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How illegal arms proliferation, porous borders fester insecurity in Nigeria – Stakeholders

THE desire by Nigerians to sleep with their eyes closed may remain elusive for a long time due to the high level of illicit arms and ammunition in circulation. Analysts and other security stakeholders say this situation, coupled with the nation’s porous borders, have worsened insecurity in the country.

The proliferation of arms is a major security threat to Nigeria because it aids organised crimes, and threatens national security and development, security analysts have said.

The ICIR reports that violent crimes such as armed robbery, religious crises, communal conflicts, terrorism, insurgency, militancy, and electoral violence as a result of the spread of illegal weapons abound.

According to analysts the availability of small arms and light weapons (SALWs) which usually found their way through the country’s porous borders, put pressure on the security of the nation.

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Governor, Uba Sani of Kaduna State, lent credence to the point that arms proliferation poses a major threat to the security of Nigeria. While speaking on Channels Television’s “Sunday Politics” on Sunday, February 18,  he claimed that there were about 200 million illegal firearms in Nigeria.

The Kaduna State chief security officer maintained that the number represented 80 per cent of 250 million illegal firearms in West Africa.

Consequently, Sani demanded that Nigeria’s gun laws be reviewed.

Governor of Kaduna state, Uba Sani
Uba Sani/PC: Punch Newspaper

He attributed the country’s growing insecurity to the widespread possession of illegal firearms.

The governor’s statements came on the heels of the kidnapping of school children and bandit attacks, which have persisted in the northwest region.

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Also speaking on how the proliferation of  firearms have aided insecurity in Nigeria, a security analyst with the SBM Intelligence, a research firm collating data on insecurity, Emeka Okoro, said allowing criminal groups and individuals to obtain and use illegal weapons with relative ease has contributed largely to insecurity across the country.

Okoro said the proliferation of light weapons in Nigerian border towns aids illicit operations like drug trafficking, gun running, and human trafficking, among others.

He said anytime a violent crime is committed, it is as a result of illegal arms in circulation,.

Arms recovery by security agencies

Findings show that the high percentage of illicit acquisition and usage of illegal arms in Nigeria is related to the number of weapons periodically seized by security agents.

For instance, on Thursday, February 29, the National Centre for the Control of Small Arms and Light Weapons (NCCSALW) said it had recovered 20,000 small arms and 60,000 units of ammunition in Nigeria.

The centre’s north west zonal coordinator, Haruna Mohammed, said the illicit circulation of weapons was contributing to banditry and other criminal activities.

The ICIR reports that north west states like Zamfara and Kaduna, where Mohammed covers, have been the hotbed of kidnapping and banditry activities.

In another development, the Nigeria Army, in a statement on Thursday, March 21, said during an operation by troops of Sector 2 of the Joint Task Force Ebonyi, operatives seized weapons including AK-47 rifles, two AK-47 magazines, 54 rounds of 7.62mm special ammunition, while three Sienna buses were also recovered.

The southeast region where the seizure occurred had witnessed violent activities allegedly perpetrated by the proscribed Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB), and other criminal organisations that led to high casualties.

Similarly, the troops of the Nigerian army also conducted a targeted raid on a suspected criminal enclave at Zamtip village in Wase local government area of Plateau State.

The operation led to the recovery of one AK-47 rifle, five rounds of 7.62mm (special) ammunition, two empty cases of 7.62mm, three sim cards and one jackknife from the criminals.

The ICIR reports that Plateau State, located in the north central region of Nigeria,  has witnessed an upsurge in violent banditry attacks in recent times

On Monday, December 25, The ICIR reported how assailants attacked several communities in the state, killed scores of residents, looted farm produce, and set homes ablaze.

On March 6, The Nigeria Police Force, in a statement by its spokesperson Muyiwa Adejobi, said operatives recovered 44 arms and 477 ammunition within two weeks.

A factory in Kuru, near Jos, where rifles are fabricated, was also discovered by the Police, and a total of 2 AK-47 rifles, nine automatic pistols, and 1,800 rounds of live ammunition were recovered.

Police Guns and army uniform recovered by the Police. Image courtesy @Princemoye1
Police guns and army uniforms recovered by the Police. Image courtesy @Princemoye1

Recent incidents of arms proliferation

On March 16, the Defence Headquarters (DHQ) said some military personnel were killed during a communal clash in Delta State.

The personnel were said to have been killed by some youths while the troops were on a peace mission to the Okuama community in Bomadi Local Government Area (LGA).

Experts say this killings happened because there are many weapons in the wrong hands in Nigeria.

The ICIR reported on March 16 that despite promises of security by President Bola Tinubu, 703 persons were abducted within eight days under his watch.

Stakeholders say these developments are clear evidence of the high proliferation of small arms and light weapons in the country.

Porous borders, other factors identified

According to Okoro of SBM Intelligence the proliferation of illegal weapons and firearms in Nigeria could be attributed to various factors, including porous borders, political instability, widespread poverty, corruption, and ethnic and religious conflicts. 

He said these factors create an environment that is conducive to the trafficking and proliferation of arms, leading to their widespread circulation in the country. 

The way forward

According to Okoro, to curb the spread of illegal firearms in Nigeria, the focus must be on strengthening law enforcement, improving border security, and aising public awareness.

He listed other measures to include community policing, implementing stricter regulations, fostering international cooperation, offering disarmament and demobilisation programmes,.

He said addressing the root causes like poverty, unemployment and would also reduce the demand for illegal firearms.

In his contribution, a source from IPCR said illicit arms proliferation in Nigeria involved the unauthorised transfer, trafficking, and circulation of firearms across borders or within countries. 

“Illicit weapons proliferation is often linked to criminal organisations, terrorist groups, and other non-state actors who use these weapons to advance their interests, perpetrate violence, and undermine stability.



    “These groups may acquire illegal arms through black markets, dealers, or corrupt sources within government or military institution,” he said.

    He blamed weak border control, ongoing conflicts within Nigeria, corruption, crime and political violence as reasons for the proliferation of illegal weapons and firearms in the country.

    He listed the measures to curb the spread of illegal weapons and firearms in Nigeria to include;  law enforcement; public education and awareness; firearms control legislation; community engagement; integrated approaches; rule of law and accountable governance;i

    He also called for disarmament and demobilisation programmes; international cooperation and strengthening of border security.

    Bankole Abe
    Reporter at ICIR | [email protected] | Author Page

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