By Oviri Kelvin, Abuja,
The West African Action Network on Small Arms (WAANSA Nigeria) has commended the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) Small Arms Division and the National Center for the Control of Small Arms and Light Weapons (NCCSALW) for the laudable initiative targeted at curbing the proliferation of small and light arms among citizens.
WAANSA Nigeria said the initiative through a workshop was pertinent to intimate stakeholders with the practical knowledge of the workings of the ECOWAS Convention 2006.
In a statement issued by the President Temitope Lamidi on August 1, 2023, to underscore the importance of the workshop held in Calabar from July 17-21, 2023, the problems caused by the possession of small and light arms will continue to linger should the government fails to pass the Bill on Small Arms and Light Weapons (SALW).
Underlining the importance and urgency required in the passage of the SALW Bill, Lamidi said it will give the ECOWAS Convention the legitimacy and authority to operate thereafter with Nigeria as a signatory.
However, WAANSA Nigeria lamented over the prevalent level of insecurity in African countries caused by coup, militia groups, terrorist groups and outlaws whose activities have resulted in food shortages and impoverished our women.
The statement reads in parts:
“However, the Bill on Small Arms and Light Weapons ( SALW) should be passed into Law with the urgency of now so as to give the ECOWAS Convention of which Nigeria is signatory a legitimate hold. There can be no better time for this bill to be passed into Law than now where our very own President also doubles as the ECOWAS Chairman. We do not believe any right thinking Nigerian is passionate about going down the’ old’ road to Rwanda.
“Most ECOWAS countries are now living on the edge because of excessive coup plots, leaving women who are largely producers of our food security more impoverished and homeless. Nigeria is already contending with a cornucopia of unprecedented escalation of insecurity which is actuated by the proliferation of small arms and other illegitimate outfits like IPOB, Boko haram, ISWAP, and bandits groups. Thus agencies that can curtail their activities must and should be legitimate as darkness cannot cast out darkness. This brings us to why the issue of NATFORCE should be addressed once again by this administration.”
WAANSA Nigeria further condemned the continued existence of NATFORCE despite the previous administration led by former President Muhammadu Buhari described them as illegitimate.
The statement continued: “The Buhari’s administration has distant itself from it by a press release from the former National Security Adviser, Babagana Maguno, on June 6, 2021, calling them an illegal entity, but we are perplexed to still be witnessing some pockets of activities of NATFORCE till date. I don’t want to believe that President Tinubu’s administration has lost control of the instrument of coercion to the point that security agents which cannot be found if put on the radar of humanity would be seen making the rounds.
“WAANSA Nigeria and other CSO’s are holding a stakeholders meeting at the Lakewood Luxury Apartments in Asokoro, so as to address both the Senate President and Commander in Chief of the Armed forces regarding the matter and that of the Small Arms Bill still begging for presidential assent.
“Let me reiterate, it is renegades groups like this that have sparked off coups in most ECOWAS STATES because of their desperation for power. This administration must be wary of unidentified security operatives, so Nigeria does not suffer the Sudan experience where groups like these were empowered by unidentified external forces.
“WAANSA-Nigeria has also reiterated their support for democracy. The worst of democracy is better than the best of the military junta. No country can sustain development through military rule. All over the world, the military plays an active role in the protection of the country’s territorial integrity. May we not be deceived by the neo-colonialists that the Niger experience is progress, it is in its entirety retardation to development of a country,” the statement concluded.
Nevertheless, WAANSA Nigeria commended President Bola Tinubu for taking timely steps to strengthen the military and the security architecture in 21 days of assuming office, including the appointment of new service chiefs.
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