer on.