Proliferation of illegal weapons – Thisday

Everything should be done to stem the flow of illegal arms. They constitute a great threat
Even though it seems belated, the federal government is now mapping out plans to stop the proliferation of small arms and light weapons which it considers as one of the causative factors fuelling the internal security challenges in the country. The chairman, Presidential Committee on Small Arms and Light Weapons (SALW) Ambassador Emmanuel Imohe, recently stated this in response to the alarm earlier raised by the chairman, House of Representatives Committee on Foreign Affair, Hon. Nnenna Ukeaje on the dangers of illegal possession of firearms among Nigerians.

Imohe, who explained that the role of the presidential committee would stem the tide of small arms and weapons proliferation in the country, said that the regulation and control of the use of such illicit weapons is the key to solving the state of insecurity bedevilling the country. “You cannot resolve the issue of insecurity in the country without first dealing with the problem of proliferation of small arms and light weapons. Our aim is to first modernise the law and the second one is to upgrade our committee into a commission as demanded by the ECOWAS convention,” said Imohe.

We agree with the presidential committee that concerted efforts be made by all the relevant stakeholders to control the flow of illicit weapons into the country, especially against the background that Nigeria is recorded as accounting for at least 70 per cent of all such weapons circulating within the West African sub-region. That should be of serious concern to all Nigerians, especially to those charged with keeping us secure and we urge all the presidential committee to match its words with action in that direction.

Such a grim revelation does not bode well especially at this critical time when the nation is experiencing serious security challenges. It stands to reason that with access to abundant illegal weapons the rogue elements in our midst have become more fortified and hence less amenable to entreaties to make peace. Yet it was such easy access to SALWs by some unscrupulous elements that resulted in total breakdown of law and order in some of the failed states in Africa of which Somalia is a prime example.

The danger in the proliferation of these weapons is that when they fall into the hands of non-state actors such as Boko Haram insurgents, they become objects of terror by people who have no regard for international laws and conventions. Such proliferation equally leads to difficulties in conflict resolution as was the case not long ago in Liberia and Sierra Leone, sometimes with dire consequences for even children. That the situation in Borno and Yobe States seems to be getting out of hands is basically because the Boko Haram insurgents now have easy access to these dangerous weapons with which they terrorise and kill innocent villagers.

According to United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF) which has done extensive studies on the dangers posed by SAWL, “the uncontrolled trade in small arms and light weapons is a matter of life and death to people around the world.” But of greater concern to UNICEF is the fact that it is easy for children to be easily taught how to handle these weapons, which are lethal but light and easy to use yet once exposed to them, what follows is “a vicious cycle of crime and violence.”

Given the foregoing, Nigeria cannot afford to take the issue lightly and that is why the concerns that we have repeatedly expressed on this page about our porous borders require urgent and much more serious attention by the relevant authorities. We enjoin all the relevant authorities to recognise the danger posed by the influx of small arms into our country and act very quickly to tackle the menace before it is too late.


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