Nigeria: Arms, Arms Everywhere, but None to Protect Us

14 May 2021
opinion

So much has been said about the insecurity in Nigeria. Everybody, including those in the hitherto strong-walled Aso Rock Villa, are all now on the edge. As they say, if fire can burn the tortoise with the iron coat, how much more the hen with a feathery gown. These dare devil criminals, be they bandits, kidnappers, armed robbers, or terrorists, would be jelly-fished fellows without the arms they wield.

Put differently, if we are able to control the influx of arms, more than half of the problem would have been solved. Arms and ammunition are the oxygen of violence and.; war.

So, the question is : how is it that these arms--light or sophisticated, find their ways into Nigeria without stress or hitch?

It is easy to talk about porous borders. It is even easier to talk about illegal routes. But hey, where are the immigration personnel that are supposed to man the borders? How come they allow, knowingly or out of negligence, these caché of arms into the country, whilst yet claiming to be on duty?

It beggars belief to claim that these avalanche of arms being used to wreak havoc in the country are either all local weapons or all smuggled in through illegal routes.

Is it therefore safe to believe that these immigration personnel are conniving with these terror agents to flood the nation with arms?

Not long ago, there was a story about bandits using camels to ferry arms into the country, as they strap arms on the body of these camels, covering the arms up with other harmless luggage. But despite this intelligence report, we have never been told of any arrest of arms-laden camels in the country.

In May 2017, the Nigerian Customs intercepted a 20-feet container at the Lagos port, loaded with 440 arms and ammunition of different sizes and caliber.

Four months later, in September of the same year, another 1,100 pump action guns concealed in container from Turkey was intercepted at Mile 2, Lagos. That particular consignment had negotiated its way out of the ports, but still got caught on its way to a warehouse.

Four years down the line, Nigerians were never told who the importers of those arms are, neither do they know what eventually happened to those arms or their importers. Were they (importers) ever arrested and prosecuted? Were the arms destroyed? Were they added into the armoury of the Nigerian military? Were they released to their importers?

Many a times, it is argued that the announcement of such interception of arms get to the public's ears only when there is a failure in "settlement" between the importers and Customs personnel.

Yes, the argument has been rife about Nigeria becoming the preferred destination of all the arms and light weapons from Libya, DRC and Sudan, where wars have been fought or still being fought. But it is worrisome that despite the fortification of the land borders, illegal arms and ammunition still flow into the country unhindered, thus putting a big and multiple question marks on the efficiency and patriotism of the men and women in the Nigerian Immigration Service whose duty it is to police our borders.

And that explains why today, AK47, a high caliber rifle, is now such a common weaponry in the country, as if it is a kitchen knife or even catapult. Just everywhere, you hear and see AK 47.

Otherwise young and feeble fellows get lionized and can take a whole community captive, just because they have arms, most times even more sophisticated than the ones of our policemen.

Even when there is a presidential directive criminalizing bearing it by unauthorized persons, nobody has ever been shot at because he/she is bearing AK 47, despite the presidential order to that effect. So, is there a conspiracy to protect such persons?

Already, the Akwa-Ibom State governor, Mr Udom Emmanuel, in a video that went viral, this week, has lamented how the police commissioner in the state has ordered the release of 18 AK47-bearing persons arrested by vigilante men in the state. The 18 persons were said to have fake army uniforms and the rifles, yet the police ordered that they be released. How is this explained?

Little wonder that former Head of State, Gen Abdusalami Abubakar recently disclosed that about six million illegal arms are floating in Nigeria. How did those arms get into Nigeria?

Stories have been making the rounds of how certain helicopters have been dropping arms, ammunition and even food items in some forests, for bandits and other violent criminals. Nobody has been able to assuredly verify the claims. But it may not be impossible. Although denied, a former Head of State has also been linked to the ownership of one of such helicopters.

Just last Sunday, people going to church ran into a truck which fell in Onitsha and spilled all of its content on the road. The content happened to be live bullets. Reports say it took a hired tipper three trips before it could clear the bullets off the road, amidst guided protection by the army and the police..

Again, who owns the bullets? Where were they taking them to? And for what purpose? The Anambra governorship election is just six months away. The driver of the truck was arrested while the conductor escaped.

Nearly one week after, the public has not been updated on the matter.

Yet, this is a zone where violence and attack on police stations and correctional facilities have continued unabated. Is it any wonder that the rave of attacks in the South East has continued unchecked?

Obviously, it is an attempt to arrest the ugly development that the federal government recently established the National Centre for the Control of Small Arms and Light Weapons (NCCSALW).

It is hoped that this agency will be able to not only halt the influx of illegal arms into the country, but also work assiduously hard to recover most of the illegal arms in the country.

Needless to say that the large caché of arms in the hands of unauthorized persons is a precursor to war. Those who doubt this should ask Somalia and Sudan. Many people like Prof Pat Utomi believe that another civil war has already started in the country, what with the scale of killings and violence ravaging every part of the country.

To save the nation from the imminent unrest and conflagration, the NCCSALW should get cracking by raking in most of the illegal arms in circulation. Unless and until that is done, our skies will continue to be lit with the sparks of illegal bullets as we sleep with just an eye closed.

More Women for Lawmaking?

Eddy Odivwri

I think the national lawmakers deserve a special commendation for always rising to the occasion of public expectation.

Really? These same lawmakers in the 9th Assembly?. So, what have they done to deserve this special commendation?

I am surprised you are asking this. You mean you didn't hear of the great resolution they recently passed concerning the need to have more women in the National Assembly?

Naaaaa, it was not a resolution. It was just a Bill presented by the Deputy Chief Whip of the House of Representatives, Hon Nkeiruka Onyejocha, and 85 other lawmakers; the motion merely passed through the second reading. It has the third reading to contend with before it becomes a law, after a concurrence by the senate. But I can tell you that the motion appears popular among the lawmakers. I think the sponsors f the motion did a lot of lobbying before the presentation.

So, by your own affirmation, it is a motion that enjoys great support. So it is to be expected that going through the third reading won't be such a herculean task. That is why I think the lawmakers must be commended for thinking ahead.

They have argued that given the huge population of women in Nigeria (47 percent ) the 4.4% representation at the National Assembly is dismal and unacceptable. They bemoan the fact that out of 109 senators, only eight are women. And that out of 360 House of Reps members, only 13 are women.

Therefore, the representation level of women at the National Assembly should be deliberately shored up by altering some sections of the 1999 constitution, as amended, by creating additional senatorial districts in every state of the federation, plus the FCT, just as two additional federal constituencies should be created in each of the state plus the FCT, across the country and that both the extra senatorial seat and two additional seats (per state and the FCT) at the House of Reps, be occupied exclusively by women. That way, women shall have minimum of 37 senators in the senate and 74 women in the House of Reps.

That is the general framework of the Bill. It still has a long way to go to become a law.

The lawmakers do not need to waste any time in passing such a Bill. We indeed need more women in the parliament. With more women, there will be less friction and throwing of chairs or boxing of themselves. Indeed, more women will make the tone in the parliament more reconciliatory than combative. We need more women. And don't forget that their soft appeal to national issues always have great effects. Who knows with more women in the parliament, this spate of violence threatening the country, would be a thing of the past when they activate their motherly mode in appealing to those bandits and Boko Haram terrorists. We really need more women, and we don't care if it will cost us addition N7.8 billion to service them annually. After all, is it not better to spend that money on our women and achieve peace than expend more than thrice that amount, and yet get no respite?

You are talking rubbish. You mean we should knowingly undertake to spend another N7.8 billion to service the narrow interest of selfish women in the name of gender balancing, in the face of the dwindling economy? Do you know that the lawmakers presently consume over 37 % of the national budget to the detriment of many other critical sectors? And you are supporting the creation of more senatorial districts and federal constituencies across the country? Are you alright?

Look, I am very alright. All we are asking is that the Beijing Declaration should be respected. How do you explain that out of 109 senators, only eight are women, and that out of 360 House of Reps members, only 13 are women, whereas they even vote more in number during elections?

So, if they have more voting population at elections, let them use that support base to elect their fellow women. They don't have to have separate and exclusive seat either in the senate or House of Reps. Let them go out there and contest and strive to be elected.

You mean in the face of the daunting problems facing the country, the concern of some chauvinists is how to swell the rank of the parliament with more gele-tying women?

Are you implying that it is Okay for the men to keep lording over women in the National Assembly?

Do you realise the roles they play in National development? Do you know they are better managers of scarce resources?

Please leave out the issue of managing scarce resources. We have not forgotten the case of Patricia Etteh, former Speaker of the House of Reps. The nation is currently contending with the case of the suspended Managing Director of the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA), Hadiza Bala Usman on the issue of under-remittance of NPA funds to the federal till.

Don't drag in extra-territorial matters here. It is a democracy. The people want more women in the parliament. If it goes through the process, so be it. And there is nothing you can do about it from the sideline.

I am a stakeholder. Tell these women not to be in a hurry. Once upon a time, it was just Franca Afegbua as a female lawmaker in the country. Today, they are about 21 female lawmakers in both chambers. It is growing. They should not be faster than their shadows.

But talking seriously, how many of the women have you heard being legislatively aggressive in canvassing a position that is of greater benefit to majority of Nigerians? Don't you know that many of them are bench warmers? Or did you not hear the other day, how a female senator rebuked a fellow senator for bemoaning the security situation in the country, asking the colleague if he was a PDP member? Are those the myopic sentiments that will encourage more female representation?

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