The leadership of International Society for Civil Liberties & the Rule of Law (Intersociety) is shocked and alarmed over a recent claim by Nigerian-born director of the United Nations Regional Centre for Peace and Disarmament in Africa (UNREC), Ms Olatokunbo Ige to the effect that out of 500 million illicit Small Arms & Light Weapons in circulation in West Africa, 350 million of them or about 70% are in circulation and in wrong hands in Nigeria.
The Nigerian-born UN official made the bogus claims at the ongoing National Consultation on Physical Security and Stockpile Management (PSSM) in Abuja, organised by the Agency and Presidential Committee on Smalls Arms and Light Weapons (PRESCOM).
In other words, the Nigerian-born UN official is saying that 350 million Small Arms and Light Weapons (SALWs) are in circulation in Nigeria. This is not only alarmingly false, but also demographically and statistically untenable, incorrect, unscientific; guesswork, contentious, unverifiable and socially disastrous.
We are deeply worried because the name of United Nations is involved, which explains our promptness in disputing and dismissing the bogus and highly inflated figure. It is no longer news that the Nigerian intellectual community has decayed steadily in recent times following gross bastardization witnessed in the country’s cultural and political values, courtesy of Nigeria’s political class.
The dicey situation under reference is compounded by the emergence of the Nigeria’s erstwhile chief propagandist opposition political party (All Progressives Congress) and its toutocrats, as the ruling political party in Nigeria; leading to the entrenchment of culture of denial, falsehood and propaganda as the core foundation of its presidency. Under the current APC-led federal government of Nigeria, if figures are not bandied and alarmingly inflated, they are mangled with utter alacrity as case may be.
It is therefore, most likely that Ms. Olatokumbo Ige of the UN Regional Centre for Peace & Disarmament in Africa (UNREC) is a major victim of this intellectual decadence or corruption, which is running riot on present Nigeria; under the presidential midwifery of the Buhari administration; which is why the Nigerian-born UN official has the audacity to misinform and mislead hundreds of millions of people and institutions around the world using UN as a cover.
The bogus claim of the UN official is totally dead on arrival and may most likely be difficult to provide grounded answers to the following questions, which are: (a) if 350 million illicit small arms and light weapons are in circulation and in wrong hands in Nigeria, what is the total population of Nigeria presently? (b) Does it mean that with credibly estimated population of 174million people in Nigeria, illicit small arms and light weapons to the tune of 350 million are two times higher the country’s population of 174million people? (c) Does it also mean that out of every child born recently in the country; every teenager, youth and adult including male and female and even President Muhammadu Buhari; there are two illicit small arms and light weapons in possession of each of them?
(d) If 500 million illicit small arms and light weapons are in circulation in West Africa, of which Nigeria accounts for 350 million or 70%; what then is the total population of the West African sub-region? (e) If 500 million illicit small arms and light weapons are in circulation and in wrong hands in West Africa alone, what then is the total number of illicit small arms and light weapons in circulation around the world?
We challenge Ms. Olatokumbo Ige to rubbish us publicly by providing empirical and statistically grounded answers to the foregoing. It is also correct to say that the Nigerian-born UN official is an acute victim of arm-chair syndrome and a product of networking-cabalism that characterizes sensitive inter-governmental and governmental appointments in recent times locally and regionally; producing unqualified, illiterately educated and dormant and dull brains to run strategic UN bodies such as the UN Regional Centre for Peace & Disarmament in Africa (UNREC).
In view of the foregoing, therefore, Ms. Olatokumbo Ige must as a matter of uttermost immediacy and local, regional and international importance, retract her grossly misleading and misinforming statistics and tender an unreserved apology to all Nigerians, the UN and the entire global community. We also advise her to upgrade herself at all times both academically and informally; likewise members of the Presidential Committee on Small Arms & Light Weapons (PRESCOM).
Opportunities abound for her in Nigeria to upgrade herself; one of which is exploiting the potentials of the departments of Criminology, Security Studies and Peace & Conflict Resolution at the National Open University of Nigeria (NOUN). The UN, on its part, must also be mindful of those it appoints to head its strategic and sensitive agencies or bodies. Such appointees must also be routinely upgraded through periodic in-service academic and non-academic trainings and professional exchange programs.
On the other hand, though the claim of the Nigerian-born UN official is bogus and condemnable, but the addition of the UN voice in the ongoing national debate on how to tame the scourge of illicit Small Arms & Light Weapons (SALWs) in Nigeria, is a welcome development as well as commendable. Statistically and credibly speaking, through the illicit use of SALWs, over six million people have been killed around the world since the end of the cold war in 1991 and through illicit use of same; an estimated 500,000 civilians are killed every year in the world and 80% of victims of illicit small arms and light weapons are non-combatants, dominated by women and children.
Further, there are a total of 600 million-700million licit and illicit small arms and light weapons in circulation around the world produced by about, if not over 1000 companies; most of which originate from five permanent members of the UN Security Council, with USA, Russia and China topping the list. Others are UK, Germany, France, Italy, Brazil, North Korea, Japan as well as leading members of the defunct Eastern Europe and Union of Soviet Socialist Republic (former USSR). These weapons are traded licitly through inter-State channels and illicitly by profiteers of violence through war zones and regional or international organized arms trade syndicates.
Till date, the battered Republic of Afghanistan is the world most illicitly armed country with estimated 10million illicit SALWs in circulation; on average of one illicit SALW for every four Afghans out of its 2016 estimated population of 33million people. On the other hand, Republic of Egypt remains till date the world largest possessor of anti personnel landmines, estimated at 6million with many of them laid as far back as 1948, during Israeli-Arab War.
About 10 million illicit SALWs are in West Africa with Nigeria accounting for almost 50% or 4.5million, on average of one illicit SALW for 45 citizens (Sources: Departments of Peace & Conflict Studies and Criminology & Security Studies of NOUN: 2015: i.e. Arms Control & Demilitarization (PCR873): 2013; Public Security & Safety Advocacy Department of Intersociety: 2016).
Illicit Small Arms & Light Weapons; which are empirically or technically defined as weapons that can be carried by a single person, either for military or civilian use; relatively cheap, available in abundance, highly portable, long lasting and easy to carry or operate; are also responsible for 64 active internal conflicts presently raging across the world involving 597 armed opposition militias and asymmetric groups against their host political territories; out of which about 30 are raging in Africa involving 167 armed opposition militias and asymmetric groups, with the Democratic Republic of Congo accounting for 36 armed opposition groups alone( Source: warsinthewar.org 2015).
SALWs range from pistols, assault rifles, machine guns, grenades, mortars to anti tank systems. Light weapons, on the other hand, are referred to as weapons that are man-portable or transportable by light vehicles, which do not require much in terms of service and logistical back-up training. Some of them are small caliber canons, light support weapons, combat grenades, anti-personnel mines, mortars, anti-tank weapons, anti-tank mines, etc.
In the battered Republic of Syria, for instance, availability, affordability and use of SALWs have killed over 260,000 people, mostly non-combatants or civilians, in just five years (2011-2016) of its internal conflict. While women and children are the worst hit, the SALWs-driven conflict has also displaced half of the population with 7.6million IDPs and 3.88million refugees as at 2014. While the number of world refugees has slightly decreased from 24million in the last five years to 21.3million in 2016, there have been spiral increases in the number of internally displaced persons or IDPs and Stateless Persons or SPs, with the UNHCR credibly estimating the current global IDPs at 65.3million persons and Stateless Persons at 10million persons.
In Nigeria, over 2.6million people including over 1.3million Christians have been displaced owing to Boko Haram insurgency using illicit small arms and light weapons. Since the inception of the Buhari administration, it has deadly and dangerously pursued a policy of militarism and militarization, leading to intensification of direct violence, structural violence and cultural violence on the polity, targeted at innocent citizens of the country, leading to the death in the past one year of at least 1300 unarmed and innocent civilians including women and children. The Buhari administration’s militant and confrontational policy under reference has also forced restive non-State actors to opt for counter-violence and reprisal radicalization in defense of their ethnic identities, religions and resource-values.
For clarity and record, militarization is a chronic habit or process undertaken by a militant political territory to increase influence of the military on all levels of the society. Militarism, on its part, is a set of attitudes or social practices, which regard war and preparation for it as a normal or desirable activity. It is also an act of seeking violent solution to social conflicts or problems. These have remained the negative cornerstone of the Buhari administration till date.
We hereby submit conclusively and correctly that the number one architect of proliferation and escalation of illicit small arms and light weapons in Nigeria is the Government of Gen Muhammadu Buhari and a meaningful solution to the scourge can only be found through demilitarization of the Buhari administration’s policy of militarism and militarization.
For: International Society for Civil Liberties & the Rule of Law (Intersociety)
Obianuju Igboeli, Esq., (LLB, BL)
Head, Civil Liberties & Rule of Law Program
Email: [email protected]