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EU-ECOWAS, LITE Africa destroy 5,770 arms, weapons in Cross River

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ECOWAS


• Ayade seeks amnesty for ex-Bakassi militants

The European Union (EU), Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and the Leadership Initiative for Transformation and Empowerment (LITE) Africa have destroyed 5, 770 arms, ammunition and other dangerous weapons in Calabar, Cross River State.

Following the exercise, the state government charged the Federal Government to absorb former militants of the defunct Bakassi Strike Force (BSF) into the Presidential Amnesty Programme (PAP).

The destruction of the arms at the U. J. Esuene Stadium, yesterday, comprised 260 guns, 5, 510 machetes, axes, daggers and other arms that were surrendered by the BSF led by its former leader, Benjamin Ene.

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The BSF had in November 2019, under a state and Federal Government arrangement, granted amnesty to BSF members for pulling out of the creeks and the Gulf of Guinea, but up till now, they have not been accommodated in the amnesty programme or paid stipends.

Speaking at the ceremony yesterday, Governor Benedict Ayade appealed to the Federal Government to capture the former Bakassi militants under the PAP, saying: “The youths, who have surrendered their arms deserve empowerment and rehabilitation to keep them permanently away from the creeks.”

While destroying the weapons, Ayade urged those who were yet to surrender their arms to do so and embrace peace, noting that the destruction of the weapons would encourage residents to work closely with government and security agencies to entrench peace in the state.

Ayade, who lamented that armed smugglers were bringing arms to the state through illegal routes, however, commended security agencies for working to secure residents in collaboration with the Operation Akpakwu security outfit.

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A representative of the Presidential Committee on Small Arms and Light Weapons said the committee was set up in 2013 to be the focal point in Nigeria’s efforts to check proliferation of illegal arms.

He stated that the Nigerian component of the EU-ECOWAS small arms under the current pilot phase focuses on Akwa Ibom, Cross River, Kaduna, Katsina, Kebbi, Zamfara and Sokoto states.

On its part, representative of LITE Africa, Joel Bisina, who spoke on behalf of EU-ECOWAS, said small arms and light weapons had continued to have devastating effects on the socio-economic situation in Nigeria and West Africa.

He said arms create negative impact in society, lamenting that commercial transaction in small arms and light weapons had been on the increase after the Nigerian Civil War, which he said, had continued in the country despite the illegality of the trade.

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