The dire need for arms control centre

Recent report to the effect that the Council of State has approved the establishment of a National Centre for the Control of Small Arms and Light Weapons is, indeed, the right foot forward in the President Muhammadu Buhari government’s quest to curb insecurity in the country.

The National Security Adviser (NSA), Major-General Babagana Monguno (rtd), made the disclosure while briefing State House correspondents at the end of the recent meeting of the Council of State chaired by President Buhari.
“Based on my recommendation to the president, he has approved the establishment of a national centre for the control of small arms and light weapons in Nigeria, to be domiciled in the office of the national security adviser. The centre will be akin to the Counter Terrorists Centre and also the Cybersecurity Centre, which are both domiciled in the office of the National Security Adviser. This centre on control of arms will provide the strategic framework for containing the proliferation of small arms and light weapons, especially those coming from across our borders, especially within the West Africa sub-region and through the maritime environment,” he said.

The NSA said when fully operational, the centre would work in compliance with already laid down international standards and ECOWAS moratorium on the control of small arms and light weapons. He said a law would soon be enacted to give the needed legal backing to the centre and its activities. He said the president has directed that there should be improved synergy and collaboration between the armed forces and other security agencies operating in the country.

Monguno said the president has given the go ahead for the procurement of more arms and ammunition to boost the fight against insurgency and other security challenges, adding that the office of the NSA is coordinating the use of drones to patrol the vast lands where bandits and kidnappers operate.

It is instructive, the federal government recently approved N13.3 billion for the take-off of community policing initiatives across the country as part of measures adopted to consolidate efforts aimed at containing the security situation in the country.

Accordingly, the National Economic Council (NEC), chaired by Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, with state governors, FCT minister, CBN governor and some federal cabinet officials in attendance, resolved that the chairman of the Nigerian Governors Forum, with two other governors, meet with the secretary to the government of the federation, the finance minister and the inspector general of police to coordinate the proper utilisation of the funding of the initiative.

The NEC ad-hoc committee on security and policing had made a presentation on its assignment to the council, noting that engagement with key stakeholders on the operationalisation of community policing in the country was in ongoing. The presentation was made by Governor Kayode Fayemi, who is also the chairman, Nigeria Governors Forum.

The proliferation of small and light arms in the country has, to a large extent, been responsible for the intractable insecurity in the country. The insecurity has become so dire and lethal that regional governments have responded to the undesirable situation with their own security outfits. as part of measures adopted to consolidate efforts aimed at containing the security situation in the country.

The governors of the six states in the South-west region had established the Operation Amotekun (“leopard” in the Yoruba language). The apparent goal of Operation Amotekun is to support and supplement the national police service, but not replace it. The creators of the security outfit were explicit that it was meant to support, rather than undermine, the work of federal security services. Governor Fayemi said, “We are not here to undermine the power of the Federal Government of Nigeria, but our primary interest is the security and safety of our people.”

According to one report, 23 out of Nigeria’s 36 states have similar local security outfits. Some are armed, some not, but all apparently operate under the authority of state or local governments, and many seem designed to work with the federal police force. In areas affected by the Boko Haram insurgency, for example, there are local units, some existing under the umbrella of the Civilian Joint Task Force (CJTF), and others loosely referred to as “hunters.”

These groups are meant to assist the police and security services rather than replace them. CJTF is particularly involved with information gathering, but some members are also armed, often with homemade or locally made guns. Hunters, who tend to know the land well, are known for identifying Boko Haram bases. The South-east governors and other leaders recently in the have mandated the State Houses of Assembly in the zone to commence the enactment of state security laws that will legalise the establishment of a regional security outfit.

It is on the backdrop of the staccato of security outfits which, no doubt, will exacerbate the proliferation of small arms and light weapons in the country that we commend the National Council of State for its approval of the setting up of the National Centre for the Control of Small Arms and Light Weapons. This will, indeed, go a long way to curb the rising insecurity in the country.

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