By Tobias Lengnan Dapam
The Federal Government yesterday released a frightening statistics on the proliferation of light weapons in the country, saying 70 percent of the 500 million of such weapons in West Africa, translating to 350 million are found in Nigeria.
Minister of Interior, Abdulrahman Dambazau made the revelation yesterday at the ministry in Abuja during a meeting on proliferation of small arms and light weapons.
The meeting also discussed issues of drug abuse in the country.
Expressing worry about the trend, the minister insisted that the trend posed a huge threat and must be checked before the 2019 elections.
He said Nigeria’s porous borders contributed to the proliferation of illegal weapons.
“Following the meeting we had with Governors two weeks back over the violent conflicts that took place in Benue and other places, between herders and farmers, one of the issues that came up in the communique, was the issue of the proliferation of small arms, and also the issue of drug trafficking and abuse.
“And, we also found that these two issues are triggers to the violence taking place in this country. Without the firearms, without the drugs being processed, the courage of those who partake in violence, we would not have the kind of violence with magnitude we have today. So, there is need to take very urgent action, in order to ensure that this situation is dealt with accordingly.
“And, as a follow-up, I invited this meeting of experts so that we will be able to deal with the situation, examine and analyse it, and see how best we can approach it. From records by the United Nations Centre for Peace and Disarmament, I understand that there are approximately 500 million assorted firearms in West Africa.
“And out of these 500 million, 70 per cent, approximating 350 million of them are in Nigeria. And, of course, we know for a fact, that quite a large consignment of weapons are being smuggled, or have been smuggled from North Africa, in particular, Libya, as a consequence of the crisis in that country. And, in addition to that, the insurgency in the North East, adds more of the problem. Because of the supplies of weapons to the insurgents and terrorists there.
“Likewise, we have similar problems in the Niger Delta, where militants are supplied weapons, not only by trade-by-barter with (with stolen oil), but also politicians supply weapons, in order to carry out actions against opponents. These are the issues that we hope to deal with, particularly that 2019 elections are coming up. And, quite a lot of movements of these weapons; people take advantage of that. So, it is very necessary for us to secure our country,” Dambazau said.
The minister who also expressed worry about the porous nature of the country’s borders charged the Nigeria Immigration Service (NIS), Nigeria Customs Service and other security agencies, to step up their check to bar illegal elements from smuggling in to the country to cause problem.