Business is booming.

An Examination of the Economic Impact of Small Arms and Light Weapons Proliferation in Nigeria

By Bala Abubakar Ph.D
British Royale Academy, Yola.
Adamawa State. Nigeria.
Email: drbalaabubakar@gmail.com


All over the world the extensive availability and use of SALW are associated with insecurity, as well as the primary source of deaths and injuries in wars and internal conflicts. Large accumulations and free flows of SALW in Nigeria have destabilized political processes, intensified and prolonged insurgence and contributed to banditry, crime and violence.

They are more widely traded and held, both legally and illegally, by non-state groups, bandits, criminals and ordinary citizens, hence their availability for every sort of violent conflict, communal hostilities, criminal activity and violence. Its availability no doubt has become a threat to established socio-political and economic mechanisms for development.

All over the world the extensive availability and use of SALW are associated with insecurity, as well as the primary source of deaths and injuries in wars and internal conflicts. Large accumulations and free flows of SALW in Nigeria have destabilized political processes, intensified and prolonged insurgence and contributed to banditry, crime and violence.

They are more widely traded and held, both legally and illegally, by non-state groups, bandits, criminals and ordinary citizens, hence their availability for every sort of violent conflict, communal hostilities, criminal activity and violence. Its availability no doubt has become a threat to established socio-political and economic mechanisms for development.


Abstract
All over the world the extensive availability and use of SALW are associated with insecurity, as well as the primary source of deaths and injuries in wars and internal conflicts. Large accumulations and free flows of SALW in Nigeria have destabilized political processes, intensified and prolonged insurgence and contributed to banditry, crime and violence. They are more widely traded and held, both legally and illegally, by non-state groups, bandits, criminals and ordinary citizens, hence their availability for every sort of violent conflict, communal hostilities, criminal activity and violence. Its availability no doubt has become a threat to established socio-political and economic mechanisms for development.


1.0 Introduction
The proliferation of SALW in Nigeria dates back to the 1967-1970 civil war in the eastern part of the country (Vines, 2005). The spill-over from the civil war was such that at the end of the war, there was no proper comprehensive disarmament and demobilisation programme (Onuoha, 2012; Oche, 2005). Thus, this phenomenon threatens the consolidation of democracy and security in Nigeria which is necessary for sustainable development. As of today, the greatest security challenge facing this country is the impunity of activities of kidnappers, armed bandits and terrorist.
The proliferation of light weapons and illicit arms trafficking in Nigeria pose a major threat to peace, security and development of this country. Although they do not in themselves cause the conflicts and criminal activities in which they are used, the wide availability, accumulation and illicit flows of such weapons tend to escalate conflicts; undermine peace agreements; intensify violence and impact on crime; impede economic and social development; and hinder the development of social stability, democracy, and good governance.

In the current world environment in which the realities of globalization are literarily forcing the rapid break down of border lines, low-intensity conflicts in which small arms are critical, and widely used, are threatening the non-negotiable core value (national security) of especially developing countries of Africa and indeed the countries of the West African sub-region including Nigeria.

Experts have agreed that “the proliferation of small arms and light weapons, rifles, handguns, machineguns grenades and bazookas – is just as harmful as the increasing number of so-called weapons of mass destruction. Of the 50 or so conflicts fought since the end of the Cold War, the vast majority of them have been fought predominantly with small arm”


2.0 History of Proliferation of Small and Light Weapons in Nigeria
Perhaps, gun possession by civilians in Nigeria is not new and predates colonialism (Saburi Biobaku, 1957). Guns were introduced by the Europeans prior to colonialism during legitimate and illegitimate (slave) trade between them and Africans. Subsequently, guns and other arms, ammunition and weapons were used by Europeans to realize their imperial ambitions when they used force to suppress Africa’s resistance to European incursion, conquest and colonialism. The gunboat diplomacy was popularly employed by the British to compel African chiefs to enter into various treaties with them. There was establishment of West African Frontier Force (WAFF) used by the British which was used to execute the British-Aro War of (1901-1902), and other forms of resistance in Nigeria, West Africa, and Africa. The role of Royal Niger Company (RNC) later United African Company (UAC) backed by British Government in using force to suppress dissenting communities is imperative (ChumaOkoro, 2011). These arms or guns possibly found their ways to the hands of Africans during the period of colonialism subsequently used in tradition and hunting in the rural community. In no time, guns and gun powder became symbols of strength and power, and were later transformed into ceremonial weapons displayed during funerals, burials, ceremonies and customary festivals among the natives. They also became symbols of individual and ethnic grandeur, and for deterring aggressors and invaders. Today, guns are no longer just ornaments of prestige, or just for hunting, safari and expedition. Guns have transformed in terms of functionality, lethality, sophistication, ubiquity and motive of ownership. They have become more weapons of criminality and instruments of the underworld (Chuma-Okoro, 2011). Ostensibly, the 1959 Firearms Act was enacted to check the increasingly rate of arms proliferation in Nigeria towards independence. The failure of the Nigerian government to execute a comprehensive disarmament and arms destruction programme after the civil war (1967-1970) exacerbated the proliferation of guns and illicit arms trafficking. As at 2002, the number of SALW in Nigeria was estimated by various reports and studies at between 1 and 3 million including arms in lawful possession of members of the armed forces and the police and those (majority) in the hands of civilians. The 80% of SALW in civilian possession were illegally acquired because of the strict regulations. There is fear that a larger percentage of the SALW in circulation in Nigeria are illicit or illegal. Some of these illicit SALW were used in armed violence such as ethnic-religious conflicts, communal clashes, sectarian violence, cultism, political violence, electoral violence, vigilantism, militancy and criminality. Between November 2006 and February 2007, 212 cases of violent crimes were reported, 189 of these were carried out with firearms, 34 with other tools and two involved bombs (Chuma-Okoro, 2011).


The rate of accumulation of SALW is increasing and becoming endemic as various forms of violence and casualties are in the recent times recorded in the Northern part of Nigeria. Thus, the proliferation of SALW in Nigeria has a destabilizing effect. There is lack of capacity and strong legal or effective institutional frameworks to regulate SALW and combat the phenomenon of SALW proliferation in Nigeria, particularly Northern part of Nigeria (Chuma-Okoro, 2011). More fundamentally, the Nigerian state is yet to deal with the demand factors of SALW proliferation preferring to dwell on the symptoms rather than the root causes. The demand factors are the root causes of SALW proliferation, because if there is no demand there will be no supply. Nigeria is the source, transit and destination of SALW, and therefore the demand factors include mass unemployment, poverty, corruption, excessive militarization, failure of political leadership, state violence, among others. There is indeed excess politicization, state-sponsored violence and state proliferation of SALW leading to political violence, electoral violence and other forms of violence. For example, virtually all the law enforcement or security agencies are allowed to carry arms with exemption of few that are even lobbying to be allowed to carry weapons, thus militarizing the society more. In fact, the Nigerian state was not being able to deal with these demand factors, because dealing with it means dealing with itself or starting by reforming itself.

The political class in their struggle or contest for political power have sacrificed everything in the name of politics including suppressing class consciousness and promoting ethno-religious consciousness. The promotion of ethnic and religious consciousness at the expense of class consciousness has resulted to the increasing demand of SALW for executing ethno-religious violence, election and political violence, communal wars, sectarian violence, etc. The unemployed and ignorant youth have been a willing tool in this intense struggle for state power. No doubt colonialism and many years of military rule contributed to the excessive militarization of the Nigerian society and intensive political contest for the soul of the Nigerian state resulting to the rising demand factors for SALW. So, it is actually a product and a combination of many years of political leadership failure tilting the Nigerian state towards the status of a failed state. A state that is not able to deal with matters or issues of political corruption, poverty, mass unemployment and economic hardship leading to increasing demand for SALW (Okafor, Okeke and Aniche, 2012). Thus, we conclude that the inability of the Nigerian state to deal with the demand factors of SALW heightens proliferation of small arms and light weapons (SALW) in Nigeria, particularly the northern part of the country. As an indication of this militarization of the Nigerian society, the oil companies are allowed to operate private security outfits. Private security outfits, bodyguards, vigilante and thugs have proliferated over the years (Nte, 2011). One stimulant for the proliferation of SALW in Nigeria is elections such that in 2003 elections, locally fabricated and imported pistols, and a range of assault riffles were used by political thugs. In one of the states in Nigeria, the police recovered 54 guns in 2002, 16 in possession of politicians and another eight from politically motivated murders.


3.0 Small Arms and Light Weapons
Small Arms and Light Weapons have been conceptualized and contextualized differently by different stakeholders including academics as covering a broad spectrum of weapons, their ammunitions and their spare parts. One definition by the ECOWAS Convention on Small Arms and Light Weapons, their Ammunition and other Related Materials of 2006, explains that small arms are arms destined for personal use including firearms and other destructive arms or devices such as an exploding bomb, an incendiary bomb or a gas bomb, a grenade, a rocket launcher, a missile, a missile system or a mine. Others include revolvers and pistols with automatic loading, rifles and carbines, machine guns, assault rifles and light machine guns. Light weapons in particular are portable grenade launchers, mobile or mounted portable anti-aircraft cannons, portable anti-aircraft missile launchers, mortars with a caliber of less than 100 milimetres (Okeke & Orji, 2014).

Additionally, the United Nations General Assembly defines SALWs as any portable lethal weapon that expels or launches, is designed to expel or launch, or may be readily converted to expel or launch a shot, bullet or projectile by the action or an explosive (as cited in Chelule, 2014). Similarly, the United Nations Institute for Disarmament Research describes small arms to include these: revolvers and self-loading pistols, rifles and carbines, sub-machine-guns, assault rifles, light machinegun, heavy machine-guns, hand-held under-barrel and mounted grenade launchers, portable anti-craft guns, portable anti-tank guns, recoilless rifles, portable launchers of anti-tank missiles and rocket systems, portable launchers of anti-aircraft missiles systems, and mortars of calibers less than 100m (as cited in Chelule, 2014). According to Emmanuel (2005), the proliferation of small arms and light weapons, rifles, handguns, machine guns, grenades and bazookas – is just as harmful as the increasing number of so-called weapons of mass destruction. Citing Louse, he observed further that, light weapons used in a generic sense, refers to all conventional munitions that could be conveyed by an individual combatant or by a light vehicle including small arms such as bazookas, rocket propelled grenades, light antitank missiles, light mortars, shoulder-fire anti-aircraft missiles and hand placed landmines, as well as automatic weapons, up to, and including 20mm such as sub-machine guns, rifles, carbines, and hand-guns (Jekada, 2005). Some of these weapons are known to have been carried by one armed group or the other in Nigeria, especially in the last decade, to perpetrate all sorts of heinous crimes.


4.0 Causes of Small Arms and Light Weapons (SAWL) Proliferation in Nigeria
There are several causes of SALWs proliferation in Nigeria, such as a general lack of transparency around the arms trade that tends to shroud the whole arms polices of Sub-Saharan African states in secrecy, the involvement of some of the states in illegal arms trade with corrupt arm dealers, as well as widespread insecurity that makes it easy for small arms to enter illicit circulation through theft, leakage or re-sale (Jacob, Ishaya & Ado, 2019). Similarly, SALWs are characteristically attractive to security agents and civilians who like to use them, thus facilitating their proliferation.

Underpinning the proliferation of SALWs in Africa generally and Nigeria in particular, is bad governance, high levels of poverty, struggle for scarce resources, and the competition for economic and/or political power among the elites, oil theft, money laundering, corruption, exploitation, terrorism, militancy, ethno-religious violence, scrambling for resource control, and other premeditated violence (Orji, 2014; Small Arms Survey, 2011; Onuoha, 2012; Abdullahi, 2015). Iloani & Sunday (2016) writing in the Daily Trust Newspaper, observed that illegal arms were flooding Nigeria, and fueling different kinds of violence including cattle rustling, armed robbery, and cultism. They noted that even the deadly Boko Haram perpetrate violence using illegal arms, which supply they never lacked. The question is, what causes SALWs proliferation in the region?
There are several structural factors contributing to the proliferation of SALWs in Nigeria. They include but not limited to issues of governance, porous borders, globalization, and corruption.


5.0 Economic Impact of Small Arms and Light Weapons Proliferation in Nigeria.
Economic development stalls as it is challenging to promote authentic entrepreneurship and associated developmental programs within an environment of insecurity that illicit arms proliferation makes possible. For instance, the use of force and illegal weapons to enforce theevery Monday sit-at-home by the Indigenous Peoples of Biafra is taking a severe economic toll on entrepreneurial activities within the region. Needless to point out that Boko Haram’s activities in the Northeast have substantially affected development within that geopolitical zone. The activities of kidnappers along Kaduna-Abuja route have impacted negatively on commercial activities between Kano-Kaduna-Abuja axis. Similarly, activities of armed bandits along Zamfara-Sokoto axis also affects commercial activities along that region. The entire atmosphere of illicit weapons circulation leads to massive destruction of lives and property. Over the past decade, the country has lost several lives and billions of Naira worth of properties to events propelled and given life by the extensive availability of illegal weapons.

In addition to having severe economic toll on the Internally Generated Revenue (IGR) of the affected states, these also affects the individual economic and social lives, thereby affecting the Country’s GDP on the overall.


6.0 Conclusion
There is no doubt that the accumulation of small arms and their diffusion into the larger society are both casual and symptomatic of the erosion of good governance. The opportunity cost of arms accumulation is the promotion of sustainable security based on the provision of basic needs and infrastructural facilities.

An integrated and comprehensive response is needed to meet the complex challenges of weapons proliferation and illicit trafficking, yet existing responses remain fragmented and inadequately resourced. A set of coordinated sub-regional programmes to tackle illicit arms trafficking, disarm ex combatants, remove unlicensed arms from civilians, and destroy or safely dispose of surplus stock of arms or confiscated illicit weapons do not exist.Transparency, information exchange and consultation among countries on these issues remain weak.


7.0 Recommendation
i- The government of Nigeria should enforce stricter legislation for the illegal possession of arms and ammunitions.

ii- Government should ensure effective national arms control management systems.

iii- Government should put in place robust border management system.

iv- Government should ensure legislative oversight on the issues of arms control management systems regarding diversion, record-keeping and the reporting of arms transfers via the National Assembly and related agencies.

v- Government through the relevant agencies, programmes and partners should embark on intensive behavioral change communication.

vi- Conduct capacity building for security operatives on effective surveillance and intelligence gathering.

vii- Deploy the use of modern technology in addressing these challenges.


REFERENCES:
1. Soetan S.O (2017) “Proliferation of Arms and Security Challenges in Nigeria”, International Journal of Histrory and Cultural Studies- Volume 3, Issue 3, PP 33-38

2. Anthony A.E (2021) “Small Arms and Light Weapons Proliferation in Nigeria: Re-structuring National Security Architecture for Optimal Results”, International Journal of Research and Innovation in Social Science (IJRISS) |Volume V, Issue VII,

3. Abdullahi, I. (2015). Contextualizing the Proliferation of Small Arms and Light Weapons in Nigeria: The Untold Story. International Journal of Business and Law Research. 3(1)

4. Agbiboa D. E. (2013). Armed Groups, Arms Proliferations and the Amnesty Program in the Niger Delta. Journal of Third World Studies, 30(2), 39-63

5. Afolabi, M. B. (2016). The Concept of Security. Readings in Intelligence & Security Studies, 1-11

6. Arase, S. E. (2018). ―Strengthening Internal Security Frameworks and Community Policing in Nigeria: Models, Policy Options.

7. Martin I.M (2021) -Arms Proliferation and Insecurity in Nigeria-Business a.m

Quality journalism costs money. Today, we’re asking that you support us to do more. Support our work by sending in your donations.

The donation can be made directly into NatureNews Account below

Guaranty Trust Bank, Nigeria

0609085876

NatureNews Online

Get real time updates directly on you device, subscribe now.

Leave a comment

This website uses cookies to improve your experience. We'll assume you're ok with this, but you can opt-out if you wish. Accept Read More