Missing arms and ammunition – Guardian

The report by the Auditor General of the Federation, Adolphus Aghughu, which claimed that the police high command failed to keep a record of unserviceable and expired firearms and ammunition, is anything but comforting for Nigerians.

Particularly as the issues of insecurity bedevilling nation have in recent times taken a turn for the worst.

According to the AuGF who presented his report to the Clerk of the National Assembly: “Audit observed from the review of Arms Movement Register, Monthly Returns of Arms and Ammunition and Ammunition Register at the Armoury section that a total number of lost firearms as reported as at December 2018 stood at 178,459 pieces. Out of this number, 88,078 were AK-47 rifles, 3,907 assorted rifles and pistols across different police formations, which could not be accounted for as of January 2020.”

Observers have often drawn a correlation between missing arms and ammunitions of the Police and the proliferation of arms in society. It would be recalled that when a similar December 2016 and May 2017 reports by the office of the Auditor General revealed that at least 44 assorted arms belonging to the Nigerian police could not be accounted for between 2013 and 2015, police spokesperson at the time, Moshood Jimoh, was quoted as saying “no police weapon was lost in the first place; so, there was no way police-owned guns could have ended up with criminals.” So, it will not be unexpected should the authorities of the police come up with a statement denying details of the current report while assuring the public of their safety. But mere debunking of the alarm is not sufficient. Rather, the two bodies should sit down and reconcile the facts; and until they do that, there should be a presumption that arms and ammunitions are indeed missing, with the dangerous portend that these could land or could have landed in the wrong hands.

It is bad enough that Nigerians have had reasons to question the competence of its security agencies, owing to cases of highhandedness, extortion and extrajudicial killings, all of which culminated in the #EndSARS protest of October, 2020, the consequences of which the nation is still reeling from; and which has prompted stakeholders to call for the restructuring of the nation’s security architecture. But to allow the notions and ideas of the nation’s security agencies frolicking with criminals responsible for the death of hundreds and displacement of millions would be catastrophic.

At this time, it will serve the government well to provide plausible answers to the people, and not the usual patronizing rhetoric. Nigerians need to know how these arms and ammunitions got missing; who are the handlers of the weapons? Are there breaches of procedure in making reports on them, and if so, why? Why were reports not made according to laid down rules and regulations, and what punitive actions (if any) has been taken against personnel responsible.

It is sad to note that in spite of earlier reports by the office of the Auditor General of the Federation, authorities of the police command had not deemed it necessary to address the issues raised either by re-evaluating their administrative processes to ensure the safety of its armoury or ensuring compliance with laid down rules and regulations. And the result of this lackadaisical attitude is clear for all to see as while between 2013 and 2015 the number of missing arms was reported to be 44, the number of missing arms and ammunitions in the intervening period has skyrocketed to 178,459 pieces.

Nigerians and the nation in general have in the recent times paid too great a price for its Police force to continue its operations in a careless manner. With incessant reports of attacks by terrorist organizations operating under different appellations becoming ever emboldened with attacks on security facilities by “unknown gunmen” in the Southeast, kidnappings of travelers by “bandits” in the Northwest, the displacement of millions by Boko Haram insurgents and the Islamic State in the Northeast, how much more should Nigerians be expected to bear? In one night alone in Zamfara State, terrorists killed as many as 200 innocent persons in some villages! More disheartening is the charge on Nigerians to defend themselves, by those statutorily entrusted with such responsibilities. What legitimacy does an elected government that has failed to meet the basic aspirations of its citizens maintain?

The time for the nation’s security agencies to rise to the occasion is now, and it can no longer be business as usual, for what is at stake is the security of the lives and properties of the citizens and the sovereignty of the Nigerian State. For no nation can thrive in the face of multiplicity of social unrest, rising cases insecurity. President Muhammadu Buhari as Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces should realize that the average Nigerian does not feel safe and rightly considers his government to have failed in its constitutional duty of ensuring the security and welfare of the people, which is the primary purpose of government. He must as a matter of urgency rein in the nation’s security agencies to ensure they live up to their constitutional responsibilities, if he has any intention of redeeming the goodwill upon which he rode to power in 2015.

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