West Africans import $35 million small arms yearly, says UN

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Enact laws to make gun possession difficult, FG urges ECOWAS
The United Nations yesterday reviewed the growing spate of criminal activities in West Africa and declared that $35 million worth of small arms are imported to the sub region yearly.

It also disclosed that about 10 million illicit small and light weapons circulate in West Africa.

Special Representative of the Secretary-General and Head of the United Nations Office for West Africa and the Sahel (UNOWAS), Mohammed Ibn Chambas, stated this in Abuja, at a Parliamentary Conference on legislative action for the containment of Small Arms and Light Weapons (SALWs) proliferation and terrorist financing, in Abuja.

The programme was jointly organised by the ECOWAS Parliament, National Institute for Legislative Studies (NILS), Africa Capacity Building Foundation (ACBF) and the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).

Chambas who served as President of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) Commission from 2006 to 2009, traced the root causes of conflict which give effect to small arms proliferation to deficits in governance at community and state levels.

These, he listed, to include exclusion, lack of respect for the rule of law, lack of accountability, corruption as well as unconstitutional changes of government.

The diplomat and lawyer harped on the need for practical action in tackling illicit small arms proliferation and violent extremism within a holistic, human security-centred approach.

He also called for effective coordination between the various initiatives and structures established to tackle violent extremism.

He said: “West African states are therefore necessary but not sufficient in addressing the governance of security, including illicit small arms and financial flows. Non-state actors are playing more prominent roles in the proliferation of SALW in West Africa. Ethnic militia groups, private security companies, arms smugglers, criminal gangs, bandits, mercenaries, and vigilante groups all play their respective roles in the proliferation of SALW in West Africa. Indeed, a defining character of small arms proliferation in West Africa is the increasing difficulty of states to provide and guarantee public security. There is a palpable gap between government and governance in the security space.

“We should pay particular attention to border communities, resident in our extensive and often porous borders, who are often the farthest from our capital cities and often with minimal state presence.’’

On his part, the Speaker of Nigeria’s House of Representatives, Yakubu Dogara, called on Nigeria and The Gambia to join other ECOWAS members in the creation of National Commission on Small Arms Convention. He called on ECOWAS member states to enact laws that make “gun possession difficult.”

Dogara stated that the illicit circulation and illegal possession of small arms and light weapons have contributed to nurturing hotbeds of tensions and conflicts in Africa.

In her remarks, the Director General, NILS Ladi Hamalai, said the objective of the conference is to create a forum for dialogue among parliamentarians towards effective implementation of security policies.

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