Illicit arms movement: The root of Nigeria’s insecurity crisis


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Research shows that there are more than a billion small arms in circulation globally with 87.5percent of those weapons in the hands of civilians. According to the small arms survey of 2018, there are over 40,009,000 small arms in hands of civilians across various states in Africa. In Nigeria, the proliferation of small arms and ammunition across various regions have resulted in violence, kidnappings, robberies, mass killings and socio-economic upheavals in society.

According to a report by SB Morgen intelligence, illicit arms are obtained by non-state actors in a variety of waysreliant on factors such as porous borders, sea smuggling, police indiscipline, local manufacturing amongst others. Nigeria’s porous borders means that weapons flow easily into the country as some of the weapons used in conflicts have been identified with origins from Ivorian or Libyan stock piles. Ammunition from at least 21 different countries has been used in Nigeria’s conflict over the years.

The seas have also provided illicit arms smugglers a business chance into Nigeria using the Gulf of Guinea on speed boats while some attempt to get the weapons through Nigeria’s ports. In January 2017, 661 pump action rifles were seized at the Apapa port and in May and September of 2017, 440 and 1,100 rifles were seized from the ports respectively. Arms imported into Nigeria are transported to their intended destinations via tricky means as well as disguises. Weapons are usually hidden and transported in lorries carrying items from Burkina Faso, rice sacks from Benin Republic as well as between second hand clothes called ‘okrika’. In fact, some supplies of locally made weapons within the country confirmed the availability to deliver weapons anywhere in Nigeria disguising with bags of garri (locally made staple food from cassava).

The Nigeria Customs seizure data between 1999 and 2006 pointed to southern Nigerian locations of Lagos, Port-Harcourt, Seme, Badagry, Ijebu-Ode, Sagamu, Idiroko, Lekki-Ajah beach, Osun, Oyo and Owerri as major distribution points. Other distribution points across Nigeria include: Jos, Ilorin, Makurdi, Bukari, Takum as well as other locations around the Nigeria-Chad border. With the details pointed out the question thus becomes;

How much do these ammunitions go for?

An AK-47 rifle ranges between N300k – N1.4 million, the K1 Rifle ranges between 200k – 900k, the pump action rifle ranges between 250k-500k, the pistol hovers around 150k – 600k, locally made pistols go for 5k-50k, locally made AK-47 Rifle 300k-350k while the locally made single barrel gun ranges between 10k– 40k. In light of these facts, it thus leads us to ‘counting our losses’.

According to Council on Foreign Relations (CFR), Over 35,000 people have been killed by Boko Haram since 2011. The International Crisis Group (ICG) declared Fulani militants/herdsmen had become more deadly than Boko Haram in 2018 with death rates surpassing nearly half their record in 2012. A study of data sets between 2006 and 2015 revealed that there were 2363 cult-related deaths across 28 states in Nigeria while Rivers accounted for the most deaths at 765 deaths which was 32percent of the total number while Lagos followed with 323 deaths.

Due to the unrest in the South-South, Nigeria lost about 400,000 barrels of oil to crude oil theft which amounted to at least N4.8 billion in 2015 and by 2019, Nigeria had become the world’s oil theft capital having lost about N1 trillion to oil theft. Currently, Agriculture banditry has become the order of the day as farmers have become slaves in their own farmlands and are being forced to make payments to gain access to their farmlands hence, putting a price on their lives rather than on their farm produce which by extension has led to the current spike in food inflation being felt nation-wide.

The easy availability of ammunition through illicit means has fostered armed robberies and kidnappings across the southern part of Nigeria. The NYA which is now Crisis 24 risk report from 2017 compiled from an analysis of a data base of over 19,000 kidnapping incidents worldwide identified Nigeria as being the country with the highest number of incidents in Africa for 2017.

What’s the solution/way forward?

If we must go beyond the insecurity and dangers associated with arms trade and movement, the government must be ready to improve and invest in border security, economic empowerment, active intelligence gathering, better community policing as well as stronger ammunition controls policy. Also, transformation of these policy measures into action plans would go a long way in reducing the crisis of inflation which has a direct impact on the pace of the country’s current recovery rate as well as the security condition of the country currently.

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