The federal government has said it has intensified its efforts in curbing the rise in the influx of small arms and light weapons into the country.
It also revealed that it has established the National Centre for the Control of Small Arms and Light Weapons (NCCSALW).
This was contained in a statement by the Office of the National Security Adviser (ONSA) and signed by Head, Strategic Communication, Mr. Zachari Usman, yesterday. The center would be headed by Maj. Gen. A.M. Dikko (rtd) as pioneer coordinator.
This follows the alarm raised by Bauchi State Government that bandits and people displaced by Boko Haram insurgents in the neighbouring Yobe State have infiltrated four local government areas in the state.
The statement revealed that the new center will be operating in the Office of the National Security Adviser, and would replace the defunct Presidential Committee on Small Arms and Light Weapons and also serve as the institutional mechanism for policy guidance, research, and monitoring of all aspects of Small Arms and Light Weapons (SALW) in Nigeria.
“This decision is part of the ongoing restructuring of Nigeria’s security architecture to address emerging threats and strengthen the regional mechanism for the control, prevention, and regulation of SALW.
“The impact of the proliferation of SALW across national borders in Africa and the Sahel region has resulted in terrorism, human trafficking, organised crime, and insurrections in West Africa and Nigeria.
“As one of the measures in tackling this threat, the new centre will be fulfilling the requirements of the ECOWAS Moratorium on Import, Export, and Manufacture of Light Weapons as well as the UN Plan of Action to prevent, combat and eradicate the illicit trade in SALW.”
It noted further that the center would serve as the national focal point on SALW in Nigeria and lead a multi-stakeholder process that will involve government Ministries, Departments, Agencies (MDAs), and the civil society in implementing all national, the United Nations, and ECOWAS plans of action on the control of SALW.
“The centre will maintain international cooperation and also operate zonal offices in the six geo-political zones to ensure quick response and effective mobilisation of resources,” it added.
However, some security analysts have criticised the federal government’s action, saying if the centre is established without a strategy for the control of the influx of arms through the nation’s porous borders and the application of technology to monitor the movement of arms, the centre will become another bureaucratic arrangement not too different from the defunct presidential committee originally set up for the same purpose.
A former Director of State Security (DSS), Mr. Mike Ejiofor, said the federal government should have applied for funding in procuring arms instead of creating another bureaucracy for diversion of funds.
He said: “What is there? There was a committee on small and light weapons that was in place before. There should have been an audit of the one there before to see the successes and failures. It’s just another source of diversion of funds to me.
“As I said we need to restructure and we need state police. I don’t think they will achieve any results. Are you going to force people to bring their arms without the existing structure, the security agencies?”
“That is a diversion and still aimed at wasting our resources that would have been used to purchase armament,” he said.
Likewise, retired security personnel who also spoke but in anonymity said the center is another duplication of bureaucracy, adding that bureaucracies would not be able to manage borders.
“It’s a duplication of bureaucracy. Whatever they try to do is a waste of time if the necessary things are not done.
“They need a drone capacity that works 24 hours, seven days a week.
“If they are serious about mopping up arms, the centre will need strong vehicular and air platforms (helicopters) to be able to respond quickly when arms smugglers are cited. That is where the work of such a centre is located,” he said.
The influx of arms is believed to be responsible for the worsening insecurity in the nation.