A bill to regulate small arms and light weapons in Nigeria yesterday passed second reading in the House of Representatives.
Co-sponsor of the bill, Nnenna Ukeje (PDP, Abia) said the bill became necessary as Nigeria presently accounts for 70 per cent of over 500 million small arms and light weapons in circulation in West Africa.
The bill Tagged; “National Commission against the Proliferation of Small Arms and Light Weapons Bill, 2017,” was sponsored by Ukeje and Speaker Yakubu Dogara.
“The bill is borne out of the desire to domesticate ECOWAS Treaty and UN’s Programme of Action on small arms and light weapons.
“The bill intends to address not only the security issues but also human rights issues since it is said that small arms and light weapons have killed more people than weapons of mass destruction,” Ukeje added.
She said, “In a recent meeting, the National Coordinator, United Nations Centre for Peace and Disarmament, Mrs Okubo Ige, said West Africa had about 500 million small arms in circulation and that 70 per cent of those arms, about 350 million, reside in Nigeria. Responsible for this, she said, were obsolete laws and ineffective stockpile management.”
Sources of small arms and light weapons
According to Ukeje, Nigeria is today designated as a country of origin, transit and destination of small arms and light weapons.
She quoted Army spokesperson, Col. Sagir as saying there were over 250 illegal routes – mostly footpaths from Damaturu/Maiduguri axis to Cameroon and Chad – where Libyan and Malian rebels exchange money for arms.
Included in the arms proliferation routes, according to the Army chief, are Nigeria’s porous borders west of Idiroko and Seme, which fuel the transnational black market arms trade.
She said recently, the Comptroller-General of the Nigerian Immigration Service alerted the nation to the existence of over “1,400 unmanned illegal entry points across Nigeria.”
But the Minister of Interior, Abdulrahman Dambazzau, said the figure is over “1,500 unmanned, unprotected leaky routes for arms and ammunition, mostly unknown by security agencies,” she stated.
She observed that while stolen crude is exchanged for arms in the Gulf of Guinea bordering the Niger Delta, over 60 per cent small arms are being locally produced in the Southeast.
“Between January and September, 2017, the Nigerian Customs Service intercepted 2,671 proliferated arms: 661 pump action riffles; 440 arms and ammunition from Turkey; and 1,100 military grade ammunitions in a Russian plane at Aminu Kano Airport,” she added.
She identified wars in Liberia, Sierra Leone, Cote d’Ivoire and Mali, as well as conflicts in the Nano-River basin, as responsible for proliferation of small arms and light weapons in West Africa.