By Sumaila Ogbaje
The National Security Adviser (NSA), retired Maj.-Gen. Babagana Monguno, has called for collective action by all stakeholders to rid Nigeria and Africa of illicit small arms and light weapons.
Monguno made the call at a one-day Roundtable discussion with stakeholders on Small Arms and Light Weapons (SALW), organised by the National Centre for the Control of Small Arms and Light Weapons (NCCSALW), on Thursday in Abuja.
Monguno was represented by the Director of Policy and Strategy, Office of the National Security Adviser (ONSA), Amb. Aminu Lawal.
The roundtable with the theme, “Galvanising Stakeholders Support Towards the Prevention and Control of the Proliferation of SALW in Nigeria” was organised in collaboration with Mines Advisory Group (MAG).
Monguno said the widespread and availability of small arms and light weapons in many regions of the world particularly West Africa was a matter of grave concern.
He added that it had become a major source of insecurity and vulnerability, fueling conflict, crime and terrorism.
The NSA said the presence of small arms and light weapons had also undermined global peace, greatly hindered development and caused untold human sufferings.
According to him, accessing these weapons easily makes violence more lethal and conflict more protracted, because small arms and light weapons are easy to acquire and simple to use.
“Estimates of the actual number of weapons available vary, but even if production ceases today there will still be millions of small arms and light weapons in circulation particularly in West Africa and Nigeria as well.
“The need to stop the proliferation can therefore not be over emphasized,” he said.
Monguna disclosed that President Muhammadu Buhari authorised the establishment of the NCCSALW to serve at the institutional platform for controlling the proliferation of small arms and light weapons within the framework of the various international protocols and instruments to which Nigeria is a signatory.
He said that Buhari had demonstrated Nigeria’s commitment to the provisions of article 24 of the ECOWAS Convention on small arms and light weapons, which required all member states to establish national commissions to promote a multilateral approach to stamping out unregulated or uncontrolled circulation of SALW in the sub-region.
According to him, the centre upon full operationalisation, will have offices in the six geopolitical zones of Nigeria in order to ensure grassroots presence.
“The journey towards eradicating illicit arms in our global society has been one that has involved all stakeholders, including the international community and the civil society organisations.
“In spite our best efforts however, it has appeared that West Africa and indeed the global community is losing the war to transnational organised criminal networks, terrorist groups, domestic criminal elements and weapon manufacturers.
“They have for obvious reasons and motives choose to act outside the norms and dictates of all extant international protocols as they continue to keep the security space awash with small arms and light weapons.
“This we must not allow to continue; the challenge of small arms and light weapons is complex and requires concerted action between the government and non-governmental organisations and organised civil society,” he said.
The Swedish Ambassador to Nigeria, Mr Carl Michael, said that issues of gun violence and proliferation of SALW in Nigeria and its impact on local communities had remained a serious challenge in Nigeria.
Michael added that the illicit transfer, accumulation and misuse of small arms and light weapons and their ammunition were key drivers of conflict and armed violence that had affected increasing numbers of civilians including women and children in Nigeria.
He said the consequences of uncontrolled illicit small arms and light weapons could go far beyond the immediate impact of violence on persons.
According to him, it also hampers the attempts for economic and social development and growth, as seen in many places around the world but mostly in northern Nigeria.
He said that preventing armed conflict and building sustainable peace based on respect for human rights could only be achieved by addressing the harm caused to civilians by small arms and light weapons.
He pledged that Sweden continue to support the MAG for its work on small arms and light weapons in Nigeria.
Also, the Representative of European Union (EU), Clement Buotillier, said that the EU was committed to supporting the fight against the proliferation of small arms and light weapons.
Buotillier said that illicit arms was a global issue, adding that the number of people killed using small arms and light weapons in the world was on the increase.
He said that EU had observed the impact of illicit arms on elections in Nigeria for over 20 years, adding that many weapons were in the hands of bandits, criminal groups, and violent extremist groups that were fighting the Nigerian state.
“I want to emphasise that in its response to distress to this threat, the European Union has taken the initiative to support ECOWAS and by extension its member states in implementing the provisions of the convention on SALW.
“Since 2014, the EU has supported weapons collection exercise in the region, the development of Community Action plans and the implementation of community micro projects in order to prevent the use of small arms,” he said.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that various local and international stakeholders including embassies, the military, security agencies, civil society organisations, among others were in attendance. (NAN)