Says 350m illegal weapons threaten Polls
By Omeiza Ajayi
ABUJA— In what looks like a frightening statistic, the Federal Government has lamented the proliferation of small arms and light weapons in Nigeria, saying 70 per cent of the 500 million of such weapons in West Africa, translating to 350 million, are found in the country..
Minister of Interior, Gen. Abdulrahman Dambazau (retd), stated this at a high level meeting on proliferation of small arms and light weapons as well as drug abuse in Nigeria, yesterday, in Abuja.
Declaring that the trend must be checked before the 2019 elections, the minister said Nigeria’s porous borders contributed to the proliferation of the illegal weapons.
He said: “Following the meeting we had with governors two weeks back over the violent conflicts that took place in Benue and other places, between herders and farmers, one of the issues that came up in the communique was the issue of the proliferation of small arms, and also the issue of drug trafficking and abuse.
“We also found that these two issues are triggers to the violence taking place in this country. Without the firearms, without the drugs being processed, the courage of those who partake in violence, we would not have the kind of violence with magnitude we have today.
‘’So, there is need to take very urgent action, in order to ensure that this situation is dealt with accordingly.
“As a follow-up, I invited this meeting of experts so that we will be able to deal with the situation, examine and analyse it, and see how best we can approach it. From records by the United Nations Centre for Peace and Disarmament, I understand that there are approximately 500 million assorted firearms in West Africa.
“Of these 500 million, 70 per cent, approximating 350 million of them, are in Nigeria. And, of course, we know for a fact, that quite a large consignment of weapons are being smuggled, or have been smuggled from North Arfica, in particular, Libya, as a consequence of the crisis in that country.
“In addition to that, the insurgency in the North-East, adds more of the problem. Because of the supplies of weapons to the insurgents and terrorists there.
“Likewise, we have similar problems in the Niger Delta, where militants are supplied weapons, not only by trade-by-barter (with stolen oil), but also politicians supply weapons, in order to carry out actions against opponents .
‘’These are the issues that we hope to deal with, particularly that 2019 elections are coming up. And, quite a lot of movements of these weapons;people take advantage of that. So, it is very necessary for us to secure our country.”
On the state of the nation’s borders, the minister challenged the Nigeria Immigration Service, NIS, Nigeria Customs Service and other security agencies to ensure that the nation’s borders were well manned.
, expressing fears that the situation might degenerate, if urgent action was not taken.
His words: “Of course, a more challenging aspect of that, which facilitates the smuggling of weapons, is the porousness of our borders. And this is a major challenge, I believe, to the Immigration and Customs, in particular, but to all law enforcement agencies.
“Our borders are porous. With about 5,000 kilometres porous, both land and the litoral, there is need for us to look at these issues, because we must secure our country, we must secure our future. But, with these weapons and drugs smuggled into this country, if we don’t do something now, I am afraid things will be worse than it is now.
“The herders/farmers’ conflict, ethno/religious crisis, violent crimes of armed robbery, kidnapping, cultism, militancy, terrorism; all that have something to with weapons and drugs. So, we must deal with this issue.
“And, of course, we cannot do this without the continuous partnership with state governments and religious organisations. This meeting will come up with strategies on how best we can handle this.”
The meeting was still ongoing as at press time.