From Juliana Taiwo-Obalonye, Abuja
The Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre (CISLAC) has condemned in strong terms multiple attacks on security agencies, installations and infrastructure in recent weeks, describing those behind the attacks as enemies of the state.
In a statement by Executive Director, CISLAC and Head Transparency International in Nigeria, Auwal Ibrahim Musa Rafsanjani, while condoling security agencies who have lost their personnel, particularly those attacked by anonymous gunmen and those combating crime across the country, the pattern of organised criminal violence suggests that they are undertaken by forces who are bent on pushing the country off a cliff.
Rafsanjani called for proper responses from law enforcement to ensure the security of lives and properties, stating:
‘This is a statutorily imposed duty on law enforcement agents, and a right guaranteed to the citizens of Nigeria. Surveillance and intelligence gathering are some of the sophisticated methods that law enforcement authorities use to tackle security challenges. These help them gather information enough to prevent any crime.
‘Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre stands with the entire security agencies across the country and expresses deep sadness over those whose lives have suffered fatalities in the line of duty. When government project is vandalised, those doing so are enemies of the people because when you incarcerate someone in prison, normally the due process would have been followed. This is in public’s interest and therefore, for anyone, to undertake the release of prisoners or burn correctional centres, otherwise known as prison, is the number one enemy of the people.
‘We live in a society where almost every social problem–from noisy neighbours to chasing Bandits–has become a point of police intervention. The recent attacks are an epidemic of harassment and violence on Policing. The question is – have we found other ways to solve our issues? “What if we rolled back police power, and abolished the institution entirely? We already have an infrastructural deficit. We already have poor policing ratio. We urge the people to find an alternative to these attacks. Our security agencies need more resources to ensure that we are all protected.
‘All over the world, law enforcement violence and corruption have reignited massive movements that seek police reforms. Nigeria is no different. In recent weeks, Nigeria has experienced rising levels of gunmen attacks nationwide. For instance, on the 19th of April 2021, multiple gun violence was recorded across several states.
‘The trend affirms the report of small arms and light weapons (SALWs) proliferation and the continued de-monopolisation of the instrument of violence from the hands of the state. Non-state armed groups’ menace has worsened in the face of overwhelmed security operatives and porous border challenges. New vistas of violence have also emerged to exacerbate the security crisis.
‘For instance, unknown gunmen have continuously attacked security posts in the southeast and south- south zones, freeing detained suspects, razing security infrastructures, and killing police officers. The biggest challenge of this trend is that the gunmen are still largely unknown; their string of attacks is unending. In the latest incident, gunmen on Wednesday attacked a police station in Enugu, killed two police officers and burned down the station.’
CISLAC called out the absence of legislation to check proliferation of Small Arms and Light Weapons (SALW) despite the fact that 70% of the 8 million weapons find their way into the country.
‘Available data on Small Arms and Light Weapons (SALW) show that out of the 640 million circulating globally, it is estimated that 100 million are found in Africa, about 30 million in sub- Saharan Africa and eight million in West Africa. 70% of the 8million find their ways into Nigeria. The majority of these SALW about 59% are in the hands of civilians, 38% are owned by government armed forces, 2.8 % by police and 0.2% by armed groups. Nigeria is rated high in the regional debate for the control of small arms and light weapons and illegal trade. Yet the country lacks a legislative direction in dealing with such menace,’ Rafsanjani said.
‘This concern was recently highlighted by the former head of State, Gen. Abdulsalam Abubakar. Tiptoeing into these massive attacks and looting armories is a danger that is waiting to happen until and unless we find the whole of society solution to our problems.
‘The high rate accumulation of SALWs in Nigeria is a product of the interplay of several interrelated factors. In the first place, there is a general lack of transparency around the arms trade. Nigeria considers its arms policy to be secret, which makes it hard to access. Similarly, arms dealers promote corruption by involving some countries in illegal activity. Insecurity in Nigeria also makes it easy for small arms to enter illicit circulation through theft, leakage or re-sale.
‘Secondly, SALWs by virtue of their several characteristics make them very attractive to paramilitary and irregular forces and even untrained civilians thereby aiding in their proliferation.
‘Nigerian security agencies must improve their intelligence-gathering capabilities. Nigerian police force must rise to the occasion and stop the attacks on its personnel and infrastructure. The continued raids on police stations and apparent anonymity of the gunmen is a test of the efficacy of Nigeria’s security intelligence and ability to tackle criminality. Continued attacks on police posts prove their vulnerability and, even more, the vulnerability of hapless Nigerians in the face of growing gunmen terror. Through intelligence gathering, fortified security posts, and multi-security framework, Nigeria’s security agencies must now save themselves to secure the nation.’
Suggesting a way forward from the security challenges, Rafsanjani said: ‘There is need for concerted and collective efforts among stakeholders at all levels of the society to curtail illicit SALWs proliferation. Hence, capacities of stakeholders should be enhanced for an effective implementation of result-oriented programs and formulation of evidence-based policies;
‘There is a need for interventions at the national, state and local levels to be strengthened and promote peaceful coexistence amongst the diverse ethno-religious and political groups in Nigeria.
‘There is need for an improved border management mechanism using modern and sophisticated detection equipment to discourage arms trafficking through the borders. Also, effective strategies should be deployed to numerous police forces/stations.
‘There is need for a review of the Fire Arms Act with stringent penalties to address the current challenges associated with SALWs proliferation. The three arms of government and all stakeholders should make and implement laws pertaining to the manufacture, importation, storage and possessions of firearms;
‘There is need to establish and strengthen institutional frameworks for the control of elicit SALWs proliferation to ensure an effective, coordinated and consistent implementation of arms control programs in the country.’