Feb 13, 2012

Mopping Off Small and Light Arms in Nigeria

While Nigerian President, Goodluck Jonathan hosted a delegation from the EU on February 8, 2012, the issue of cooperation for the common good of both parties came up. One was the issue of cooperating with the EU to help Nigeria to clean up its confines of small and light arms that have entrenched an era of violence only comparable with events in the build up to the Civil War in 1966. One way Nigeria can end this period of unjustifiable killings and mayhem of innocent Nigerians is, no doubt, by withdrawing the weapons that have sustained the ugly period of sleeplessness in the country.
If the government and its friends must clean up the nation of small and light weapons successfully, we must acknowledge the herculean nature of the assignment. The herculean nature is made obvious by the fact that there is hardly any region of the country where there has been no violence since 1999. Prior to this period, there has been insecurity brought about by crime, mainly armed banditry. The weapons used by this category have been mostly automatic rifles and locally made pistols. With the new democracy in 1999, some persons in the largely Islamic North of the country started asking for the implementation of Sharia Law. Christians within the region started experiencing violence for opposing the calls for the implementation of the Sharia Law. Some Christians who could not cope with the situation moved to other parts of the country. However, some Christians who spent life times building business reputation and wealth in the affected regions saw it as unwise to leave behind these lifetime achievements to start lives anew elsewhere. Some of these people that include a lot of Ibos saw expedience in buying weapons with which to defend themselves in the event of an outbreak of conflict resulting from religious misunderstandings. This crisis in the north was followed by rebellion by militants in the Niger Delta. It is right to suspect that most weapons used by the Niger Delta militants came through the sea bordering the Niger Delta communities. Then there is the Jos crisis that has lasted for more than a decade. Government’s inability to end the conflict informed the need for people to buy weapons in order to defend themselves. The central location of Jos allowed entry of weapons from both the south and the north. There are cases of arrest of persons involved in gun running from both the south and the north with Jos as destination. Violent life in Jos was followed by what has turned out to be the greatest security challenge in Nigeria, the Boko Haram which is the primary motive behind the intended collaboration of federal government of Nigeria and the EU. The weapons used by Boko Haram will be found in the North Eastern region where the activities of the so-called jihadist are most established.
In Jos, the prevalence of small and light weapons is so grave that, frequently, one hears the exploding sounds of weapons being tested in the night to ascertain their functionality.
While the Boko Haram bloody activities intensified, the possibility of collaboration with foreign governments with the aim of keeping them at bay became imminent. Sadly, some Nigerians started condemning the Nigerian administration for demonstration of incompetence. These groups of Nigerians, to me, are either supporters of violence in Nigeria or persons with evil political opposition who are desperately looking for ways to fault the government. With this possibility of EU-Nigerian collaboration for the purpose of restoring lasting peace in Nigeria, the same groups of Nigerians have started making the same criticism. The truth however is that terrorism is something that has always been fought through international collaboration whether in Pakistan, Yemen, Afghanistan or Indonesia. Thus the intention of the Federal Government of Nigeria to collaborate with the EU in order to clean up the nation of deadly weapons that have sustained terrorism is only conventional.
However, there is the need to call the attention of the administration of Goodluck Jonathan to the fact that, fundamentally, what has sustained the state of insecurity in Nigeria is corruption. The same factor will be the reason why any effort of the administration will hardly work. While the period of insecurity in Nigeria lasted, there have been arrests of persons dealing in weapons in the hinterland of Nigeria, at border areas of the north and the coastal areas down south. While the arrests represent moments of triumph for the administration and the nation, the judicial silence that usually follow thereafter often represent moments of shame for well meaning citizens and the nation.
When the Nigerian police force is mentioned in Nigeria, the first thing that comes to mind is corruption because the force has over the years become the epitome of corruption in the country. Corruption among the rank and file within the police is opened as seen at police check points on our roads where every commercial vehicle must give twenty naira (N20) before it is allowed to pass. Any driver that refuses to comply is made to pull out and has his time wasted. On the other hand, those that comply are allowed passage without the scrutiny for which the roadblocks were set up. The implication is that one could carry contraband and get away with it as long as he is willing to give that twenty naira with ease. It is often said that senior police officers back in the office often wait for ‘returns’ from the men in the field. The dirty act is so tolerated that is has become an attraction that lures some Nigerians into joining the force.
Nigerian borders have often been described as being porous as a result of inadequate security manpower and explains why weapons will always come in. This is not true. What is true however is that the porosity of the Nigerian borders is by design, caused by policemen that are readily willing to take bribes and disable standard procedures.
The administration of Goodluck Jonathan must understand that his government will never succeed by refusing to fight corruption, as it is the bedrock of mediocrity that has entrenched the series of tribulations within the nation.

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