Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) said the recent intensity of rural banditary and herdsmen – farmers conflicts in Nigeria due to illicit proliferation of small arms and light weapons (SALW) may be amanifestation before civil war.
In her address during the symbolic arms destruction in commemoration of the 2017 United Nations Arms Destruction Day in collaboration with the Presidential Committee onmSmall arms and light weapons (PRESCOM) held at the cenotaph of the 35 Battallion,Nigerian Army, Katsina, the ECOWAS Commissioner for Political Affairs, Peace and Security, Mrs. Halima Ahmed, said the crises and conflicts “reminds of the urgency of removing the instruments of violence in our societies.”
The ECOWAS Commissioner stated: “This activity is important because poor control of weapons has caused untold suffering to our people in the region. We see its manifestation in the high intensity of communal crises and violent insurgencies, conflicts as well as civil wars. Nigeria is not spared from these challenges.”
She added: “Therefore, it is a deliberate and commendable decision on the part of the Presidential Committee on Small Arms (PRESCOM) that the pilot stage of implementation includes five north-west states.”
According to Ahmed, two states in South – South geo-political zones: Akwa Ibom and Cross River States were included in the project, adding that arms destruction programme will continue in Kaduna State this week.
The Chairman of PRESCOM, Ambassador Emmanuel Imohe, represented a member ofnthe committee, Ambassador Ghali Umar, disclosed that the International Action Network on Small Arms (IANSA) submitted that SALW account for the loss of over 500,000 death annually, or one life per minute.
“It is estimated that there are over 690 million illicit small arms and light weapons in the world out of which over 100 million can be traced to sub-sahara Africa and over eight million in West Africa,” said Imohe.
He pointed out that the Katsina State disarmament programme initiated by Governor Aminu Bello Masari had so far resulted in the recovery of over 700 assorted small arms, ammunitions, grenades, automatic and semi-automactic weapons among others.Governor Masari, represented by the Secretary to the State Government, Dr. Mustapha Inuwa, said the first phase of the disarmament programme in the state, otherwise called the Katsina Dialogue/Amnesty programme, has recorded “an unprecedented successin voluntary surrender of illicit small arms and light weapons by noted miscreants and criminal elements across the state.”
In an interview with newsmen in Katsina, PRESCOM Programme Coordinator, Mr. Dickson Orji, revealed that no fewer than 13,000 light weapons had been recovered under disarmament programme by the committee across the country for destruction.
He stated that porous borders were responsible for proliferation of small arms and light weapons in sub-saharan region, saying there is a subsisting ban on importation of weapon into West Africa without a waiver by ECOWAS member nations.