On the 26th of last month, vigilant security operatives discovered 13 containers carrying illegal lethal weapons at the Apapa Port in Lagos. The contents of the containers included rocket propelled grenades, missile launchers, heavy machine guns, bombs and explosives, sophisticated rifles, and automatic weapons, among others. This discovery, in no mean measure, frightened majority of Nigerians to their marrow.
Precisely 16 days after, the State Security Service (SSS) informed Nigerians that the vessel with the illegal arms, actually arrived Tin Can Island Port on July 10 with 371 containers, out of which 83 were discharged at Frano bonded warehouse at Cele-Ijesha in Lagos. The SSS added that 13 of the 83 containers, moved from Frano to AP Molar Terminal, Apapa Port on October 20, were the ones found to be carrying the dangerous weapons. This revelation also exacerbated the fear of insecurity that had enveloped the nation.
But barely one month after the discovery was made, National Security Adviser to the President, Lt-Gen Andrew Owoye Azazi, last weekend in Awka, Anambra State, confirmed the fears of most Nigerians that the worst might not yet be over.
Delivering a paper on National Unity and the Challenges of Internal Security, at the annual lecture series and mini arts exhibition 2010, organised by the Centre for Victims of Extra-Judicial Killings and Turture (CVEKT), with the theme, “Human Rights and National Security: Challenges for Emerging Democracies”, Gen Azazi hinted that the issue of illegal arms proliferation in the country has assumed an alarming proportion.
In the paper presented by Brig-Gen Mohammed Ali, the national security adviser specifically blamed desperate politicians for stockpiling arms and ammunition, saying that politicians have intensified the training of thugs and provision of fake service uniforms in preparation for the 2011 general elections.
For us, these are very serious allegations that heighten our sense of insecurity. And coming from one of the stature of the national security adviser, these concerns should be taken even more seriously because nothing tangible can come out of the planned electioneering process in an atmosphere of insecurity.
However, Azazi will not be the first to raise this alarm. Government had made similar allegations before without any pragmatic step to arrest and prosecute those found culpable. In fact, in the last couple of months, some of the politicians have been accusing one another of plotting to perpetuate security breaches with intent to hijack the political process. This is why Azazi’s alarm requires urgent national attention.
We say so because, a security adviser to a president, we believe, is exposed to all necessary intelligence briefings from various security agencies, and is expected to speak publicly, dully informed of all available facts. Who, for instance, are the politicians? How untouchable are they that security operatives cannot bring them to justice? Most importantly, what has the security agencies done about the information?
The Tide challenges, not just the national security adviser to the president but all security agencies to expose those suspected political arms dealers. This is because unless something drastic is done now to serve as a warning shot for any politician intent on destabilizing the democratic process, all attempts to fashion an effective and efficient election programme will turn to naught.
This position has become even more compelling because very little was heard of previous cases where politicians were accused of importing sophisticated arms, which they deployed to hijack the electoral process, and at the end, unleashed a reign of terror on law-abiding citizens. In fact, it is on record that in the past, many Nigerians had lost their lives, some maimed while others were brazenly intimidated and forced out of the political process by thugs hired and armed by overzealous and desperate politicians, who want to win elections, by either hook or crook.
We cannot allow this ugly scenario to repeat in 2011. If Nigerians tolerated the militarization of the electioneering process in 1999, 2004 and 2007, we think this is the time to say ‘enough is enough’. Perhaps, now is the time to start working towards preventing any kind of security breach that may truncate the current political process.
The Tide insist that the security agencies owe the nation an obligation to quickly arrest any politician confirmed to be stockpiling illegal arms and ammunition, recruiting thugs and procuring fake service uniforms, in preparation for a season of violence during the 2011 elections. Arresting such politicians, their foot soldiers as well as confiscating already procured weapons would no doubt; forestall any violence during and after the planned general elections.
In addition, we challenge the Federal Government to muster the political will to arraign and prosecute those politicians planning to foment trouble during the elections. We make this challenge, believing that in a society where the rule of law reigns, nobody, not even the most successful or popular politician, is a sacred cow.
Beyond that, The Tide reckons that it is only when those who violate the rules of engagement in the political process are swiftly tamed, that the rest of the society can begin to see a ray of hope in their future and those of their children. We say this, convinced that it is only when Nigerians are sure that the political landscape is peaceful and safe, would they volunteer their lives, time and energy on Election Day to cast their votes, which both the government and the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), have repeatedly assured, must count this time around.
We vehemently advise all security agencies and well-meaning Nigerians to stand up, and resist the temptation of allowing corrupt, evil and mediocre politicians to populate the polity, once again. This is our stand.