Insecurity: Need To Curb Proliferation Of Small Arms And Light Weapons

Insecurity: Need To Curb Proliferation Of Small Arms And Light Weapons
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By Abdulrazak O. Mamman 

Terrorism, bandits, vandals and kidnappers continue to pose threat to national peace and security and undermines the core values of the our nation. Alarmingly, we have continues to face multiple challenges posed by terrorist groups in Nigeria with devastating human cost, in terms of lives lost or permanently altered, internally displaced persons and immensely negative consequences for economic and social security development of Nigeria.

Progressively worse, our security experience has become mystical, mythical and even mysterious. Armed men raid communities for hours unchallenged, maim, torture unabated. Some parts of the country have become symbol of endless casualties and perpetual bereavement. Ironically, these armed men impose taxes and fines, send notices, control spaces, carry out carnage against communities. 

This worrisome situation one can only link to Plato’s state of nature characterized by “nasty, brutish, solitary, poor and short” (bellum omnium centra omneess) “The war of Everyman Against Everyman where only the strongest survive”. The proliferation of small arms and light weapons are part of the major security challenges currently facing Nigeria, Africa and indeed the world in general. 

The possession of small arms by civilians in Nigeria is not new, it predates colonialism and slave trade era (Aderinwale, 2005:56). Guns were introduced by the Europeans prior to colonialism during legitimate and illegitimate (slave) trade between them and Africans. Subsequently, guns and other arms, ammunition and weapons were used by Europeans to realize their imperial ambitions when they used force to suppress Africa’s resistance to European incursion, conquest and colonialism.

There was establishment of West African Frontier Force (WAFF) used by the British which was used to execute the British-Afro War of (1901-1902), and other forms of resistance in Nigeria, West Africa, and Africa. The role of Royal Niger Company (RNC) later United African Company (UAC) backed by British Government in using force to suppress dissenting communities is imperative.

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These arms or guns possibly found their ways to the hands of Africans during the period of colonialism subsequently used in tradition and hunting in the rural community. In no time, guns and gun powder became symbols of strength and power, and were later transformed into ceremonial weapons displayed during funerals, burials ceremonies and customary festivals among the natives.

They also became symbols of individual and ethnic grandeur, and for deterring aggressors and invaders (Ayissi and Sall,2005:343). This trend continued at the wake of Nigerian independence in 1960. Ostensibly, the 1959 Firearms Act was enacted to check the increasingly rate of arms proliferation in Nigeria towards independence.

Today, guns have also responded to the waves of technological innovations, scientific discoveries, modernisation and globalisation that has cut up with modern societies to the extent that it is no longer just ornaments of prestige, or just for hunting, safari and expedition. Guns have been transformed in terms of functionality, lethality, and sophistication. Nigeria isn’t an exception to this wave.

Research has shown that, out of the 640 million small arms circulating globally, it is estimated that 100 million are found in Africa, about 30 million in Sub-Sahara Africa and 8 million in west Africa (Stohl,2007).

The majority of the small arms and light weapons precisely 59 per cent are in the hands of civilians, 38 per cent owned by government armed forces 2.8 per cent by police. The gun trade is worth 4 Billion dollar annually of which over one billion may be unauthorized. Ten to 14 ammunition units are manufactured yearly, eight million new gun are manufactured yearly by at least 1,249 companies in 92 Countries. Ten to 14 ammunition units are manufactured yearly enough to kill each person twice in Africa.

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Amazingly, but factual African countries spent over 300 billion dollars on armed conflict between 1990 to 2005, equaling to the international aid received between same period.

The Small Arm Survey (2015,10) reported that 350 million out of 500 million which is equal to 70 per cent of arms circulating in west Africa domiciled in Nigeria. You see why we are in a volatile situation already?

In fact, Nigeria is a source, transit and a destination of small arms and light weapons. Alarming situation one can trace to the failure of government saddled with the responsibility to protect, preserve and secure the Nigerian people.

Let’s focus on the nexus between national security and human security. 

McNamara (1968:142) made an important contribution to this pillar. In his prescriptive analysis on the Management of National security in Nigeria, he argued that if Nigeria seeks to achieve adequate military security against the background of acute food shortage, population explosion, low level of productivity, low per-capital income, low technological development, inadequate and insufficient public utility and chronic problem of unemployment have a false sense of security.

He went to say that security is not military hardware, though it may include it, security is not military forces though it may involve it, and security is not traditional military activities though it may encompass it. Security is development.

In same vain, Dudley Sears in his famous work title “Meaning of Development” emphasizes that for a nation to seek adequate development cum security, there are underlying questions that represent underdevelopment and insecurity, such as “what has happened to poverty, what has happened to unemployment, & what has happened to inequality? When adequate answers are provided to these unique puzzles a nation can talk about security or development. Poverty is the inability of man to assess his basic existential needs such as food, clothing and shelter. Nigeria is said to be “capital of poverty”. It’s pertinent that The well-being of people, poverty reduction, population control and educational transformation should take precedence over the parochial politicking of the elites. 

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From the forgoing, one can credibly and authoritatively opine that proliferation of small arms and light weapons which is a prominent accelerator of insecurity in Nigeria is a greatly a function of government failure or can be linked to government failure. This is manifested by the incapacity of government to deliver public services and provide basic needs for the masses.

The lack of basic existential needs for the citizenry has created a pool of frustrated people who are ignited easily by easiest provocation to be violence, as the saying goes “A hungry man is an angry man, an angry man is a violent man, and a violent man is a threat to the society”.

A large number of the Nigeria population is frustrated and have lost hope, especially the youths, and now emerged to express their dissatisfaction or dilution about the pervasive inequality informs Boko Haram, banditry, kidnapping, political thugs etc. The argument here is that the Nigerian government has the resources to provide the basic health care, infrastructure, education, power and develop steal, science and technology but the ineptitude and corruption that has bedeviled the nation from independence till date has made it impossible thus, Nigeria is economically backward, agriculturally adulterated, socially stagnating, democratically dramatizing and morally bankrupt.

– Mamman (B.Sc, PDSSS, M.Sc) writes from Abuja.


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