Insecurity: Agency to clampdown on ammunition merchants in borders, seas

The National Commission Against the Proliferation of Arms, Light Weapons and Pipeline Vandalism, on Saturday said that in the next 100 days, it would embark on a massive mop up of light weapons, ammunition and chemical weapons with searchlight on the nation’s borders and seas.

Although the Bill recently passed by the National Assembly for its establishment is still awaiting the assent of the Presidency, the commission has promised to create 7000 jobs in each state of the federation as its own contribution towards curbing youth restiveness.

The acting Director-General of the commission, Otunba Adejare Adegbenro, stated these in an interview with journalists in Abuja after a stakeholders meeting where he was unveiled as its new DG.

The Senate had in July 2022 passed into law a Bill establishing the National Commission for the Coordination and Control of the Proliferation of Small Arms and Light Weapons, and included the National Task Force on the Prohibition of Illegal Importation/Smuggling of Arms, Ammunition, Light Weapons, Chemical and Pipeline Vandalism being one of its components.

The House of Representatives had also passed its version of the law.

However, security experts have rejected the Senate’s inclusion of NATFORCE in the new Act, advising the lawmakers to expunge NATFORCE from the Bill when harmonizing both versions.

But in September 2022, the National Security Council, declared NATFORCE illegal.

The Minister of Interior, Rauf Aregbesola, who said this after a meeting of the NSC presided over by former President Muhammadu Buhari (retd.) at the Presidential Villa, Abuja, also expressed satisfaction with the nation’s security agencies’ performance in tackling security challenges.

Aregbesola had said, “Equally of concern is the presence of some illegal outfits that impersonate legitimate security agencies. Of particular concern is a body called the National Task Force on Illegal Importation of Goods, Small Arms and what have you, but the short name for it is NATFORCE.

“The council declares that body an illegal organisation; it should just simply disband itself because the council has ordered all security agencies to enforce the disbandment of that body and other such bodies that operate illegally without any force of law.”

On Saturday after taking over as DG of the agency, Adegbenro said they would mop up illegal arms and ammunition in Nigeria and beam searchlight on fishermen.

He said, “Our core mandate is to stop the importation of illegal arms, ammunition and chemical weapons. It means that we have to go down even to the fishermen in each state from the lowest level to the highest level to make sure that we comply with the ECOWAS treaty which Nigeria is a signatory to in 2006, to make sure that all these ammunition coming into our country through the borders, seas are stopped. We will also ensure that we totally try our best to work with other agencies to know where these leakages are coming from.

“So, we are going to make sure that in the next 100 days, we make a lot of seizures from importers, sellers, hoarders that hold all these weapons. We are going to go on a massive campaign to clampdown and work with other agencies to make sure we achieve this. I will not say it is going to be an easy job, but we will succeed because I am a go getter.”

Adegbenro said the commission is in tandem with the ECOWAS Commission which is to battle against the importation of illegal arms ammunition, small weapons and chemical weapons.

“The commission is meant to work together with other ECOWAS member-states. We are suffering insecurity in Nigeria because of this illegal importation of arms and ammunition in collaboration with other states in ECOWAS to work together to minimize or eradicate the importation of these weapons.

“It will be nice for the new government to embrace us, and give us all the necessary backing including the National Assembly.

We have a lot of youths out there yearning for jobs, in the 100 days of our new President, we want to embark on making sure that we employ at least 7,000 youths for each state in Nigeria, that takes unemployment out of the window”, he added.

He therefore prayed that President Bola Tinubu would put a quick assent to the commission’s Bill to give them license to deliver on their mandate.

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