By Chibuzo Ukaibe, David Tarkaa |
The number of firearms in Nigeria has increased more than double in the last five years.
The number of firearms rose from two million in 2016 to six million currently.
LEADERSHIP gathered that Oxfam in a report in 2016 revealed that two millions firearms were floating in Nigeria.
But a former head of state, Gen. Abdulsalami Abubakar (retd) declared yesterday that proliferation of weapons in the country is now estimated at six million.
Abdulsalami who chairs the National Peace Committee (NPC) stated this at a dialogue session of the NPC with key stakeholders over the security situation in the country which held in Abuja.
He said, “The proliferation of all calibre of weapons not only in our sub-region in general and in Nigeria in particular is worrisom. It is estimated that there are over six million of such weapons in circulation in the country.
“This certainly exacerbated the insecurity that led to over 80,000 deaths and close to three million internally displaced persons,” Abdulsalami said.
The dialogue was attended by traditional rulers and religious leaders, include, the Sultan of Sokoto, Alhaji Muhammadu Sa’ad Abubakar III and John Cardinal Onaiyekan.
Others who were at the gathering are Ekiti State governor and chairman of the Nigerian Governors’ Forum (NGF), Kayode Fayemi; Plateau State governor and chairman of the Northern Governors’ Forum, Simon Lalong.
Welcoming the guest, Abubakar said the challenges facing the country had assumed an all encompassing nature beyond not the narrow sense of the military definition.
The former head of stated listed the challenges to include the Boko Haram insurgency, banditry, kidnapping, increasing poverty, the calls for balkanization of the country from different quarters, threat of hunger arising from insecurity that farmers have faced and continue to face, the increasing sense of collective despair and despondency among the populace among others.
He said that the security forces are over-stretched under-strength and underfunded, noting that they can perform better with more sophisticated weapons, equipment and more funding.
He said, “We believe Nigeria must find a way out of these problems. Our hope is that, perhaps among us, by listening to your different perspectives, we can begin to build up confidence among our people so that we can hold together. So, our hope is that we shall not only share our collective lamentations about the current situation, but propose some concrete suggestions that can point the way forward, suggestions that can inspire more confidence among our people and ensure that our country remains one.”
Corroborating Abubakar’s disclosure on the number of arms in circulation, former Army spokesman, Brig Gen Sani Usman (rtd.) said, “We have more than 10 million arms in Africa and the bulk of it is in Nigeria. It escalates the security situation in Nigeria. The bandits are not just bandits but armed bandits. The presence of arms makes the difference.
“There is more insecurity. Whatever efforts you are making in terms of security, if you are not mopping up small and light arms in this country, you are making a terrible mistake.
“Some people are calling for Nigerians to be armed. The presence of arms has made criminality more common.
“It has grievous implications and we are already seeing it. It is not just enough to mop up arms without protecting the people,” he said.
Meanwhile, speaking during the dialogue, former head of state, Gen. Yakubu Gowon, who partook in the event virtually, charged Nigerians to set religious and political differences aside and work to towards solving the nation’s challenges which include insecurity.
During the second stage of the meeting with the media and civil society organisations, the Sultan of Sokoto, Alhaji Muhammadu Sa’ad Abubakar III, urged Nigerians not to allow the vocal elite who are in the minority to create division among them.
He said, “Before there was nothing like whether this person is a Yoruba, Igbo, Hausa or whatever. We saw ourselves as human beings and if we continue to live like that there will be no problem. We, as leaders, we have to know that we are going to account for this leadership that God give us on the final day. So please lets look at the various problems we have, lets look at being our brother’s keeper. We should not allow the elites to break us because they are the ones shouting break up.”
Speaking on behalf of the Northern Elders’ Forum (NEF) former Chief of Defence Staff, Air Marshal Al-Amin Dagash (rtd), called for a review of the military operations, stressing that there is the need for adequate training on intelligence and operations.
He also stated that the war against Boko Haram ought to have been over by now, because it was not beyond the capacity of the nations military.
He said in their days, training used to be between 18 months or two years, unlike these days where military trainees spend barely six or seven months in training before being deployed to operations.
On Boko Haram he said, “ Boko Haram is not beyond Nigeria. We can defeat Boko Haram within the minimum period of time. Something must have gone wrong somewhere.”
Speaking also, a former governor of old Rivers State, King Alfred Diette-Spiff canvassed the return of traditional rulers to having Constitutional recognition.
He lamented that traditional rulers have been relegated to the background which limited their impact.
“The traditional rulers should be put back in the Nigerian constitution, otherwise we are completely disarmed. We are not in the protocol; even in the church when they pray, they forget us. It is embarrassing.
“The police system is infiltrated; anything they are planning in the police, somebody has already known so there are so many holes. So, we should start thinking of overhauling the police system.”
On his part, the president of Dangote Group, Aliko Dangote, noted that without peace jobs cannot be created, adding that the task of securing the country is a collective responsibility.
He however cautioned the media against disseminating negative reports about Nigeria, stressing that the nations diversity is its strength.
“The question of security is everybody’s business. Even us today, we cannot do any business without security and that is why the private sector promised to put in N100bn to support the police in terms of security.
“There is no way we have jobs without peace. We need peace for jobs to be created and I think it is our collective responsibility for us to make sure that the environment is right. A couple of media people believe that only bad news sells and we need to be very careful. I don’t see any county where people just keep propagating bad news throughout. Security is the job for everybody right from the security man at the gate. So, we need to report any suspicious activities,” Dangote said.
Also speaking at the event, the chairman, Media Trust Limited Publishers of the Daily Trust Newspapers who is also president of the Newspaper Proprietors’ Association of Nigeria (NPAN), Mallam Kabiru Yusuf, expressed concern over media coverage of security issues in the country.
He said the media is as divided as the rest of Nigeria, adding that there should be no illusions that there is some kind of national agenda that the media can pursue.
“Whoever reads our newspapers or watches our television will see that people selectively choose fact they want to report,” he said.
“This is because we are governed and influenced by interests and, historically, as you know, the media has also been strong in some parts of the country. And it is only growing in another. So, there is that imbalance that sometimes afford we can afford to deal with this kind of news coverage.”
Civil society organisations, like NIDO, Centre for Peace and Development, Accountability Lab Nigeria, advocated economic empowerment, accountability from state governments and the need to ensure justice in the polity.
They also stressed the need to pay attention to the foreign sponsors of terrorism in the country just as they accused Nigerians elite of instigating the violence ravaging the country.