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Nigeria’s security challenges: Practical solutions to proliferation of small arms and light weapons

By Temitope Olodo on 09/08/2016

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Two years after Nigeria’s former President, Dr. Goodluck Ebele Jonathan, pledged the country’s commitment to the implementation of the UN’s Arms Trade Treaty (ATT) of April 2013 at the three-day National Stakeholders Consultative Forum on Illicit Arms and Light Weapons and inauguration of a Presidential Committee on Small Arms and Light Weapons (SALW), headed by Emmanuel Imohe, it is surprising that the United Nations has raised alarm over the illicit proliferation of Small Arms and Light Weapons (SALW) in Nigeria with over 350 million or 70 per cent of an estimated 500 million of such weapons said to be circulating in West Africa being in the country.

The UN General Secretary, Ban Ki-moon once said that the widespread availability of weapons was a major factor in the over 250 conflicts of the past decade, leading to more than 50,000 deaths each year and record levels of displacement.

The inability of Nigeria security infrastructure to identify practical solutions on the illicit weapon issue is one of the major factors responsible for insecurity across the length and breadth of Nigeria.

Developing a strategy to deny permission to illegal weapons and ammunition, and ensuring zero accessibility to dangerous weapons by criminals, armed groups and extremists should be a policy priority for Nigeria government if she is serious about destroying the criminal enterprise in the country and guaranteeing safety and security of her citizen.

The failure of Nigeria security infrastructure to manage the free flow of illicit weapons within Nigeria boundary; is evidence with the growth of Boko Haram in North-East Nigeria and the ongoing struggling with Niger Delta Avengers in South-South which is negatively affecting community confidence in their own safety.

Recently, The Presidency instructed the security agencies to address the Fulani-Herdsmen crisis as allegation of attacks linked to the group involved the use of fire arms; as Nigeria is awash with illicit weapons, which have found its way into unauthorised hands particularly non-state actors it is now threatening the very existence of the country, as well lives and properties of the people.

The Nigeria state is currently at a cross-road on security concerns and the illicit proliferation of SALW has had a dramatic impact on peace and security in Nigeria, threatening not only the existence of the state, but also the livelihoods of millions of people across the 36 states of the federation.

Across the country, even cultists in Nigeria Higher Institutions are now using fire arms in their rival conflicts and political thugs frequently clash with their opposition groups in their quest to influence the election results.

Even Nigeria security agencies have been victims of illicit weapon trade because armed bandits in recent time have confronted them in gun battle. For instance, armed bandit recently killed 11 military personnel in Bosso Local Government Area (LGA) of Niger State. The slain military personnel were on “cordon and search” operation in the area when they were ambushed by the armed bandits.

It is important to highlight that there is no definite figure on the number of small scale weapon trade that occurs in all 15 West African states. Estimating the weapon trade is difficult for several reasons namely:

First, there is no clear record on the number of weapons Gaddafi amassed over his 40 years rule and that makes it difficult to ascertain the huge stockpile he left behind. Secondly, it is unclear what share of these weapons is available for the rebels to loot after the death of Gaddafi.

To identify solution to the illicit firearms in Nigeria, it is important to understand that the sources of these illicit weapons that are now freely available in Nigeria:

1. Weapons from past conflicts in the West Africa region like Liberia, Sierra Leone;

2. Previous weapons from recent conflicts in neighbouring regions like Libya, Sudan;

3. Evidence of weapons sold by or rented from corrupt security officials to members of the criminal enterprise;

There are other sources of illicit weapons in West Africa including weapons transferred from sympathetic governments and relatively small number of weapons imported from outside Africa.

In Nigeria, for instance, police recently arrested three officers for renting Kalashnikov-pattern weapons and selling 1,200 rounds of ammunition to local criminals.

Until Nigeria develops a strict roadmap to tackle the issue of illicit weapons which will include addressing the issue of corrupt security officials, strengthening governance issue, updating legislative provisions and transparency of Nigeria arms deal; without these practical solutions then Nigeria effort of tackling illicit weapons would be worthless...

Temitope Olodo, whose photo appears alongside this piece, is a Preventive Terrorism Expert and Chairperson of Nigeria Diaspora Security Forum (NDSF) based in the United Kingdom.

Source News Express

Posted 09/08/2016 05:40:41 AM


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