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Opinion (08/04/2021): Gen. Abdulsalami’s Alarm Over Arms Proliferation, By Ayo Oyoze Baje

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“The number of small arms in circulation in Nigeria, in the hands of civilian non-state actors is estimated at 6,145,000, while the armed forces and law enforcement collectively account for 586,600 firearms,”

-SBM Security Report.

“Guns, guns, everywhere! Who is safe in Nigeria anymore?” That was the critical, million-Naira question recently posed by a concerned public affairs analyst. The answer is as obvious as the sun rising from the east and setting on the western horizon, every blessed day. But how many innocent, defenceless and armless Nigerians are alive to witness the beauty and mysteries of such days? How many of them fall as helpless victims to the senseless carnage in the land by Boko Haram terrorists, bandits and kidnappers on daily basis? How many of them have wondered where the government’s protective mandate (Section 14, Sub-section 14, (2) (b) of the 1999 constitution as amended) is, as the jungle rule of might- is-right continues to hold sway in a democratic setting?

Only recently, Governor Samuel Ortom of Benue state survived a hideous attack by suspected, fully armed herdsmen at Tyo Mu along Makurdi/Gboko road in Makurdi LGA route by a hair’s breadth. He pointed fingers at Myetti Allah for wanting his elimination because of his avowed stand against an outmoded open cattle grazing in the 21st century. But ever since, the search for the attackers has gathered more heat than light in the long, dark tunnel of insecurity that has ravaged Nigeria? I am obviously worried, aren’t you?

Of course, millions of Nigerians are, including former head of state, General Abdulsalami Abubakar, who is also the Chairman of the National Peace Committee (NPC). According to him over 6m illegal weapons are currently traced to civilians, many of who are jobless, hungry and angry!

Furthermore, some 80,000 Nigerians have died in recent months with close to three million Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) spread across the country all because of growing insecurity in the country. He painted an ugly picture of the dire insecurity challenge in the country at a dialogue session of the committee with stakeholders at Transcorp Hilton in Abuja.

Another terrifying dimension to the riling nakedness of the ordinary Nigerian in the face of the proliferation of arms and ammunition is aptly captured, specifically in the words of Bamigboye Olurotimi, a writer, poet and technologist: “Only desperate and corrupt politicians can use rigging, thuggery, vote buying, violence, trouble, assault, propaganda and lies to win an election and take over power by force.”

It would be recalled that back in August 2020, yours truly had raised a similar alarm over the serious consequences of arms proliferation across the country as made public through my opinion essay of the same title. But who would listen to me?

But now, according to the Global Terrorism Index 2020 report, Nigeria was ranked as the third most terrorized country in the world due to insecurity. General Abubakar also gave an assessment of the security situation, stating that the security forces are not only overstretched but they are under-funded, noting that they can perform better with more sophisticated weapons, equipment and funding. One cannot but wonder what must have happened to the security votes and related humungous funds taken from our excess crude account to battle insecurity over the past six years!

It has become imperative for the new Acting Inspector General of Police, Usman Alkali Baba and the Minister of Police Affairs, Muhammad Dingyadi should take note of the concerns of the good people of Nigeria and do the needful. It is all because when proactive measures are not deployed as at when due, the insecurity issue worsens by the day.

So dastardly the acts of mindless killings of priceless human lives by Boko Haram terrorists, fully armed Fulani herdsmen and bandits have become that the Aare Ona Kakanfo of Yorubaland, Gani Adams, has called for the possession of firearms for Amotekun security outfit. And Governor Samuel Ortom of Benue State, has called on the federal government to grant licences to responsible citizens to “carry sophisticated weapons such as AK-47 to deter criminals from attacking innocent and helpless Nigerians”.

Add these to the alarm raised mid-2020 by Senator Ali Ndume, representing Borno South Senatorial District at the National Assembly, revealing that attacks by Boko Haram insurgents was on the increase. The senator narrated how Boko Haram terrorists killed 75 members of his community in Gwoza LGA in one night!

We also recall the ping-pong blame-game between Governor Godwin Obaseki of the PDP and the APC stalwarts in Edo state over the importation of arms and ammunition, as well as political thugs from the neighbouring states, sequel to the 2020 governorship election in the state.

One would recall that back in 2010 a top-notch member of a Texas-based armoured vehicle manufacturing company asked a thought-provoking question: “Are Nigerians preparing for general elections, or are they getting set for war?” He was worried about the high level of the demand for armoured cars by several Nigerian politicians. That was prelude to the 2011 general elections and unfortunately a similar issue re-echoed in 2014/2015. But  it got more scary.

For instance, on May 24, 2017 there were newspaper reports of the seizure of 440 guns of various sizes and designs shipped from Turkey to Lagos, Nigeria. Disclosing this to newsmen in Lagos, Assistant Comptroller-General of Customs, Monday Abueh, said that, “on opening the container, we discovered that they used POP powder to conceal the importation but based on intelligence report, we were able to know that the container was laden with arms.”

Subsequently, the Tin Can Island Command of the Nigerian Customs Service (NCS) uncovered a container with another cache of arms imported from Turkey. This discovery came barely a week after the command intercepted a 20-foot container laden with 1,100 pump action rifles. The container with number, CMAU189817/8 had about 475 sets of pump-action riffles reportedly belonging to the same importer of the previous one.

Also on 20th November, 2012, JTF raided Kwanar Shahada, Jushin Ciki, Zaria, Kaduna, where a bomb making factory was uncovered. The joint security team also arrested a sixty-year-old man, Umaru Mohammed within the raided premises and recovered Improvised Explosive Devices, IEDs at stage one state of readiness to be used for bomb attack.

If both the Police and Customs Services have been able to impound so much illegal arms and ammunition, how many out there have found their way into private homes and hideous hideouts? They should therefore, not rest on their oars. Thorough investigations into the activities of the mindless arms importers should get to their logical conclusion, to fish out those behind these activities and bring them to speedy justice. Only this would serve as a deterrent to those who may be nursing similar blood-letting politicking.

We should also ruminate over and act on the words of Vice President Yemi Osinbajo Said he: “There are many working tirelessly to improve our system, to build it up and enhance it. We must, therefore, reject the agents of anarchy seeking to exploit the frustration and discontent of our young people for their own selfish ends.

And he added the clincher that: “Violence can only lead to a disaster that could consume everyone and leads to desolation of our communities. It is easy to take peace for granted, but we need not learn the value of peace through the horrible crucible of war.” Well said! How we wish that those in the same corridors of political power, who angle for power for power’s sake would listen to him.

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