THE influx of small arms and light weapons in Nigeria calls for urgent attention as the nation prepares for the 2019 general elections.
THIS unrestrained proliferation has in recent times raised concerns over the impending danger lurking on our dear country .
IF anyone is in doubt, recent statistics has revealed that everyone is endangered in Nigeria unless urgent steps are taken by the federal government to halt the trend.
FOR the records, out of the 857 million small arms and light weapons in the world, 500 million are illegal arms with 100 million reportedly found in sub-Sahara Africa.
ABOUT 705 per cent of that is lurking somewhere in our country. In other words, 350 million out of the 500 million SALWS in West Africa are in Nigeria.
AS if this grim picture is not scary enough, the Presidential committee on small arms and light weapons (PRESCOM) revealed that about 7000 illegal have been destroyed recently in the country.
WHAT this portend for our national security is grim danger and a danger waiting to happen regrettably the pusy footing of federal authorities call for concern.
A critical analysis of the trend revealed why there is much violence in the country, yet, the situation may escalate with the influx of weapons from Libya and other war torn neighbors and the menace of arms smugglers and their collaborators.
WITH insurgency in the North East, the menace of herdsmen and the rising wave of armed banditry across the country, only God can save Nigeria from the impending implosion.
TO stem the catastrophe, the federal government must show the needed competence and seriousness to police the nation’s borders, we appeal to those saddled with security management of the country to rejig for arms laws in the country to curb abuse.
THE revelation by the presidential committee on small and light weapons that about 60 percent of all illicit arms used in the southeast zone of the country were locally fabricated calls for second look at the existing fire arms law in the country.
A statement from The Presidential Committee On Small Arms and Light Weapons (PRESCOM) revealed that about 7,000 illegally gotten arms were destroyed in the country.
ACCORDING to Orji Dickson, chairman of the committee, an arms exercise conducted in three locations led to the destruction of over 640 weapons in Benue, 625 in Katsina and 5,970 in Zamfara.”
WE find this information worrisome considering the fact that the country which had been in the throes of insurgency is on the steam as the nation prepares for election and politicians are reportedly stock piling weapons.
THE extremely porous nature of Nigeria’s borders, has triggered transnational crimes such as drug trafficking, money laundering, arms and human trafficking, all of which are combining with several other factors to undermine the nation’s security.
THIS is not the first time such concern over arms proliferation is being raised in the country. For instance, in 2016, the United Nations (UN) raised the alarm that over 350million SALWs (about 70%) out of the estimated 500million of such weapons circulating in West Africa are domiciled in Nigeria.
THE Director of the UN Regional Center for Peace and Disarmament in Africa (UNREC), Mr. Anselme Yabouri, who released the startling statistics had expressed concern that Nigeria was being flooded with illicit weapons, which have found their way into unauthorised hands.
WE observe that government has failed to take the appropriate actions to stem the influx of arms and ammunition into the country. According to a report from the Transparent International, TI, militias offer bribes at the seaports, airports and land borders to smuggle in weapons. It is not only the militias that enrich corrupt customs, police and intelligence officials; politicians and public office holders, the group said, also pay money to agents of the state to bring in weapons to arm their thugs and illicit storm troopers.
THIS report was confirmed only a few days after the Nigerian Army announced that it intercepted some trucks in which 300,000 cartridges of pump-action rifles were found. The trucks were intercepted while transiting through Ogun State and were established to have entered the country through Benin Republic.
IN January 2017, a Federal Operations Unit Squad of the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) intercepted a truck in Lagos that had been duly cleared by Customs at the Tin Can Island ports as having “steel doors” in the 40-foot container it was carrying. It turned out to contain 661 rifles.
ALSO, Comptroller-General, Nigeria Custom Service, Hameed Ali, announced the seizure of yet another consignment of 1,100 pump action rifles also disguised as innocent cargo through the Lagos ports. In addition to this, Customs at the Tin Can Island port in May 2017, uncovered 440 pieces of arms cleverly hidden in a container and about to be cleared as Plaster of Paris.
THESE illicit arms have done incalculable damage to the country. Amnesty International reported that 168 persons were slaughtered in the first few days of January this year by rampaging Fulani militants armed with sophisticated illicit weapons. Another report cited a total of 671 persons killed in January alone in Fulani herdsmen attacks, sectarian and communal clashes across the country.
ALSO in April, 62 people lost their lives while 81 houses were razed in two separate attacks in both Benue and Zamfara states.
ALSO in June, gunmen suspected to be Fulani herdsmen invaded Tseadough village in Mbachom, Yaav Ward of Kwande Local Government Area of Benue State, killing seven persons including women and children, while a pregnant woman was taken hostage.
NO fewer than 23 people were killed while 11 others sustained injuries in the latest Kaduna crisis.
APART from the casualties from the nine-year-old Boko Haram terrorist insurgency, the body count is mounting across the country, also through armed robbers, cults and criminal gangs, kidnappers, political thugs, as well as transport union factions, all well armed with illicit weapons.
WE hold it strongly that the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) has not taken the appropriate actions to control the unbridled influx of small arms and light weapons into Nigeria from other countries.
THIS may be due to corruption on the part of those saddled with the responsibility of policing our borders These ‘merchants of death’ often bribe officials to smuggle their wares into the country through the borders and the ports. Nigeria has thus become the dumping ground for illicit weapons and substandard goods.
BUT as the 2019 general elections draw nearer, there is the need for the leadership of the Nigeria Customs and other security agencies responsible for manning the borders and ports to be on the red alert for weapons of disintegration as they try to smuggle their wares into the country.
WE are galled by the indifference shown by the federal government to curtail the menace of arms merchants and their local collaborators under whose watch illegal weapons are ferried into the country.
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