The proliferation of small arms and light weapons has been a global scourge with huge impact in countries battling with security challenge like Nigeria. A recent report by the United Nations claim that there are approximately one billion small arms in circulation around the world — to terrorists, parties to intra-State conflict, organized criminals and warring gangs. This worrisome scenario has continued to pose a major security threat around the globe.
In that report, the world body also revealed that small armssuch as rifles, pistols and light machine guns contributed to some 200,000 deaths every year from 2010 to 2015, and continue to represent a challenge that cuts across peace and security, human rights, gender, sustainable development and beyond.
This assessment which is contained in the Secretary General’s biennial report on small arms and light weapons (document S/2019/1011) also pointed out that the use of this category of firearms, whether in conflict or non-conflict settings, is prevalent from America to Africa to Southern Europe. It is needless to say that such weapons would naturally find their way to areas battling with security crisis as is the case in Nigeria.
From the oil bunkering witnessed in the Niger Delta, kidnapping in the South East and elsewhere, armed robbery in the South West, ethnic/religious violence on the Plateau, and the Boko Haram operations in the North East as well as banditry in the North West, the country is seen as a hotbed of security crisis.
However, while the ease at which these light weapons are moved across borders has remained a matter of deep concern, what is even more worrisome is the connivance of some rogue security operatives in the smuggling of these weapons into the country.
This much was revealed during the administration of President Goodluck Jonathan in a memo issued on March 3, 2011 by the National Taskforce to combat illegal importation, smuggling of goods, small arms, ammunition and light-weapons (NATFORCE). The memo revealed that unidentified officers of some security agencies in collaboration with certain businessmen are involved in arms smuggling into Nigeria.
The memo further revealed that weapons such as AK 47, German G3, Belgian FN-FAL Assault Rifles, Czech Rocket Propeller Grenade and RPGS are brought into Nigeria illegally.
‘‘Our surveillance unit report alerts that these weapons are off-loaded and stored in ware houses later loaded into 20/40 feet containers and then transported into various parts of the North and South West regions. These trucks are not stopped for searching at any Security checkpoint. They move both at night and by day, pointing out compromise by powers that be. Considering the level of insecurity in the country, it is a matter of urgency that these activities are stopped and the perpetrators identified with their collaborators with a view to apprehending them,” the memo stated.
It was however reassuring when President Muhammadu Buhari constituted a committee to help curb the proliferation of small and light arms early this month. With Vice President Yemi Osinbajo as chairman, the committee is made up of top security chiefs and members of the Presidential Committee on Small Arms and Light Weapons.
It is further comforting that the Senate has commenced deliberation on a Bill on the issue. The Bill is titled: A Bill for an Act to provide for the establishment of the Nigeria National Commission against the Proliferation of Small Arms and Light Weapons and for Related Matters. While these actions, in our estimation, are commendable and timely, it is however hoped that the political will to ensure that far reaching recommendations from the committee are implemented will be there when needed.
This is in light of the fact that those who engage in these illicit trade are usually influential figures in society aided by rogue security operatives. This newspaper believes that it is enough to formulate timely polices for the sake of it. The commitment to implementing such policies regardless of whose ox is gored has remained the major albatross.
What should expedite action on whatever measures being put in place by the authorities is the realisation that the ‘bad guys’ who have access to these weapons are not respecters of class or personality. In their maniac disposition, they turn them on anyone who they consider game enough to be profitable as they forage for money which is the main determinant in the nefarious activity.
The government should bear this in mind when they decide to pussyfoot over such a deadly matter that has continued to haunt everyone making life and living not only scary but also unpleasant.