The Presidential Committee on Small Arms and Light Weapons (PRESCOM) has said Nigeria is lagging behind other ECOWAS countries in the tracing, marking, security and safe-keeping of weapon stockpiles.
This is coming as the stakeholders in the elimination of Small Arms and Light Weapons (SALW) have called for the speedy passage of the bill for an Act the National Commission on SALW (NATCOM).
The Chairman of PRESCOM, Ambassador Emmanuel Imohe, disclosed this at end of the two-day high-level sensitisation/advocacy seminar on marking, record keeping and tracing of SALW in Abuja organised with the support of the Bonn International Centre for Conversion (BICC) and Office of National Security Adviser (ONSA).
Imohe in his remarks made available to journalists yesterday, however, assured that by the virtue of the high-sensitisation programme, Nigeria is kick-starting the process of catching up with the rest of the sub-region.
He noted that the ECOWAS Convention on SAWL mandates member states to embark on a comprehensive weapons and ammunition marking programme, which is the need to bring about better accountability on the part of governmental organisations in the security and safe-keeping of the government stockpile of weapons.
"I should mention, at this juncture, that the rest of Africa is already taking the lead on this project," he noted.
He said: " By embarking on weapons marking programme, Nigeria will be answering to one of the very critical international and regional requirements foe stemming the tide of the proliferation and loose movement of illicit weapons within our jurisdiction.
"Markings in general involve the process of stamping or engraving unique identification information or codes on weapons to ensure that their passage from manufacture to end-user could be accounted for. It is like imprinting a DNA on the weapons and ammunition."
In the same vein, the Commissioner, Political Affairs, Peace and Security, ECOWAS Commission, Mrs. Halima Ahmed, commended Nigeria for starting the process of institutionalising the weapons marking exercise in compliance with the provisions of Article 18 of the ECOWAS Convention on Small Arms.
Ahmed expresses optimism that the process will give the needed push to the "on-going effort at ensuring strict compliance with the various provisions of the convention.
"I wish to urge that our colleagues in the armed forces and security services in Nigeria will continue to cooperate with the PRESCOM in carrying out this vital exercise in the country. In this regard, it is expected that all acquisition of new SALW must bear classification and security markings consistent with the provisions in Article 18 of the Convention," she said.
According to Ahmed, the identification of all weapons stockpiles in the ECOWAS region will be made easier when there is clear features characterised by ECOWAS logo; serial number; manufacturers ID; country of manufacture; year of manufacture; among others.
She urged that "member states should take the activities relates to weapons Marking, Record Keeping and Tracing as important segments of national priorities."
The ECOWAS Commissioner stressed that "various conflicts and crimes committed in the region are done through the use of arms and ammunitions.
"The recovered ones are expected to be fully documented and where possible tracing requests can be instituted by the co u try concerned. The ECOWAS Commission, through the Small Arms Division, stand ready to play our role as the clearing house of all tracing requests from and among the member states in the region," she said.
At the end of the event, the stakeholders including the ECOWAS, United Nations (UN), security agencies and other related bodies called on ONSA and the Ministry of Justice to collaborate with PRESCOM to ensure NATCOM become a reality to strengthen arms control policies in Nigeria.