The United Nations has raised alarm over the illicit proliferation of Small Arms and Light Weapons, SALW, in Nigeria, saying that more than 350 million out of the estimated 500 million of such weapons in West Africa is domiciled in the country.
Olatokunbo Ige, Director of United Nations Regional Centre for Peace and Disarmament in Africa, UNREC, made the startling revelation at the ongoing National Consultation on Physical Security and Stockpile Management in Abuja.
The event was organised by the Agency and Presidential Committee on Smalls Arms and Light Weapons,PRESCOM.
Ige said that illicit weapons can be found in almost all corners of the country, which explains the rise in incidences of crime and violence in the country at the moment, with the attendant threat to lives and property of the citizenry.
She said: “The illicit proliferation of SALW has had a dramatic impact on peace and security in Africa, threatening not only the existence of the state, but also the livelihoods of millions of people across the continent.
“Nigeria is one of the countries that is experiencing some of the most devastating effects of the proliferation of SALW as a result of spillover effect of the recent crises in Libya, and Mali as well as unresolved internal conflicts in different parts of the country especially in the North East, Niger Delta and Southern regions.”
“While reliable data on the numbers of these weapons circulating freely in the country is unavailable, analysts have in recent times estimated that of the about 500 million weapons that may be circulating in West Africa in 2010, some 70 per cent of these could be found in Nigeria,” she added.
She warned that if the situation was left unchecked, it will jeopardise the developmental gains achieved over the last 50 years, as well as impede the nation’s capacity to achieve its developmental targets.
Ige added that there was need to control the flow of arms in the non-state sector as well as the state owned actors through the effective management of the armoury and weapon stockpiles.
She stressed that unsecured stocks and ineffectively managed stockpiles are a major contributing factor to the trafficking and diversion of arms into the illicit market and their subsequent flow to the terrorists and other criminal groups like Boko Haram and Niger Delta militants.
She said that the UN and European Union are collaborating with relevant authorities to support security and stability in the Sahel region.
Ige explained that the project, which is funded by the EU has been developed jointly by the United Nations Office of Disarmament Affairs for the benefit of the six Sahel countries of Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, Mauritania, Niger and Nigeria.
Chairman of PRESCOM, Emmanuel Imohe, said that the Nigeria’s Firearms law is obsolete and ineffective in the face of the 21st century security challenges, adding that PRESCOM has to generate a new document in collaboration with relevant agencies for over the next six months to cause a repeal of the firearms bill.
“The 1959 Firearms Act is obsolete and using the 1959 law to tackle the 21st century security challenges is ineffective,” he said.
Also, the Resident Coordinator of the UN Systems in Nigeria, Jean Gough, called for the enactment of necessary legislations to agree with current realities in order to effectively tackle the menace.