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Dangerous influx of arms and foreigners

By Editorial Board
29 May 2022   |   4:10 am
The rate at which lethal guns, ammunitions and other weapons of mass destruction are being ferried into the country is alarming. Many law-abiding citizens are definitely concerned, given that the aim of those behind ...

The rate at which lethal guns, ammunitions and other weapons of mass destruction are being ferried into the country is alarming. Many law-abiding citizens are definitely concerned, given that the aim of those behind the circulation is not known. What is certain is that circulation of small arms and ammunition portend no good omen for the country or any part of it; and it drives violence. Is it surprising that the country is awash with violence of all sorts, and killings even for flimsy reasons? Are these the arms that cultists, kidnappers and armed robbers are using to carry out their nefarious activities? More apprehensively, is the gun-running central to the widely rumoured agenda by some ethnic groups to forcibly take over parts of the country? Is the country experiencing a prelude to war, or has the war started already?

Ordinarily, the central government which has authority over security agencies and intelligence apparatuses should have been providing the answers to these posers, and guiding the populace accordingly. The silence emanating from the federal government and the security agencies including the Police, Directorate of Military Intelligence (DMI), Department of State Service (DSS) and National Intelligence Agency (NIA) among others is loud and ominous; and surely does not assuage the fear of the ordinary Nigerians. Yet, almost on a daily basis, reports are circulated in the media of large caches of arms and ammunitions being intercepted from seemingly innocuous young men, many of them non-Nigerians; and sometimes from vehicles whose drivers could not offer satisfactory or coherent explanation on the deadly goods.

It may be gratifying that security agencies intercept the weapons of destruction even if occasionally; but that fact does not diminish the fear of Nigerians, considering that no one knows what the authorities do with their interceptions of arms some of which find their ways into the country through established points of entry as well as other illegal entries scattered across the country’s borders. Uncontrolled circulation of arms and ammunitions poses danger to peace and the long-term social and economic development of the country. Beyond smuggling of contraband products, unscrupulous importers now take advantage of loopholes within the customs service to sneak in arms and ammunition, thus gradually turning the country into a hotbed for gunrunning and breeding ground for small arms and ammunition.

According to reports, the number of small arms in circulation in Nigeria, in the wrong hands or in possession of non-state actors is estimated at over 6,145,000, while the armed forces and law enforcement collectively accounts for about 586,600 firearms. At a time Nigeria is facing serious internal security challenges, small arms, mass atrocities and migration into the country have highlighted the rate of arms proliferation and have enabled the rise of armed groups in the country. It has also led to the displacement of several Nigerians from their communities and ancestral lands. The trend of gunrunning and arms proliferation has placed the nation on a precariously dangerous position which has led to the death of innocent Nigerians in their thousands.

Nigerians have right to life and right to live in freedom and dignity anywhere in the country. But this is threatened by the proliferation of arms and ammunitions daily; along with reality of violence among communities including armed militias or criminal gangs. These criminals hold the power over life and death. Hence, in a recent report, Southwest Security Stakeholders Group (SSSG) in the South West raised alarm over the influx of non-Nigerians into the region. According to the publicity secretary, Adewole Ireti, the raging influx of people from Mali, Chad, Niger Republic and other neighbouring African countries is an impending danger for the south west and the country. Among other apprehensions, it is feared that the influx of people without certification into the country may be driven by the quest to use them to disrupt the forthcoming general elections. If true, this possibility portends danger to democracy.

One serious concern about these non-Nigerians is that they are hardly traceable to any known address. A large number of them ride motorcycles popularly called Okada and have dangerous weapons stocked under the seat of their motorcycles. And when confronted, they claim to use the weapons for self-defence. Sadly, they hardly ever get arrested for being in illegal possession of arms and dangerous weapons. Unconfirmed reports have it that these individuals hold regular meetings at their various locations to strategise and perfect their unknown but presumably sinister motives.
The police do deserve praise for their efforts and intelligence to checkmate criminal activities in the country, despite the overwhelming odds surrounding them.

The other day, the police intercepted gunrunners masquerading as traders and uncovered arms in bags of beans being convened from Plateau to the South East. This is a commendable proactive action leading to arrest of the suspected gunrunners. The police cannot afford to relent in these efforts in combating crime and particularly the proliferation of small arms. Police authorities should therefore intensify their campaign in this regard and keep the country safe.

The media, including this newspaper have in the past raised awareness over the devastating impact of gunrunning and proliferation of small arms on the lives and livelihoods of the people in the country. To adequately combat the illicit trade, government needs to strengthen the security apparatus as well as the legal and administrative framework to help curtail the flow of these weapons into the country.

There must also be greater exchange of information and sharing of best practices at all levels of government, from the local to the federal level. This will enable individual states in the country to ensure that peace reign and that all Nigerians live in peace and harmony throughout the country. In particular, there should be no overlooking of danger being courted for Nigerians by foreigners with suspicious motives.