How non-state actors smuggle small arms, light weapons into Nigeria ― Security experts

• Blacksmiths manufacture sophisticated rifles, IEDs

Security experts drawn from various security agencies in Nigeria on Monday raised alarm over the activities of scrap metal scavengers who use the metals for the production of Improvised Explosive Devices (IED).

The stakeholders who spoke during the public hearing organised by the House of Representatives Committee on National Security & Intelligence, chaired by Hon Shaban Sharada expressed support for the establishment of the National Commission Against the proliferation of Small Arms and Light Weapons and the Bill for an Act to make provision for the integration of private Close Circuit Television (CCTV) and for related matters, 2019, among others.

In his presentation, the Chief of Naval Staff, Rear Admiral Awwal Gambo disclosed that most of the arms and ammunitions donated by the developed countries to African countries who share boundaries with Nigeria, end up in the hands of non-state actors who invariably embark on.

While speaking on the bill seeking to establish the national commission against the proliferation of small arms and light weapons, Gambo alleged that weapons donated by developed countries to neighbouring nations are “compounding” Nigeria’s security challenges.

“Section 9(1) suggests an additional function of proposing a seized weapons and arms be used by security agencies; I think we can look at the provisions of the international convention on the issue of how the arms should be used when seized.

“Other sections have been addressed by our colleagues, so I’m sure their presentations have been submitted.

“I want to contribute to the coming seminar on the operation of arms to be organised by the House of Representatives. I was in charge as a member of the fight against Boko Haram and I can tell you categorically here, I stand to be corrected, that some of these countries that we have borders with have no armoury.

“They do not have armoury. So most of their arms that are being donated by — I don’t want to be specific — the developed countries in the name of assisting us to fight our problems are compounding our problems in Nigeria because you find out that each average Chadian soldier has 20 to 30 arms underneath his bed. When he is broke, he brings it out and sells it for $30, $20. I am here, I am standing here, and I am saying it.

“Since we are going to collaborate with ECOWAS and other countries that are donating such arms to these countries, I think we should insist that they should either enact laws to govern the handling of these arms and ammunition or build an armoury for these countries or else we will not see peace.”

On the bill to establish integration of private close circuit television (CCTV) to fight insecurity, the Chief of Naval Staff said: “I think we should build a wall between us and these neighbouring countries or we should have serious surveillance or else we will not see peace in this country. I am telling you this, I have been in that area for years, so I know what is happening.”

In his remarks, representative of the DIA, Air Commodore F. G. Okoyi disclosed that in recent times, blacksmiths have advanced their skills and now possess the capability to manufacture assorted and sophisticated rifles such as AK 47, revolvers, pistols, improvised explosive devices among others.

He said this development has created the need to identify, monitor and regulate their activities, as he stressed the need for them to be integrated into DICON to enable complex to exploit their talents.

He also urged the need to monitor the activities of scrap metal scavengers and to control the manufacture and distribution of fertilizers as a means of checking the illegal production of explosives.

“Meanwhile the bill should be mindful that Section 28 of the Fire Arms Act of 1957 which prohibits the unlawful manufacture of firearms has not been repealed, hence the need to consider possible benefits to be derived from collaborations between Nigeria and local arms manufacturers by further reviewing extant laws that would support private sector participation in local arms manufacturing is very necessary.

“The Nigeria Police overtime licensed the use of double barrels and pump actions to the civil populace. The measure would therefore need to be emplaced by Bill to ensure the upcoming laws are not conflicting with extant permitting citizens to possess arms for self-defence,” he urged.

He also raised alarm over the activities of scrap metal scavengers who collect items that may be used to produce Improvised Explosive Devices (IED).

“These items are most often collected by scavengers who move around from one location to another in residential and business premises sourcing and collecting discarded items, such as scrap metals, plastic, beverage cans, metals amongst others from refuse dumps and bins. Their activities are most not scrutinized by any authority. The agency considers the Bill gives more power to law enforcement agencies to monitor the activity of scavengers movement and the use of scrap metals and other materials they may collect and sell to be used for the manufacturing of IEDs.

“The frequent demand for fertilizers has rapidly led to increase in the establishment of illegal fertilizer companies especially in the northern part of the country. Fertilizers are being sold to unscrupulous persons who use the chemical substance locally as explosive materials to manufacture IEDs capable of destroying, incapacitation and massive loss of lives.

“These underscores the bill to cover all activities of companies and other business enterprises buying and selling fertilizer, hydrogen peroxide and other components that can be used as explosive materials in IEDs. The bill would need to further consider the combination and quantity of these materials to be sold, restricted, regulated and monitored,” he said.

In his keynote address, the Speaker, Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila observed that the two Executive bills transmitted by President Muhammadu Buhari and others are aimed at making our country a safer place and ensuring that our people live without fear of molestation and victimization.

“Therefore, these Bills are a priority for the House of Representatives. We will consider them thoroughly and with due haste. And we will engage with stakeholders and citizens alike to make sure that these bills in their final form serve their purpose.

“Shortly before the House recessed for our annual vacation, a Bill to give full effect to the ECOWAS Convention on Small Arms and Light Weapons, Their Ammunition and Other Related Materials passed second reading in the House of Representatives. That Bill, amongst other things, seeks to establish a National Commission Against the Proliferation of Small Arms and Light Weapons.

On his part, Chairman, House Committee on National Security & Intelligence, Hon. Sharada observed that the special summit on National Security held at the instance of the House between May, 26 and 29, 2021 provided an opportunity to “discuss critical national security challenges characterized by banditry, armed robbery, kidnapping, cyber-crime, cross border crime and prevalent loss of lives and valuable properties due to community unrest across the country.

While commending ongoing efforts toward employing new strategies at tackling the current wave of insecurity in the country, he said: “the House Committee on National Security and Intelligence is not unaware of the real and present danger the current security situation poses to the continued existence and peace of this country.

“The proliferation of small arms and light weapons aggravates the menace of banditry, armed robbery and communal clashes especially in states bordering the neighbouring West African countries of Niger, Chad, Cameroon and the Benin Republic. It is significant to note that the existence of the ECOWAS Convention on Small Arms and Light Weapons did not help matters in view of its non-domestication by the National Assembly until now.”

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