The proliferation of small arms and ammunitions is driving the increasing rate of violence in Nigeria, a report from SBM Intelligence has said.
“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,” the report published ear
The report tagged “Small Arms, Mass Atrocities & Migration in Nigeria” highlighted that arms proliferation has enabled the rise of armed groups and also led to the displacement of several Nigerians.
SBM said the trend of arms proliferation in Nigeria has had an impact on Nigeria’s internal security which has led to violence and the deaths and injury of thousands of innocent citizens.
Particularly, the report stated that the proliferation of arms in Southern Nigeria has driven the increasing rate of violence
in the region, including, but is not limited to; communal clashes, cultism, kidnappings, ethnic and religious clashes, and militancy in the Niger Delta.
It said the region has established a local arms manufacturing sector and there is also significant importation/smuggling from international sources.
“Illegal weapons factories have also been discovered in towns such as Enugu and Calabar. It is difficult to estimate the volume of locally manufactured weapons produced in this region,” the report said.
For the Nothern region, the report said the proliferation of small weapons coupled with “existing state corruption, large tracts of ungoverned spaces, and mass unemployment has largely been responsible for the rising criminality and violence in Northern Nigeria.”
While the Northern Central region has seen clashes between “sedentary farmers and nomadic Fulani herders”, the North Central zone is rife with ethnic militias, making it a hotbed for violent ethnic and religious clashes facilitated using small arms.
SBM said clashes between the farmers and herders have witnessed ammunition from at least 21 different nations. Some of these nations include Israel, Poland, Brazil, Iran, USA, Czech Republic, Algeria and Egypt. The report says Istanbul, Turkey is another major source for illegal weapons in Nigeria.
“Small arms proliferation and related violence in North-Eastern Nigeria is significantly different from what obtains in the North Central and North Western zones,” the report said, adding that the primary driver of violence are “radical Islamist groups attempting to carve a sphere of influence or an Islamic Caliphate. The Boko Haram terrorist group operates within this axis.”
According to preliminary findings from the National Small Arms and Light Weapons Survey locally manufactured arms illegally contribute to a large percentage of arms in circulation in Northern Nigeria especially in North Central.
“In Benue and Plateau states, both in the North Central region, locally made weapons are estimated to be used in over 50% of crimes committed – 62% for Benue State, and 69% for Plateau State. In Adamawa State in the North East, it is 32%,” SBM said.
The proliferation of arms is not peculiar to Nigeria alone.
According to Africa Faith and Justice Network, the persistence and the complication of wars in Africa are partially due to small arms proliferation.
The International Action Network on Small Arms, Saferworld, and Oxfam International put it in perspective when they reported that armed conflict cost Africa $18 billion each year and about US$300 billion between 1990-2005. During this period, 23 African nations experienced war: Algeria, Angola, Burundi, Central Africa Republic, Chad, Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Republic of Congo, Cote d’Ivoire, Djibouti, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Ghana, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Liberia, Niger, Nigeria, Rwanda, Senegal, Sierra Leone, South Africa, Sudan, and Uganda.
The Economic Community of West African States has since adopted strong measures to the issue. The ECOWAS member states, including Nigeria, adopted a ‘Moratorium on the Importation, Exportation, and Manufacture of Small Arms and Light Weapons in West Africa’ at the 21st Session of the Meeting of Heads of State and Government of ECOWAS on 30 October 1998.
The Moratorium is an unprecedented initiative that was the first adopted as a significant step in directly addressing the problem of illicit small arms proliferation in the sub-region.
The Nigerian President in August also approved the establishment of a national centre for the control of small arms and light weapons. The national security adviser, Babagana Monguno, said the centre will be domiciled under the office of the NSA.
Monguno noted that when fully operational, the centre will “work in compliance with already laid down international standards and ECOWAS moratorium on the control of small arms and light weapons.”