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Editor’s note: This detailed report by LEADERSHIP Newspaper exposes how some elements within the Nigerian Security agencies ,especially the Nigerian Police, contribute to the proliferation of Small Arms and Light Weapons (SAWL) in Africa’s most populous nation.

By Christy Nwaogu, Tarkaa David and Ejike Ejike

The 2019 audit report of the Nigeria Police by the office of the Auditor General of the Federation has raised critical questions about the quality of intelligence received by President Muhammadu Buhari and the policy decisions he has made to address security lapses in the country.

The report discovered a staggering 178, 459 fire arms missing from different police formations across the country over a number of years, with as many as 88, 078 AK-47 rifles in 2019 alone.

While security experts have put the black-market value of the missing AK-47 rifles at more than N52 billion, the figure is one-seventh of the N366bn budget of the police in 2019.

It is also more than 300 times the N166 million the police spent on arms and ammunition in 2021.

But the impact of the audit report will most likely be felt in the intelligence community where the presidency has been fed with information that the proliferation of small arms in the country has been due to the civil war in Libya and Nigeria’s porous borders.

And in August 2019, Nigeria, in an effort to curb arms smuggling, closed its land borders with Benin Republic, Chad, Cameroun and Niger Republic, leading to the loss of billions of naira in trade and revenue accruable to the government.

While the borders were not reopened until February 2021, the government didn’t stop there. In May 2021, it established the National Centre for the Control of Small Arms and Light Weapons (NCCSALW).

A statement by the Office of the National Security Adviser (NSA), Babagana Monguno, to this effect stated, “The NCCSALW is set to serve as the institutional mechanism for policy guidance, research and monitoring of all aspects of small arms and light weapons in the West African country, said a statement from the office of the national security adviser.

“This decision is part of ongoing restructuring of Nigeria’s security architecture to address emerging threats and strengthen the regional mechanism for the control, prevention and regulation of SALW.

“The NCCSALW replaces the defunct Presidential Committee on Small Arms and Light Weapons and shall serve as the institutional mechanism for policy guidance, research, and monitoring of all aspects of Small Arms and Light Weapons (SALW) in Niger.

“The impact of the proliferation of SALW across national borders in Africa and the Sahel region has resulted in terrorism, human trafficking, organized crime, and insurrections in West Africa and Nigeria. Therefore, as one of the measures in tackling this threat, the new Centre will be fulfilling the requirements of the ECOWAS Moratorium on Import, Export, and Manufacture of Light Weapons as well as the UN Plan of Action to prevent, combat, and eradicate the illicit trade in SALW.”

According to the NSA, Maj Gen AM Dikko was appointed as pioneer coordinator of the Centre.

But earlier this year, just before the 2019 audit report was released to the public, President Buhari, in an interview with the Nigerian Television Authority, admitted to the faulty intelligence and policy failures in attempting to curb the circulation of small arms in the country, and the attending insecurity.

He said, “Look at the situation in the southeast, police stations are being burnt. We closed borders with Benin, we closed borders with Niger, but we have to accept that the weapons are coming from our own armouries.”

Other than the short remarks, the presidency, the office of the NSA and the NCCSALW have not offered any explanation or assessment for the border closure, which was based on faulty intelligence, and the impact the report will have on the work of NCCSALW, which was set up to spread its tentacles across the West Africa subregion.

Security experts have however raised other critical issues from the audit report by the office of the Auditor General, which shows a failure of accountability and non-compliance to administrative procedures in weapons handling.

The experts who spoke with LEADERSHIP Sunday expressed disappointment at what they describe as shocking revelation, even as they immediately recommended an outright pre-employment vetting and post -employment vetting of armourers to prevent future mismanagement of weapons.

The Auditor General of the Federation annual report on non-compliance/internal control weaknesses issues in Ministries, Departments and Agencies of the federal government of Nigeria for the year ended December 31, 2019 had alleged that about 178,459 different types of arms and ammunition got missing from the Police armory without any trace or formal report on their whereabouts in 2019.

It was dated September 15, 2021 and signed by the Auditor General of the Federation, Adolphus Aghughu, and details of the missing arms were contained from pages 383 to 391 of the report which was submitted to the National assembly.

Part of the reports stated: “Audit observed from the review of Arms Movement Register, Monthly Returns of Arms and Ammunition and Ammunition Register at the Armoury section that a total number of lost firearms as reported as at December 2018 stood at 178,459 pieces.

“Out of this number, 88,078 were AK-47 rifles, 3,907 assorted rifles and pistols across different police formations which could not be accounted for as at January 2020.

“Formal report on the loss of firearms through dully completed Treasury Form 146 (loss of stores) were not presented for examination.

“Records obtained from force armament at the Force headquarters showed 21 Police Mobile Force (PMF) Squadron, Abuja did not report a single case of missing firearm, whereas, schedule of missing arms obtained from the same PMF showed a total number of forty six (46) missing arms between year 2000 and February 2019.

“The value of the lost firearms could not be ascertained because no document relating to their cost of acquisition was presented for examination. The above anomalies could be attributed to weaknesses in the internal control system at the Nigeria Police Force Armament.

“Several numbers of firearms from the review of Arm Issue Register, monthly returns of arms and ammunitions obtained from Force Armament, Force headquarters for various States Commands, Formations, Zonal offices, Training Institutions, squadrons and physical inspection of firearms and ammunition at the Force Headquarters have become unserviceable and dysfunctional.

“Records of the total number of unserviceable firearms were not produced for examinations, and there were no returns from Adamawa State Command, Police Mobile Force (PMF) 46, 56,64 and 68 for the period under review.

“Similarly, returns were not submitted by some Police Training Institutions and some Formations, and Physical verification of firearms and ammunition at the Force Armament, Force Headquarters showed large quantity of damaged and obsolete firearms which needed to be destroyed.

“The damaged and obsolete firearms and ammunition should be treated in line with Financial Regulations 2618 which requires the destruction to be carried out in such a manner as to render the firearms unusable for their original purpose.”

According to the report, 10 contracts totaling N1.136 billion were awarded to a single proprietor in the name of different companies.

Meanwhile, few weeks after this revelation, the Nigeria Police Force has refused to react to the alleged missing 178,459 fire arms and ammunition from its armoury.

Series of attempts to get the spokesperson of the force, CP Frank Mba, to speak on the issue did not turn out, as all messages and calls put across to his phone were returned unanswered.

While the National Centre for the Control of Small Arms and Light Weapons (NCCSALW) did not respond to inquiries, a survey by LEADERSHIP Sunday showed that one AK-47 is sold for $1292 at the black market which is equivalent to N600,000.

This means for 88,000 AK-47 rifles, the police has lost N52,800,000,000 worth of equipment, aside other assorted weapons and ammunitions.

The managing director of Beacon Consulting Ltd, Dr Kabiru Adamu, called on the National Assembly to further investigate the findings of the report and punish offenders.

He said, “An audit report usually tries to establish the absence of compliance and that is what that report has done. It has established the failure of the police to follow some regulatory requirements and it mentioned 3 documents; the arms movement register, and two other documents where it said it looked at and was able to establish that about 178, 000 missing arms and ammunitions.

“The second thing it established is that this is over a period between 2000 and 2019. Third point is that during the audit, the team sat down with the Police in particular, the armament department and requested for all of these relevant documents that are missing and clearly those documents were not made available to it. That is why they went ahead to conclude and submit the report to the National assembly.

“The next thing for the National Assembly to do is to conduct further investigation and find out who within the police are guilty of not complying with these procedures and I cannot think of any valid reason why they failed to comply.

“These requirements are not difficult. If a weapon is missing whoever that weapon was issued to is supposed to file that form and then send it back to the formation and the formation will then send it to Police HQs and the audit report says those requirements were not complied with so the NASS is supposed to look into the issue, identify these persons who were responsible for these forms and didn’t file them, the supervisors to remind them that they didn’t do it Here, it is an issue of accountability – failure of compliance and failure of accountability. We are not aware if anybody has been queried so the issue of accountability comes.”

Dr Adamu said the missing arms have a lot of implications to the rising insecurity in which the proliferation of small arms and light weapons is said to be the major driver.

He continued: “It has been clearly established that a significant number of those small arms and light weapons in circulation are from service issued weapons from our Security Agencies.

“What it means is that the armouries of our security departments have been unable to keep in a professional manner the weapons within those armouries.

“Sometimes it is administrative lapses like the one uncovered by the audit report or where criminals or threat elements raid the formations and steal from the armoury and there is also the allegation and the allegation is widespread out there that sometimes the security personnel give out their weapons as hire to these criminals and when the job is done then they share whatever profit with them.

“There are a lot of documentations regarding the allegations; so there is a close correlation between lost weapons and the security challenges we have in this country at the moment”

Recommending a way forward, he said security agencies must strengthen their armoury process and improve weapons handling mechanism.

“The armoury must be strengthened. The processes or the collection, the storing, issuance of the weapons as well as retrieval must be strengthened so that all the gaps that have been identified in that audit report are addressed,” he said.

Also, a public and private security analyst and trainer, Banjo Daniel, said though there are instances where the Police have been alleged to have leased out weapons to criminals, porous borders are also responsible for proliferation of small arms and insecurity.

He said the number of arms brought in through the porous borders was higher than any arms missing from the armoury of any security agencies.

He therefore called on the Police to carry out self-audit to clear their name.

“We all know. There were instances where Police went and conspired with armed robbers. They will lease out some weapons to them; when they come back they pay them. There was a time it happened to some Airforce personnel a long time ago.  It has been happening ever since.

“To me, we have a worse problem because the number of weapons that come into this country on a daily is far more than whatever that is missing in anybody’s armoury and to me that armoury may not have been well audited.

“Weapons that are coming into the country on a daily basis are more than what the Police say they are missing. I learnt they are missing up 100,000 weapons but how authentic is the audit report? How true is it? How probable is it? If the Police decide to audit themselves maybe what is missing may not be up to 100”

He queried whether arms used by security guards protecting politicians were taken into consideration.

He also alleged that noted that the weapons of all policemen that were killed during the #ENDSARS were taken away, even as he noted the armoury that were looted by the #ENDSARS protesters were also not taken into consideration.

He stated: “All those ones Boko Haram terrorists and armed robbers carted away, were those ones taken into consideration? You know a lot of things need to be done. I’m sure if the Police should audit itself it will be far below whatever any auditors have done.

“Were those police killed at check-points and weapons carted away taken into consideration? All the policemen that were killed during the #ENDSARS, their weapons were taken away. All the armouries that were looted by the ENDSARS guys, were those ones taken into consideration? So all these may have been part of what resulted in such great amount of weapons missing. Even if I’ve read it in the papers or heard it from Senators I would not accept it until I find out from the original source, the Police IG, the number of weapons missing”.

Noting that most Nigerians are criminal minded, he said, “Practically everybody is a thief except for a very few who are still working honestly with dignity and earning their daily pay. Most of us are into one level criminality and the other. Some people are the ones bringing in those things. If you go to some parts of the North East in the Sahel region they have arms market there. They bring them on camels, vans and trucks. If you go there with your money, you will get your choice weapon, including Bazooka. What they may not have are nuclear, biological and chemical weapons. Aside these, there is nothing they don’t have there.”

He said beyond the Sahel market there are areas in the United States of America where they sell weapons and “it is even legal in some of these developed countries”.

He added that when such weapons are bought, they are brought in through the nation’s porous borders, just as he said the political class is not willing to end criminality.

He further stated: “Our borders are so porous that you can just walk in with anything you want and get down to Lagos with them. It is not going to be easy. We have been shouting out and nobody has done anything about it and nothing will happen.

“We don’t need these politicians there anymore. With the type of Politicians we have, we’ll continue in this insecurity in the next century, then it will blossom into war and by then they would have jetted out of the country to be living luxury lives in either Miami or anywhere else.

“In the next 10-15 years practically, every house will have a weapon. We can’t stop it unless the government wants to and not these politicians”.

Banjo said Nigerians have accepted criminality as a norm, even as he observed that those calling for presidential pardon for criminals are not different from the criminals themselves.

“In some areas, you cannot say anything against Igboho or Nnamdi Kanu. They will just burn you down. Talk more of bandits and Boko Haram terrorists in the North. In fact, some communities have accepted bandits and terrorists as part of them. They pay them levies. So if we have accepted criminality, then what can anybody do?

“And unfortunately, Mr President is one of them too. The man I worked with then whom I knew is capable came in now into this political system and they rubbished him. So it is going to be a long time if at all there will ever be an end to these.”

He added that unless Nigerians think and reshape themselves and their morals it is going to be worse.

“The generations coming behind us are more like cannibals. They are worse than us and things are going to be worse. The solution like I always say is that all these politicians must go and I don’t see that workable because they will never allow it. They will prefer Nigeria burnt and they run away.

“The Senate will never let it work. Someone makes first class, didn’t give her job, but you would someone who did BBN job instantly. We just accepted criminality, immorality and stupidity and it is very unfortunate that they have rubbished the intent of government and there is nothing you can do as long as there is constitution and democracy,” he further said.

However, Nigerians are still waiting for the outcome of the planned investigation by the House of Representatives of the alleged missing 178,459 firearms from the armoury of the Nigeria Police Force.

The minority leader of the House, Toby Okechukwu, had sponsored a motion of urgent public importance.

Leading the debate at the plenary session, Okechukwu said the missing arms are linked to the nation’s escalating insecurity.

He said, “Records obtained from force armament at the force headquarters showed 21 police mobile force (PMF) squadron, Abuja, did not report a single case of missing firearm, whereas schedule of missing arms obtained from the same PMF showed a total of 46 missing arms between the year 2000 and February 2019.”

Also, the deputy Speaker of the House, Idris Wasa, spoke in support of the motion, saying the probe will turn up a lot of information about the matter.

The motion was unanimously adopted and the House called on the Inspector General of Police, Usman Baba, to “apprehend those culpable for the depletion of the armoury”.

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