Barely one week after the Nigeria Customs Service intercepted a container loaded with firearms and ammunition at the Tin Can port in Lagos, the police have said they recovered no less than 1,889 weapons and 52,577 rounds of live ammunition between January and December, 2021.
The spokesperson for the Nigeria Police Force, CP Frank Mba, told our correspondent in an interview on Thursday that the recovered weapons include General Purpose Machine Guns, Rocket-Propelled Grenade, variants of Avtomat Kalashnikov, with the popular ones being AK-47 and AK-49, and some locally-fabricated weapons.
Mba noted that some of the arms in circulation were produced in illegal arms manufacturing factories operating in the country, noting however that the police would continue to bring the perpetrators to book.
There have been public disquiet and deep concerns over the influx and proliferation of firearms across the country, which has been attributed to the country’s porous borders and corruption by the agencies at the borders. The President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.), said only God could “effectively supervise” Nigeria’s 1,400km border with Niger Republic.
The arms proliferation is said to be fuelling the raging insecurity, including the banditry in the North-West, Boko Haram insurgency in the North-East and kidnapping and killings in other parts of the country.
Saturday PUNCH reported on December 18 that no fewer than 849 persons were killed by bandits within the past five months in Zamfara, Kaduna, Sokoto and Katsina states.
The President had on different occasions attributed the influx of arms into the country to the crisis in Libya and activities of the close associates of Libya’s former leader, Muammar Gaddafi, who was killed in 2011.
In March, the President also lamented that despite the closure of land borders in 2019, arms and ammunition continued to flow illegally and that as long as Libya remains unstable, the problem would remain.
Meanwhile, Mba said, “The proliferation is of major concern to the leadership of the Nigeria Police Force and even our counterparts in the law enforcement community. To underscore the importance FG attaches to this issue, there is a special committee working on how to tackle the proliferation of such weapons.
“Between January and now, not less than 1,887 firearms, mostly of the Kalashinov family, General Purpose Machine Guns, Rocket-Propelled Grenade and locally-fabricated weapons were recovered by the police. Also, 52,577 rounds of live ammunition were recovered.
“On our part, we have adopted a multifaceted approach in dealing with this problem. We do auditing of the arms with those who are licensed to ensure nobody is parading a licence that is illegally obtained or parading a weapon and claiming to have a licence that does not exist.
“We understand that a certain quantity of the illegal arms in circulation are products of illegal arms manufacturing factories in the country. To the best of my knowledge, we have only one legitimate arms manufacturer in Nigeria, which is Defence Industries Corporation of Nigeria.
“Any other person claiming to be manufacturing weapons in Nigeria is doing so illegally. We carry out intelligence-driven and target-oriented raids on places where we suspect that arms are being illegally manufactured. In the last one year, we have been able to burst a lot of these illicit arms manufacturing factories, particularly in Plateau and other parts of the country.”
He said the police also carry out raids on criminal hideouts to arrest the criminals and recover their weapons, thereby reducing the illegal arms in circulation and weakening the firepower of the criminal element.
“We have been able to identify, crack and dismantle a lot of international smuggling syndicates by working with Interpol and colleagues in neighbouring countries,” he added.
The President, while speaking in September at the 76th Session of the United Nations General Assembly in New York, United States, called for the regulation of arms and light weapons trade in the interest of human rights.
A statement by his Special Adviser on Media and Publicity, Femi Adesina, quoted him as saying, “Nigeria remains deeply concerned about the illicit trade, transfer, and circulation of small arms and light weapons. Their excessive accumulation and uncontrolled spread in many regions of the world are having devastating humanitarian and socio-economic consequences, especially on the continent of Africa.
“It is on this note that my delegation calls for the worldwide application of the Arms Trade Treaty to codify accountability in the conventional arms trade, which is critical to the security of nations. This is in recognition of the need for a broad-based global partnership in the ongoing battle against trans-border crimes, including terrorism and piracy.”
Yuletide: IG orders tight security, visible policing
To strengthen security nationwide during the Yuletide, the Inspector-General of Police, Usman Alkali Baba, has ordered Commissioners of Police and their supervisory Assistant Inspectors-General of Police to initiate coordinated crime prevention strategies and ensure round-the-clock patrol across the country.
The IG in a statement by the Force spokesperson, Frank Mba, on Friday noted that achieving a crisis-free Yuletide was of utmost priority to the Force and the nation.
He further noted that the AIGs and CPs had been directed to massively deploy human, intelligence and other operational assets at their disposal to all public places, including residential areas, places of worship, recreational centres, financial institutions, market places, motor parks, major highways, airports, railway stations, amongst others, to protect citizens and critical national infrastructure.
The statement titled, ‘2021 Christmas and New Year celebrations: IGP orders round-the-clock visibility patrol,’ added, “In addition, the IGP has warned police personnel deployed for duty during the Yuletide, particularly those deployed to secure the highways across the country, to desist from acts inimical to discipline and professionalism.
“The IGP equally enjoined citizens to cooperate with officers deployed for the assignments, especially by being law-abiding. He noted that the Force remains sensitive to issues of rights violations, illegitimate use of force and has since deployed the Monitoring Unit, X-Squad and the Force Provost Unit on joint operation nationwide with a view to monitoring conduct of officers as citizens transit in and around the country during the festive season and holidays.”
While congratulating Christians in the country on the occasion of the celebration of the birth of Christ, the IG thanked all Nigerians for supporting the police and the security community in the fight against criminality.
Meanwhile, the Oyo State Police Command says it has mapped out strategies to tackle kidnapping and other forms of criminality in the state.
The state Commissioner of Police, Ngozi Onadeko, in a statement issued by the command’s spokesperson, DSP Adewale Osifeso, on Friday in Ibadan, said the command, in its bid to rid the state of criminality, held a stakeholders’ meeting on Thursday at Oluyole Local Government Area of the state.
She said deliberations centered on meaningful strategies to prevent incidents of kidnapping on Idi-Ayunre/Ibadan axis of the council, adding that the police would ensure increased visibility, deployment of more policing assets to the jurisdiction and implementation of other layers of supervision in the state.
The police commissioner assured law-abiding residents of the state of a crime-free and stress-free Christmas and New Year celebrations, while assuring the public of protecting anyone who offers credible information to the police.
He enjoined citizens to go about the celebration “in the spirit of love, sacrifice and to take protective measures to reduce exposure to security risks and the new wave of the COVID-19 variant”.
In Edo State, the spokesperson for the state police command, SP Kontongs Bello, said the Commissioner of Police, Phillip Ogbadu, directed the deployment of 3,000 personnel across the state.
Bello added, “We have massively deployed officers and men to churches, event centres and all security flashpoints across the state to ensure a peaceful and a hitch-free celebration before, during and after the festive period.”
The statement warned personnel conducting stop-and-search to refrain from extorting money from motorists. It said severe sanction would be meted out to anyone caught in the act.
NSCDC deploys 3,000 personnel in C’River, Plateau, Kebbi
Meanwhile, the Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps said on Friday that it deployed about 3,000 personnel in Cross River, Plateau and Kebbi states to provide security throughout the Christmas and New Year festivities in the state.
In Cross River State, the command’s Public Relations Officer, Mr Solomon Eremi, said the state commandant, Mr Samuel Fadeyi-Adekunle, directed the deployment of 1,000 personnel across the state.
“This is coming at the right time that the nation is going through a lot of security challenges of senseless violence,” the statement quoted Fadeyi-Adekunle as saying.
In Plateau State, the NSCDC spokesperson in the state, Chris Longbit, said the command deployed 1,500 personnel to ensure peaceful and crime-free Christmas and New Year celebrations in the state.
“We wish to advise all citizens to be law-abiding and avoid any act that will lead to breaking of law and order and tempering with the relative peace enjoyed,” Longbit added.
In Kebbi State, the spokesperson, Akeem Babatunde-Adeyemi, said the state commandant, Mr Umar Musa-Bala, approved the deployment of 500 personnel to places of worship and strategic locations across the state.
The statement added, “Adequate deployments have been made to worship centres, recreational centres, motor parks and marketplaces. Critical national assets, infrastructure and illegal routes for diversion of petroleum products have also received adequate deployments.”
Act fast on security threats, SSANU tells FG
Meanwhile, the Senior Staff Association of Nigerian Universities has called on the Federal Government to urgently confront the increasing security threats in the country.
It also called on Nigerians, especially Christian faithful, not to lose sight of the crux of Christmas, which is love for one another, peace, hope, love, goodwill and salvation.
The association in a Christmas message by its President, Mohammed Ibrahim, on Friday, said, “These values which Jesus symbolises are very much needed in our country at this time we are confronted with diverse challenges, like the spate of banditry, kidnappings, insurgency, economic hardship, the upsurge in COVID-19 infections and the inability of the government to keep to agreements entered into with unions.
“We must recommit to loving one another as preached by Jesus Christ. We must never abandon the vulnerable and less privileged members of our society. I urge the government and the security agencies to do more to checkmate the increasing incidents of security threats, especially in the northern part of the country as well as the entire country.”
SSANU called on the government “to make more efforts towards the restoration of security and prosperity to the country”.
SOURCE: THE PUNCH