Nigerians, as they move on in life, are consistently looking over their shoulders because of the rising rates of various forms of terrorism that have become severe threats to their lives. Fear of attack by violent criminals has necessitated not only exercise of extreme caution by all innocent and law-abiding citizens but a scrutiny of the counter-measures taken at the governmental level so that, at least, the effectiveness or otherwise of the military and/or other options that the authorities in the country have adopted over time can be established.
Free access to known and unknown sources of small arms and light weapons that are easily moveable and useable, as it exists now, emboldens criminals. The sustenance of the chain of the supply of the tools and instruments of terror from which war mongers openly benefit is the strongest factor that facilitates the escalation of violent crimes across Nigeria and beyond.
This therefore means that success in the fight against terrorism can be achieved only when such sources are correctly identified and fully blocked. A very strong mechanism for the absolute stoppage of the infiltration of such weapons and their users into the country and effective mop-up of the available ones are most desirable strategies in the war with criminals.
Perhaps, the establishment of the National Centre for the Control of Small Arms and Light Weapons (NCCSALW) under the Office of the National Security Adviser [ONSA] and the appointment of Major General AM Dikko (Retired) as its pioneer National Coordinator have signified a resolve to bring down the rate of violent crimes in the country. This development, at the same time, is definitely a reaction to the rapid proliferation of various kinds of small arms and light weapons that are readily used by criminals to launch attacks on state institutions and unleash terror on innocent citizens.
Although the centre is practically just a replacement of the Presidential Committee on Small Arms and Light Weapons, it, by its mandate, promises to be a much more result-oriented initiative that is instituted for the purpose of research and monitoring of all trends relating to the supply, circulation and use of small arms. It is even more fundamentally required to guide and facilitate the processes of the formulation and implementation of policies on the effective control of small arms and light weapons in Nigeria.
The significance of this centre can only be fully appreciated if analysed in the context of the high rate of the supply and use of small arms by all categories of bloodthirsty criminals. All those bandits, kidnappers and insurgents are always in possession of varieties of small arms which is the main reason for their incessant assault on not only civil and unarmed populations but even on the military and other forces that are supposedly equipped enough to fight them
The NCCSALW, according to a statement issued by the Office of the National Security Adviser (ONSA), Babagana Monguno, under which it will operate, is a direct product of the on-going effort towards the much-desired restructuring of the country’s security architecture which will therefore serve as an instrument for the control and regulation of the supply, acquisition and use of small arms and light weapons. By the nature and scope of its mandate, the centre is expected to technically tackle not only the prevailing insecurity within the country but even the much more disturbing phenomena of terrorism, human trafficking, insurrections and other forms of criminality across some West African countries.
Details of the mandate of the centre indicate that it is expected to satisfactorily fulfill the requirements of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) for moratorium on both import and export as well as the manufacture of small arms and light weapons in the same way it is justifiably demanded to play a key role in the execution of the United Nations’ strategy for the prevention and elimination of all forms of trade in same. The several regional and international dimensions of the centre’s mandate have, in fact, brought out more clearly the huge task it has been established to carry out.
Within the country, the NCCSALW will play the role of National Focal Point and therefore adopt multi-stakeholder approach by which Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) of Government as well as Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) and other relevant groups will participate in the implementation of all national, regional and global action-plans on the control of small arms. All the proposed activities of the centre will be coordinated by the offices to be established in the country’six geopolitical zones so as to generate prompt responses and ensure effective mobilisation of resources.
The NCCSALW appears to be an idea in which a lot of Nigerians have already begun to invest tremendous hope, particularly because it apparently seeks to substantially address the persistent insecurity which has continued to defy measures. The unfortunate trivialisation and politicisation of security matters which have become the main features of the several reactions of governments and communities to rising threats to the survival of the country and the citizens will hopefully reduce drastically by the time the centre’s operations become pronounced.
One of the most recommended actions that the centre should take is the careful study of the measures adopted by the various state governments towards tackling insecurity, most of which have not yielded the desired results. The centre, through a thorough review of the prevailing circumstances across the country, should be able to establish whether or not the options being explored by the State Governors as Chief Security Officers of their respective states, which include negotiation with the perpetrators of the violent crimes on the one hand and outright military action against them on the other hand, are effective.
CCSALW’s Coordinator, Major General AM Dikko, whose career in the military was both unhindered and unblemished is one other factor that can guarantee its success. Having possessed vast knowledge of the operations of the ECOWAS and the UN especially as they relate to implementation of counterterrorism measures and peacekeeping, he comes across as one of the most qualified Nigerians to lead the effort towards the recovery of illegally-acquired small arms which have constituted a terrible threat and therefore a big matter of concern for the country and also check the spread of same within communities so as to ensure the de-escalation of violence.
Generally, the capacity of the centre to deliver on its mandate is most apparent, particularly considering its robust conceptual, structural and operational frameworks . Even more important is the fact that Nigeria which is already facing crippling threats desperately needs such initiatives as part of the effort towards the restoration of peace and security in most parts of the country.