Indications have emerged that series of petitions from concerned Nigerians and organizations, both international and local may elicit a United Nations intervention in the ongoing row over the recent arms deals and cash seizures involving the federal government of Nigeria, private businessmen, a prominent pastor and head of the Christian Association of Nigeria, Ayo Oritsejafor.
The United Nations (UN) recently declared that all actors involved in arms trade must be held accountable and the trade in arms should comply with vigorous, internationally agreed standards.
The UN made the declaration when it announced that a treaty designed to regulate the multi-billion-U.S. dollar international arms trade will enter into force in December after it was ratified by the 50th country.
The announcement marked a milestone in the history of the Arms Trade Treaty (ATT). Less than two years after its adoption by the General Assembly, the World crossed the threshold of 50 ratifications needed to trigger the Treaty’s entry-into-force.
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said in his message to a high-level event in September on the ATT that the Treaty’s entry into force will occur on December 24. “This will occur on 24 December,” he said. “We can look ahead with satisfaction to the date of this historic new Treaty’s entry into force.”
Eight countries deposited their instruments of ratification with the UN chief, including Argentina, Bahamas, Bosnia and Herzegovina, the Czech Republic, Portugal, Saint Lucia, Senegal and Uruguay, while two states, Georgia and Namibia, signed the treaty.
In a message delivered by his High Representative for Disarmament Affairs Angela Kane, Ban said the need for the ATT remains abundantly clear.
“Deadly weaponry continues to find its way into irresponsible hands. Unscrupulous arms brokers defy UN arms embargoes. Ruthless leaders turn their arsenals on their own citizens. Ammunition depots are poorly guarded. State-owned weapons go missing. Civilian airplanes end up in the crosshairs. End-use certificates are not standardized and can be easily forged. Pirates wield grenade launchers and machine guns against merchant ships. Drug- traffickers outgun police forces,” Ban said.
“Just as with other commodities, the trade in arms should comply with vigorous, internationally agreed standards,” he stated. “
“Now we must work for its efficient implementation and seek its universalisation so that the regulation of armaments as expressed in the Charter of the United Nations can become a reality once and for all,” the UN chief added.
The ATT was adopted by a vote in the 193-member UN General Assembly on April 2, 2013. The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Iran and Syria voted against the measure, while Cuba, India, Russia and China were among the abstaining states. China insisted that the treaty should be reached through consensus and accepted by all parties.
The ATT, which will enter into force 90 days after the date when it gets 50 ratifications, regulates all conventional arms within the categories of battle tanks, armored combat vehicles, large-caliber artillery systems, combat aircraft, attack helicopters, warships, missiles and missile launchers and small arms and light weapons
.A diaspora group, Nigeria Unite Group, had petitioned the Office of the Secretary- General of the United Nations (UN) on the alleged $9.3million arms deal.
The group in a petition by the Coordinator and Secretary, Dr. Mohammed Hussaini and Francis John, said the arms deal was a violation of the principles enshrined in the global Arms Trade Treaty (ATT).
The statement said: “Although the government has admitted knowledge of the deal, it has denied any complicity in the attempt to commit a crime enshrined in the global Arms Trade Treaty (ATT). Moreover, the explanations given by the two Nigerians and one Israeli arrested by the South African investigators are flawed and riddled with discrepancies.”
The body said the manner of the transaction and the channel the money passed through, called for questioning, adding that government was covering up the arms contract with an unauthorised agency.
It said that the UN should act on its petition to enable Nigerians know the truth.
The UN apparently remains the last court for those seeking better explanation and thorough investigation on the aborted South Africa arms deal, other than the one given by the Nigerian presidency, especially with the ongoing Boko Haram bloody activities and the pending 2015 general elections.
The All Progressive Congress.APC has specifically alleged that the arms to be procured, if at all, were not meant for any Boko Haram fight as claimed by the government but perhaps a ploy to stockpile arms for the private militia of the PDP ahead of next year’s general elections.
A worrisome development is a report by South Africa’s Auditor-General which has revealed a serious lack of controls over exports of its vast array of conventional weapons, which a non-governmental organisation monitoring the trade attributes to governments “couldn’t be bothered” attitude.
“The Auditor-General demonstrates that South Africa’s arms control regime is in a state of advanced crisis, with the upshot that South African arms sales may be fuelling brutal dictators and rogue regimes,” a spokesman for the opposition Democratic Alliance (DA), David Maynier, said in a statement.
Maynier’s statement brings to the front burner APC’s fears as to why the Nigerian government chose to deal with an arms contractor with questionable registration in South Africa.
The current face off in Nigeria between the PDP and the APC and other individuals and organization has been seen by many as politics, but beyond politics lies issues of human lives and properties. Considering the number of people that have died in Nigeria over militancy and insurgency, there is apparent need for concern. The Nigerian government must move fast to justify its actions regarding the arms deal even when it has told the South African government that the transaction was legitimate.
Reports indicate that the federal government has opened diplomatic talks with South Africa on how to resolve the stalemate on the seized funds by first providing it with data and documents on the transaction process.
Reports also said that the South African government only faulted the non-declaration of the cash by the delegation from Nigeria. However, the current row in the National Assembly has exposed a fresh can of worms. There were disagreements among two principal officers of the House, Minority Leader, Honourable Femi Gbajabiamila and the Deputy Majority Leader, Honourable Leo Ogor, who recently engaged each other in an open war of words over the killing of a motion by members, on the $9.3 million cash-for-arms deal.
This is even as the House of Representatives directed its Committee on Ethics and Privileges to probe 50,000 dollars bribe allegedly offered the PDP lawmakers in the house.
Rep. Aliyu Madaki (APC-Kano) on had alleged that PDP members were offered the bribe.The member said that it was to kill a motion to probe the 9.3 million arms deal.
Responding to Madaki’s allegation, the Deputy Speaker, Emeka Ihedioha, said that Madaki would appear before the Ethic and Privileges Committee to prove his allegation.
Ihedioha, who described Madaki’s allegation as “grievous and regrettable”, said he (Madaki) risked suspension if he failed to prove the allegation.
It would be recalled that a motion to probe the incident was voted out without debate.
This development caused APC lawmakers to walk out during the plenary
While the presidency has exonerated Pastor Ayo Oritsejafor of complicities in the said deal and also given itself a clean bill. The South Africa has also promised to refund the seized funds.However,some Nigerians are at the door step of the UN to seek thorough investigation into the matter along the rules of the Arms Trade Treaty (ATT).Nigerians await UN reaction.