As the 2019 general elections near, the Federal government has directed security agencies to mop up illegal arms and ammunition in the country to prevent them falling into the hands of miscreants and thugs.
To this end, Lt. General Abdulrahman Bello Dambazau, rtd, Interior Minister, Monday charged the Inspector-General of Police, Ibrahim Idris, DIGs, AIGs and Command Commissioners of Police to enforce the law against illegal possession of firearms.
Bello Dambazau said: “This meeting is very important because we have very serious security challenges all over the country. The challenges are not new but they are of very serious concern to government.
“Today, at home, we are overwhelmed by the issue of insecurity, even though this gathering is aimed at checkmating the proliferation of firearms. We know that firearms are drivers to violence. We also know that illicit drugs are involved. So the need to address them is apt.
“But we cannot address them without looking at other factors. Not long ago, we set out to deal with kidnapping along the Abuja-Kaduna road and it is succeeding. It shows the police have capacity.
“Today, there is so much kidnapping and other violence like cultism in the South-South; we are dealing with terrorism and insurgency in the North east. But generally, today in the front burner of security challenges is rural banditry and herders/farmers clashes.
“Some of these weapons we are talking about are coming from Libya due to the state of affairs there, Mali, Chad and Niger. Some of them are coming from Niger Delta by way of trade by barter among oil thieves and oil merchants. And these weapons are easy to acquire.
“That is why the police must enforce the law against illegal acquisition of firearms. We are in the eve of elections (2019). We must widen our laws to include seizure of weapons in the hands of thugs.
“Anyone found in possession of firearms should be assumed to be a violent criminal, because nobody gives licence for assault weapons as AK 47 rifles and the likes.
“That person must either be a terrorist, a kidnapper, an armed bandit or a robber, otherwise what is he doing with AK 47 rifle?
“The simple truth is that if people who commit crime, especially violent crime do not face the consequences and get punished, it will continue to send a wrong message. A criminal is a criminal and should be treated as such. People should not think they can always get away with crime.”
On the perennial Fulani herders/farmers clashes in parts of the country which has claimed many lives, Dambazau said the problem was caused by the challenge of resource sharing.
He said: “By resource sharing, I mean the issues of land and water. These herders/farmers clashes are not religious problems, they are not caused by ethnic problems and it is not a local problem. It is a struggle for land and water.
In this regard, the minister said:
“That is why we have found it necessary to organise an international conference over the issues relating to herders/farmers crisis.
”There is need for us to look at it from the multi-dimensional approach. It is not restricted to Nigeria alone. That is why it would involve countries from West Africa, the Sahel and stakeholders.”
Earlier, IGP Idris had noted that the Police High Command would insist at the meeting that Command CPs put in place structures to check illegal possession and acquisition of arms and ammunition.
Idris said: “We are putting in place a comprehensive an intensive programme to curb these arms and ammunition. From our experience in Benue and other states, which I believe is not in the interest of the nation, it is not in anybody’s interest to arm militia groups.
“We are also going to look into the issue of public armouries which originally should be in place, where illegal arms and ammunition should be stored. There is need for the public armouries to be constructed.”