President of the West Africa Action Network on Small Arms (WAANSA) and a Member of the Nigerian Presidential Committee on Small Arms and Light Weapons (PRESCOM) Nkemakonam Dickson Orji, told Daily Trust that from the Small Arms Survey Group in Geneva to the International Action Network on Small Arms (IANSA), including Oxfam, Grip and other researchers and international NGOs, there are indications that over the years there have been over 690 million illicit Small and Light Weapons (SALW) in circulation across the world. “They claim that approximately 100 million of these weapons are in sub-Saharan Africa, 8-9 million in West Africa and 2 to 3 million in Nigeria,” he said.
Orji said he is aware that the Presidential Committee on SALW is currently conducting a comprehensive national SALW survey in Nigeria to ascertain the true figure, and understand the gravity of the proliferation in order to develop a suitable national action plan.
Asked about the best way government can checkmate gun-runners, Orji said: “Intelligence-gathering, strengthening border control/management, collaboration and partnership between security operatives on the Nigerian side and their counterparts on neighbouring countries. There is also the issue of our national laws/legislation on arms control.”
Local gunsmiths have proven to be key players in the proliferation, to which Orji said: “First of all, you must know that local arms fabrication and/or manufacture – though it exists in Nigeria – is completely criminalized by existing laws. It must also be noted that though local arms production is increasing in caliber and sophistication, we still cannot compare them reasonably with the imported ones. Majority of the weapons used by insurgents and militants are imported.”
Orji said locally-made weapons are not too popular with insurgents, but mainly found with armed robbers, kidnappers and cults across the country.
Orji told Daily Trust that the current Nigerian firearms Act was adopted during colonial rule in 1959, which makes it obsolete and unable to tackle present-day security challenges. “It is also very important that offenders are made to face the law,” he added.