On 14th, May 2013, President Goodluck Jonathan decided enough is enough and declared state of emergency in some States in the Northeastern part of Nigeria. He ordered the chief of Defence Staff to deploy more troops and do everything necessary to put an end to the activities of Boko Haram, the armed Islamic group who have been attacking government building, police stations and schools among others. From that day till date both the military and Boko Harm have been claiming they are winning the war.
Despite some successful operations by the Military, the Boko haram attacks on government facilities, churches, police stations and markets have continued. It isn’t strange for us to hear about Boko Haram attack on police stations, Immigration offices and prisons. But this armed radical Islamic group shocked the whole country recently by attacking a Nigerian Air force Base and army barracks at the same time. We heard stories how some military personnel had to run for their lives because of the superior fire power of the Boko Haram. If an Air force Base and army barracks can be attacked then who is safe? If fortified military bases can be attacked at the same time then Aso rock and state government houses are not immune. How come a Boko Haram group that was armed with bow and arrows, cutlasses and hunting guns when their leader was arrested and killed in 2009 now boasts of superior fire power? Thisexplain how easy it is to bring in arms into our country.
United Nations Development Programme, said there are about 8 million illegal fire arms in west Africa and Nigeria accounts for 70 percentage December, Gary Hyde, was sentenced to 7 years in jail for overseeing an £800,000 consignment of rifles, 9mm pistols, rifles and bullets, from China to Nigeria in 2007(I believe it is no coincidence 2007 was a year of general elections). In early May this year, it was reported that an Iranian National, Azim Aghajani, was sentenced to 17 years by the Federal High Court in Lagos for importing 13 containers loaded with arms in the country (14, May, 2013, allafrica.com). When you look at the armed groups scattered all over the country, you will know why there is so much illegal fire arms business going on in the country. It is no news that almost all ethnic groups have their standby personal army to protect themselves and attack rival ethnic group. This standby ethnic army is now used by politicians these days to chase their political ambition. There are also armed groups in the name of freedom fighters, the Niger Delta militants, vigilante groups and political thugs. Some disguise as youth organisations.
Most of this armed groups have been supported openly by the highest authority and people in high places or how else do you explain the award of multi-million dollar contracts to the [ex]-militant to protect the oil pipelines? These militants will surely not protect the pipelines with their bare hands; they will carry arms (illegal arms). How do you explain a situation whereby over 70 police officers were killed in Nassarawa State by a militia group and nobody have been brought to justice? Abdulaziz Yari, the Zamfara State Governor, caused uproar in the country when he imported illegal arms for the Vigilante group in his state. Off course, other States have these Vigilante groups who also carry arms but he was the unfortunate among his colleagues. When the debate about his attempt to arm vigilante was all over the media, the director-general, National Task Force on Illegal Importation of Light Weapons and Small Arm, Osita Okereke, told who ever cared to listen on Channels TV that Governors smuggle arms into the country using private jets.“They (Governors) take private jets abroad, purchase arms and land in their state”, these were his exact words. We can’t blame the Governors for all the illegal fire arms in the country as our borders are also porous. We are in a country where we have Navy, Air force, Police and the DSS, but government still go ahead to arm non-state actors mostly thugs for whatever dubious reason in the name of protecting lives and properties.
Experts say Nigeria is a market, transit and manufacturer of Small Arms and Light Weapons (SALW). In our normal manner we are pretending to the world that something is been done about it. President Goodluck Jonathan has set up a committee to look into the spread of Small Arms and Light Weapons (SALW) led by Ambassador Emmanuel Imohe. Also in early August, Nigeria became the first African country to sign and ratify the Arms Trade Treaty (ATT). On that day, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Olugbenga Ashiru, told the whole world “We remain resolute and unyielding in our efforts to uphold the principle of ATT and, in particular, ensure that small arms and light weapons are appropriately transferred and access denied to terrorist groups, pirates, bandits and the like”. Thisday newspaper quoted Major-General Shehu Usman Abdul Kadir, who commanded the African-led International Support Mission to Mali as saying “ more than half of these[millions] Small Arms and Light Weapons[ in West African sub region] are in the hands of non-state actors and criminal groups”. This non-state actors are made up of militants or is it ex-militants we call them these days? They also include vigilante, hired political thugs, ethnic militia groups, Boko Haram, Ombatse cult and all their kind scattered all over the country. They are sponsored by Government (Federal, State and Local) or wealthy politicians. It is an open secret that almost all politicians control a number of armed youth or as they normally calls them “able-bodied men”. We signed Arms Trade Treaty (ATT) and set up committee to deceive the world but doing something entirely different behind scene. Our leaders have always been hypocrites; they have always been people who bear false witness against themselves. But it is unfortunate that if they don’t they do something about the increase in proliferation of arms and armed groups, it will not only be the Air force base and Army barracks that will be attacked tomorrow. Aso Rock and state government houses might also not be speared. This issue has gone beyond pleasing international community; it is about saving our country.
TRIBUTE TO MANDELA
When I finished writing this article, I changed the television channel to BBC just to know what’s happening around the world before I go to bed and I saw the breaking news. Nelson Mandela has breathed his last and tribute was already coming from all over the world. Words alone will fail to describe his greatness and tears too can’t explain how much he was loved. Chinua Achebe conclude his last book by emphasising that present and future African leaders must look to Mandela for inspiration and so I thank you Madiba for living a life worth emulating. I wish you great transition to the life after.
Bem Hulugh is a youth activist from Makurdi
You can also contact me on twitter @bumy04
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