The Federal Government has raised concerns over smuggling of small arms and light weapons, saying the trend must be checked before the 2019 elections.
This came as the government also raised the alarm over porous borders, which, it said, contributed to the proliferation of illegal weapons. The Minister of Interior, Lt.-Gen. Abdulrahman Dambazau (rtd), made the assertions at a stakeholders’ meeting called to address the national crisis.
According to Dambazau, statistics from the United Nations showed that an estimated 500 million assorted firearms are in West Africa. Out of the number, about 350 million are said to be in the country.
“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 communiqué, was the issue of the proliferation of small arms, and also the issue of drug trafficking and abuse.
“And, 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. “And, 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. “Out 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 Africa, in particular, Libya, as a consequence of the crisis in that country.
And, 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,” the minister said. On the state of borders, the minister challenged the Nigeria Immigration Service (NIS), Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) and other security agencies, to ensure that the nation’s borders are well manned.