Executive Chairman and Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the Nigerian Foundation for the Support of Victims of Terrorism, Professor Sunday Ochoche, has said that government is not innocent in the problem of proliferation of small arms and light weapons in the country.
He stated this at the Nigerian Army Resource Centre in Abuja during a one day interactive session organised by the National Centre for the Control of Small Arms and Light Weapons (NCCSALW) to interface with relevant Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) on how to eradicate the proliferation of illicit weapons.
While presenting a paper on the theme, ‘Harnessing the Capacities of the Civil Society Towards Promoting an Illicit Arms-free Society in Nigeria’, Prof Ochoche said the failure or limitation of government has in several ways contributed to the problem of illicit weapons.
According to the professor, who is also a Senior Policy Advisor with the United Nations, insurgency is driven and nursed by bad governance.
“In several ways, it is the failure or the limitations of the State that brings the problem of illicit small arms and light weapons to the fore.
“Insurgency for example, which creates a larger demand for light weapons, is largely politically driven and nursed by bad governance.
“General insecurity leads to citizens seeking to protect themselves by acquiring their own weapons.
“Of significance concern is the leakages of national arsenals to mainly groups, that now use them to form different insurgency and militia groups. So, the State is implicated in a number of challenges we face in small arms and light weapons,” he said.
Ochoche faulted the call by Zamfara State government and Minister of Defence on citizens to take up arms and defend themselves.
“In Nigeria, the insecurity has reached a point that the Zamfara State government is calling on the citizens to acquire weapons to defend themselves.
“The Minister of Defence has made similar calls and I dare say that there is no better promotion for the proliferation of small arms and light weapons than seeing high level government officials urging citizens to go acquire weapons to defend themselves.
“There is no better acknowledgement of the failure of the State to deliver its primary responsibility to the people than those responsible for the provision of security now to begin to call on people to go and acquire weapons to protect themselves,” he added.
Ochoche said it is paramount for government to partner with CSOs in tackling the menace of illicit weapons in the hands of unauthorised persons.
“Civil society organizations have important roles to play especially in societies emerging from arms conflicts in supporting the collection of arms and supervision of the public destruction of collected shucks at local level and help to reassure communities that weapons surrendered will not re-enter any conflict situation,” he said.
According to him, CSOs also have significant roles to play in educating the media and by extension the public on the challenges posed by illicit weapons, train security agents, monitor who buys what, where it goes, who moves it to where, and Why is it going there.
Earlier in his opening remark, National Coordinator of NCCSALW, AM Dikko said the interactive session was specifically organised to interfaced with CSOs on the way to tackle proliferation of small arms and light weapons, saying that government is determined to mop up illicit weapons.
Meanwhile, in an interview with one of the CSOs, which were carefully drawn from all the six geo-political zones, Ms Temitope Lamidi, President of Gender Equality Advocacy and Development Initiative (GEADI) said that collaboration between NCCSALW and the CSOs is a step in the right direction in solving the problem of illicit weapons.
According to her, “most of the CSOs have first hand knowledge of what happens and how to curb the menace of arms trafficking and proliferation.”
She noted that security is the work of every citizen and not only the government while assuring the Centre of the commitment of the network of CSOs under the West African Action Network against Small Arms – WAANSA-NIGERIA, where she also served.
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