Many Nigerians were outraged recently when the Office of the Auditor-General for the Federation (OAuGF) disclosed that about 178,459 different types of arms and ammunition got missing from the Nigeria Police armoury in 2019 without any trace or formal report on their whereabouts. Of the figure, 88,078 were AK-47 rifles and 3,907 assorted rifles and pistols that disappeared from different formations nationwide. All these could not be accounted for as of January 2020.
Details of the missing arms were contained in the Auditor General for the Federation’s annual report on non-compliance, internal control weakness issues in ministries, departments and agencies (MDAs) of the federal government for the year ended December 31, 2019, which was submitted to the National Assembly.
The report accused the Nigeria Police headquarters of lacking comprehensive details of unserviceable weapons, lamenting that such could fall into unauthorised hands for illegal use.
It stated that the action of the Nigeria Police contravened the regulation which stipulates that in the event of any loss, the officer in charge of the store in which the loss occurs shall report immediately to the head of department or unit, but not later than three days, by the fastest means possible if the loss occurs away from headquarters.
In the considered opinion of this newspaper, this matter should not be swept under the carpet. We have no illusion that most of these missing arms are in the hands of criminals and non-state actors.
In June last year, an officer of the Nigeria Police Force, Inspector Nathaniel Manasseh, was arrested and paraded in Calabar for allegedly engaging in the sales of firearms to criminals.
Also in 2016, the police authorities dismissed 14 policemen for selling arms and explosives to militants and kidnappers.
There are countless stories of policemen selling arms to criminals. Sadly, the number of firearms with non-state actors and criminals in the country is frightening.
According to a United Nations Development Programme report, there are over eight million illicit small arms and light weapons in West Africa, with most of them said to be in Nigeria.
These assertions were corroborated by the former Head of State, Abdulsalami Abubakar, who said that there are over six million illicit weapons in the country. Abubakar who spoke during a meeting of the National Peace Committee (NPC) in Abuja said the security challenges in the country had led to about 80,000 deaths and close to three million internally displaced persons (IDPs).
No doubt, the proliferation of light weapons and illicit arms trafficking in Nigeria pose a major threat to peace, security, and development of the country. The country is bleeding from multiple points as insurgents, bandits and other criminal elements, who have easy access to arms, have made life terrible for Nigerians. The country is currently battling insurgents, killer herders, robbers, kidnappers, and bandits who have sophisticated weapons.
Also, there has been a steady rise in cultism and cult killings especially in the southern part of the country. Last year also witnessed an upsurge in bank robberies in the country with Ondo State gradually turning into an epicentre of robberies.
Three commercial banks’ bullion vans were attacked alone in the state in less than one month. The country simply cannot continue like this.
In view of the foregoing, we call on the inspector-general of police to institute a special probe on the missing weapons from the police armoury. Every single weapon must be recovered within a specific timeframe.
This will help in containing the rising criminality in the country which can be directly linked to the proliferation of arms.
Again, this goes to show the weak internal mechanism of the police office. This newspaper strongly suggests the strengthening of the internal control system of not just the police but all the security agencies in order to check lapses like this.
Consequently, all officers involved in the missing firearms must be arrested and prosecuted. Every effort must be done to clean up the image of the police.