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Arms Smuggling: Issues Beyond The Seizures

Arms Smuggling: Issues Beyond The Seizures“I am concerned for the security of our great Nation; not so much because of any threat from without, but because of the insidious forces working from within” – Douglas MacArthur

Douglas MacArthur concern can be related to the Nigeria situation as there are more sinister forces working from within to undermine the nation’s security and stability.

Probably the Nigerian security agents are not tactical enough, thereby resulting to their inability to get to the roots of most seizures of arms smuggled into the country.  Mr. Vince Nyekwelu, a security consultant and former British police officer noted on Thursday last week while reacting to questions on a live broadcast on the recent incessant arms smuggling into Nigeria especially the one thousand and one hundred (1,100) rifles intercepted by men of the Nigerian Customs Service (NCS) at the Tin-Can ports, Lagos, said customs after getting intelligence reports ought to have been very patient before going to the media and publicizing it.

According to him, what needed to be done was Customs pretending not to have gotten the intelligence information and patiently traced the arms to its destination. He was of the opinion that this would have opened an avenue to know all those involved and what the arms are meant for and other intentions of the smugglers. This would make way for easy arrest and prosecution of people involved in the illicit act he explained.

It is true that the Customs should be commended for the job well done but so many questions are still begging for answers as the issues of arms smuggling go beyond seizures. What happens after the seizure (especially the previous ones)? Why is it difficult to unveil the identity of the people involved? How long has this been in existence? Why is it rampant? And how do they maneuver the system? What are the best measures to take? These are sensitive questions we need to answer looking at the skyrocketing crime rates and crisis rocking our nation.

You will agree to the fact that “why” and “how” are very germane in this context. Nigerians have only been debating on the seizures but what about those other deadly equipments that have defeated our security and now in custody of bandits? Only God knows the quantity of arms that have found its ways into the Nigerian supply chain. In answering these questions we mustn’t shy away from the fact that only Nigerian airports have the necessary facilities to scrutinize export/emigration and import/immigration activities. The sea ports and land border are better described as free zones for illegal and illicit transactions due to its porosity. The absence of functional scanners ordinarily presupposes abysmal administration and dysfunctionality of the Nigerian state.

Nigeria has more unidentified/illegal border routes than the legal, thereby creating an enabling environment for smuggling activities which has become a culture and rampant deal among its inhabitants.

The menace would have been less worrisome if it had been limited to consumables that are less hazardous or inimical to the health of Nigerians but the high rates of crime: Armed robbery, civil unrest, insurgency, militancy, cultism, thuggery, and kidnapping can be attributed to the influx of sophisticated weapons made available to gangsters and other assailants.

The Comptroller General of Customs (CGC) Ibrahim Hameed Ali, during a recent showcase of seizures made by officers of the Federal Operations Unit (FOU) Zone A, Ikeja, Lagos openly confessed that “for any smuggling activity, there must be connivance with customs officer(s)” but unfortunately, the erring officers are often said to have been dealt with via internal mechanisms, “Internal mechanisms indeed.”

Again, that would lead us to questioning the rationale behind customs non-parade and open prosecution of their officers and other persons involved in this high profile smuggling.

Since the three consecutive arms totaling Two thousand two hundred and one (2,201) seized by Customs within eight months of this year all came from Turkey, it shows there is an obvious syndicate in the system.

The Customs should endeavor to parade and publicly try their officers and those involved in smuggling. In as much as internal mechanisms can be used to punish officers found guilty, there is every need to ensure that more severe punishments are melted out to these officers to serve as deterrent to others.

The Nigerian government should as a matter of urgency beef up security by providing modern and functional scanners and also declare state of emergency on our borders.

There is also need for the government to start asking the Turkish government questions since the activities border on national security and there must be renewed synergy with other international security organizations to tackle this menace of arms smuggling.

A new strategy for arms hunting should be devised where Special Anti-Arms Security Squads basically saddled with the mandate of hunting for illegal arms that might have already beaten the system and found their ways into the country are recovered.

Civic re-orientation among citizens is very important in reducing arms smuggling. With renewed patriotic tenets and aggressive campaigns against arms proliferation and crime, Nigeria will experience a relative peace.


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