The Federal Government through the National Centre for Control of Small Arms and Light Weapons (NCCSALW) has vowed to mop up small arms, illicit weapons in the hands of unauthorised persons across the country as part of its efforts to address growing insecurity.
National Coordinator of NCCSALW, Maj-Gen MA Dikko (Rtd), stated this in a one day interactive session with the theme ‘Harnessing the Capacities of the Civil Society Towards Promoting an Illicit Arms-free Society in Nigeria’, which was held at the Nigerian Army Resource Center in Abuja on Thursday.
Gen Dikko, while welcoming the Civil Society Organizations (CSOs), which were carefully drawn from the six geo-political zones of the country said, the government is determine to partner with critical stakeholders to mop up and destroy all illicit small arms and light weapons currently in circulation as well as stop the proliferation and local manufacturing of such weapons.
He further stated that the proliferation of small and illicit firearms has negatively impacted the peace, security and economic development of Nigeria while noting that the Centre has established Zonal Offices in each region in a bid to decentralize its operations by directly engaging stakeholders at the grassroots.
“The NCCSALW was established in May 2021 as part of a wider national response to the escalating menace of illicit arms and light weapons in the country and the sub-region. There is no gainsaying the fact that the proliferation of small arms and light weapons has negatively impacted the peace, security, and socio-economic well-being of our dear nation.
“In the last two decades, it has remained a key driver for terrorism, ethno-religious crisis, violence, and sundry organized criminal activities within and across our borders,” he said.
According to him, Nigeria has born the brunt of insecurity in the Sahel Region as a result of arms trafficking and proliferation. He, however, added that the government is tackling the challenges.
“Consequently, Nigeria has closed ranks with our neighbours, the ECOWAS and other International Stakeholders over the years to eradicate illicit small arms and light weapons in the hands of unauthorized persons.
“Even though the progress made in this area has been made the subject of debate, Nigeria has continued to tackle the challenge head-on.
“I am delighted to say that since its establishment, the Centre has made giant strides within the short time frame to achieve full operationalization. Of note is the establishment of regional offices in the six geopolitical zones of Nigeria.
“The operationalization of the Centre has focused on discharging its core functions of providing a strategic platform for arms control in Nigeria through close partnership with stakeholders, especially Civil Society both local and internationally.
“The mopping up of these weapons will remain a continuous exercise until our security space is free of the menace of illicit small arms and light weapons,” he added.
The CSOs, which were grouped into six focused group in accordance with the region of operations, interfaced with the Zonal Coordinators and proffered actionable solutions to arms proliferation based on the peculiarities in each of the zones.
Insecurity has in the last two decades constituted a major challenge to the advancement of the country with far reaching implications on safety of lives and properties, socio-economic wellbeing of citizens, development and growth as well as peaceful coexistence among various interest groups.
While Boko Haram and Islamic State West Africa Province (ISWAP) terrorize the Northeast, banditry and kidnapping for ransom dominate the Northwest. In the North Central, religious extremism and herders/farmers clashes have been the order of the day.
Meanwhile, the rise of separatists groups, ritual killings, herders/farmers clashes, and kidnapping among others unsettle the Southeast and Southwest while militancy, kidnapping, cultism, armed robbery as well as crude oil theft reign over the South-South region.
These security challenges and more are being fueled and sustained by the small arms and light weapons in the hands of outlawed groups, disgruntled elements, organised criminals, political thugs and other unauthorised persons. Hence, the urgent need for mopping up small arms and light weapons to restore peace to the country.