Gun Running Still Persist, Driving Insecurity

<strong>Gun Running Still Persist, Driving Insecurity</strong>

President Muhammadu Buhari-led government has been doing all to develop infrastructure and self-sufficiency in food production through agropreneur programmes and growing the Small and Medium Enterprises, SMEs.

This has been the highest since the 4th Republic. Various interventionist programmes led by the Central Bank of Nigeria under the leadership of Mr. Godwin Emefiele, youths, graduates and undergraduates have benefited from these interventions. The government has invested billions of naira in making sure that average Nigerians live above poverty lines.

But in all, it is glaring that worsening insecurity is playing a spoiler to these well planned programmes to alleviate many Nigerians from abject poverty.

Gun running in small arms and ammunition have persisted and are driving the increasing rate of violence in Nigeria several reports have pointed out. It is indeed alarming that these arms find their ways into the country through established points of entry among other dubious means.

“The number of small arms in circulation in Nigeria, in the hands of civilian non-state actors is estimated at 6,145,000, while the armed forces and law enforcement collectively account for 586,600 firearms”, the report published earlier in the month.

At a time, a report tagged “Small Arms, Mass Atrocities & Migration in Nigeria” highlighted that arms proliferation has enabled the rise of armed groups and also led to the displacement of several Nigerians.

One report noted that the trend of arms proliferation has impacted precariously on the nation’s internal security which has led to the death of thousands.

Disturbingly, the proliferation of arms in the country has driven the increasing rate of violence including communal clashes, cultism, kidnappings, ethnic and religious clashes, and militancy among others has continued to stir worries across the country.

Indeed, it is feared that part of the Southern region has established a local arms manufacturing sector and there is also significant deliberate importation/smuggling from international points, sources had noted.

“Illegal weapons factories have also been discovered in towns such as Enugu and Calabar. It is difficult to estimate the volume of locally manufactured weapons produced in this region,” one report said. It is also noted that clashes between farmers and herders have witnessed ammunition from at least 21 different nations. Some of these nations include Israel, Poland, Brazil, Iran, USA, Czech Republic, Algeria and Egypt. Again, Istanbul in Turkey has been cited as another major source of illegal weapons in the country.

According to preliminary findings from the National Small Arms and Light Weapons Survey locally manufactured arms illegally contribute to a large percentage of arms in circulation in Northern Nigeria especially in North Central.

“In Benue and Plateau states, both in the North Central region, locally made weapons are estimated to be used in over 50% of crimes committed 62% for Benue State, and 69% for Plateau State. In Adamawa State in the North East, it is 32%,” reports indicate. Arms proliferation is not isolated to Nigeria alone as parts of the sub-region are inundated with the same.

According to Africa Faith and Justice Network, the persistence and the complication of wars in Africa are partially due to small arms proliferation.

The International Action Network on Small Arms, Saferworld, and Oxfam International put it in perspective when they reported that armed conflict cost Africa $18 billion each year and about US$300 billion from 1990-2005. During this period, 23 African nations experienced war: Algeria, Angola, Burundi, Central Africa Republic, Chad, Democratic Republic of Congo ,DRC, Republic of Congo, Cote d’Ivoire, Djibouti, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Ghana, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Liberia, Niger, Nigeria, Rwanda, Senegal, Sierra Leone, South Africa, Sudan, and Uganda.

The Economic Community of West African States has since adopted strong measures to the issue. The ECOWAS member states, including Nigeria, adopted a ‘Moratorium on the Importation, Exportation, and Manufacture of Small Arms and Light Weapons in West Africa’ at the 21st Session of the Meeting of Heads of State and Government of ECOWAS on 30 October 1998.

The Moratorium is an unprecedented initiative that was first adopted as a significant step in directly addressing the problem of illicit small arms proliferation in the sub-region. Decades after the measure are yet to yield expected results.

At a time, the Federal government approved the establishment of a national centre for the control of small arms and light weapons but how operational and effective that centre has been is another issue.

At that time, it was stated that when fully operational, the centre will “work in compliance with already laid down international standards and ECOWAS moratorium on the control of small arms and light weapons”.

Not too long ago, several tonnes of arms were reportedly intercepted at some of the nation’s ports but it is not likely that any perpetrator had been identified and brought to book. With the situation as it is more unscrupulous ‘merchants of death’ would continue with their nefarious trade.

We call for more stringent measures where port operatives and international border officials step up their games to check these unwarranted illegal arms influx. More surveillance is necessary even as officials at entry points must shun corrupt tendencies that would compromise their allegiance to the country they had vowed to ‘protects’.

All Nigerians must be vigilant to report suspicious consignments to appropriate authorities as a mark of patriotism.

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