Against the backdrop of the rising insecurity in the land, the interception earlier this month by the police in Oyo State, of a truck laden with 100,000 rounds of live ammunition at Shaki, from a border town with Benin Republic, is cause for worry.
Speaking while parading the suspected owners of the dangerous cargo at the headquarters of the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) in Lagos, the police described the ammunition as lethal, explaining that its discovery followed a tip-off, the outcome of SARS intelligence network.
In a confessional statement, one of the suspects hinted that he had already made an earlier successful trip, with a larger quantity of the lethal commodity into Anambra State, from far away Ghana, a claim which authenticity cannot be ascertained. And that his ready market includes private security outfits and vigilante groups.
Nevertheless, The Tide is concerned about this horrific revelation because it underlines the fact that proliferation of illegal arms and ammunition thrives with all the dangers it portends for civil society. Moreover, that confession indicates that our borders are porous and that there are obvious lapses in the nation’s security surveillance system.
We are tempted to make this conclusion when one considers that the first shipment of the illegal consignment which originated from Ghana found its way successfully deep into Nigeria. It should not be so. If the security surveillance agencies were more alert to their duties, such movement of lethal weapons should have been detected by either the men of the Customs, Immigration or other security agencies, working in concert, to check the entry of unauthorised goods and persons into Nigeria.
There is no gainsaying that checking the proliferation of illegal arms and ammunition in wrong hands would boost the security profile of the country and encourage foreign investment. The current situation portends great danger because it encourages strong arm tendency among politicians and estranged business associates and helps armed gangs unleash terror on the people with impunity in the form of armed robbery, kidnappings and numerous unresolved murders.
We recall that in a bid to reduce to the barest minimum, illegal arms and ammunition in the hands of citizens, the federal government last year granted amnesty to militants in the Niger Delta, with a proviso that they surrendered, to government, their arms and ammunition.
But the recent bomb explosion in Warri during the post amnesty meeting of Niger Delta governors and the sophisticated weapons displayed in the recurring Jos mayhem are indicative of the fact that many illegal arms are still in the hands of unauthorised persons.
This dangerous situation, seems to us like sitting on a keg of gun powder, and without doubt accounts for the level of insecurity in some parts of Nigeria.
We are aware that government had since discontinued issuance of licenses for individuals to own weapons. But that is hardly enough, in the light of the frequency of armed raids by gangs who have been further emboldened by our silence and apparent inertia from our security agencies their fire power, as to say nothing couour silence and apparent inertia group our security agencies.
We therefore suggest that the security operatives should step up their surveillance activities in a well co-ordinated form in order to stop infiltration of destructive commodities, particularly arms and ammunition into the country. They should also improve on international co-operation with those of neigbouring countries at our borders, to check activities of these agents of destruction.
This is important now that we are gearing up for general elections, slated for 2011. The task is enormous, but with a synergy among the customs, immigration and the police, our borders could be better policed just as we expect Navy to adequately protect our waterways with all the integrity it deserves.
In the interim, however, the security agencies should consider, as a matter of urgency, the need to carry out a comprehensive arms mopping up operation to remove dangerous weapons in the hands of wrong people. It is also the responsibility of Nigerians to always give information to the security agencies, the type that led to the SARS success, since security is the responsibility of every well-meaning citizen, as the trend towards community policing tends to suggest.
The Tide therefore commends the police for that successful haul but wishes that they redouble their efforts towards unmasking other cabals in the illegal arms trade.
We say so because, we believe that the apprehended pack of businessmen may be merely one out of many illegal arms smugglers into Nigeria.