Role of Control Centre in arms proliferation and national security
A news analysis by Kayode Adebiyi of the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN)
The Federal Government recently approved the establishment of the National Centre for the Control of Small Arms and Light Weapons (NCCSALW) to replace the defunct Presidential Committee on Small Arms and Light Weapons (PRESCOM).
Obviously, the Federal Government believes that the transition from PRESCOM to NCCSALW would provide a more effective coordination and monitoring of progress as regards the proliferation of small arms and light weapons.
Domiciled in the Office of the National Security Adviser (ONSA), NCCSALW is expected to serve as an institutional mechanism for policy guidance, research and monitoring of all aspects of Small Arms and Light Weapons (SALW).
When fully operational, the NCCSALW will have six regional offices and will work closely with security and intelligence agencies on prevention and control of proliferated arms, as well as tracking weapons in the hands of non-state actors.
Government said the establishment was part of ongoing efforts to restructure the overall security architecture of Nigeria towards tackling the emerging threats and strengthen regional mechanisms for the control, prevention and regulation of SALW.
Retired Maj.-Gen. AM Dikko, who was Course Director at the Kofi Annan International Peacekeeping Centre and Chief Instructor of the Nigerian Army Peacekeeping Centre, was also announced as the National Coordinator of the Centre.
National Security Adviser Babagana Monguno had announced in Aug. 2020 that the Centre would be established to work in compliance with already laid down international standards and ECOWAS moratorium on the control of SALW.
Indeed, the proliferation of arms across borders, along with human trafficking and drug trafficking especially in the Sahel region, ranks high on the chart of criminal activities constituting threats to national and regional stability in Africa.
Experts had identified a lack of effective legislation and enforcement mechanisms as a major reason SALW proliferation has a significant impact on crisis both within and across many national borders.
A 2008 Disarmament Forum report for the United Nations Institute for Disarmament Research titled “The Complex Dynamics of Small Arms in West Africa”, said surmounting the challenge of SALW proliferation required strong institutions and regional cooperation.
“The dynamics of small arms and light weapons traffic, circulation and use in West Africa are complex, and result in a tangled web of regional insecurity, violence, illicit acts and criminal networks.
“Unraveling this web requires human and financial resources, strong organisations and governments, and engaged civil society actors.
“Woven together to combat the small arms problem, these elements offer both optimism and concrete security benefits at both the human and regional security levels.
“Civil society, regional organisations and agreements such as the ECOWAS Convention and the Millennium Development Goals are interlinked, their efforts synergistic and together result in a stronger and more secure region.”
A 2006 West Africa Action Network on Small Arms report estimated that 8 million small arms and light weapons were flowing through the ECOWAS sub-region.
Rising up to such an enormous challenge, therefore, would require a collaborative effort and commitment across the region.
Thus, the ECOWAS Heads of States and Government soon adopted a convention to regulate the production, circulation and civilian possession of SALW as a collective action against one of the biggest enablers of violence and unrest in the sub-region.
With the collaboration of the United Nations and civil society organisations led by the West Africa Action Network on Small Arms (WAANSA), the ECOWAS Convention on Small Arms and Light Weapons became a legally-binding instrument adopted on June 14, 2006 in Abuja, Nigeria.
Three years later, the Convention entered into force with its ratification by 10 member states, drawing legitimacy largely from Article 58 of the revised ECOWAS Treaty relating to regional security.
Article 1.2. of the Convention states one of its objectives as “to build institutional and operational capacities of the ECOWAS Executive Secretariat and the Member States in the efforts to curb the proliferation of small arms and light weapons, their ammunitions and other related materials”.
Article 3.7. states: “Each Member State shall…undertake to adopt strategies and policies to the reduction and/or limitation of the manufacture of small arms and light weapons so as to control the local manufacture as well as their marketing in ECOWAS region.”
However, since the Arab Spring of 2011 led to the ousting and killing of Muammar Gaddafi of Libya, more SALW have been put in the hands of more non-state actors in the Sahel region.
The cross-border transiting of these proliferated SALW is driving the increasing rates of violent extremism, militancy, banditry and kidnapping for ransom in Nigeria and other parts of the region.
In Nigeria, the challenge of SALW proliferation, post-Arab Spring, has become a source of growing national threat.
In its 2020 Small Arms, Mass Atrocities & Migration in Nigeria report, market intelligence outfit, SBM Intelligence, directly linked the proliferation of SALW to the rise of armed groups in Nigeria.
Using the proprietary open-source intelligence research method, SBM said the trend of arms proliferation in Nigeria has had an impact on Nigeria’s internal security.
“The number of small arms in circulation in Nigeria, in the hands of civilian non-state actors, is estimated at 6,145,000, while the armed forces and law enforcement collectively account for 586,600 firearms,” the report said.
In fact, owing to the recent escalation of violent crimes in the country, there are convincing reasons to believe that the numbers quoted by SMB Intelligence are significantly understated.
It is in the light of this that the establishment of the NCCSALW becomes crucial to Nigeria’s response to arms proliferation.
The Centre, like the Counter Terrorism Centre in the ONSA, will comprise officers from the security agencies, MDAs and the private sector, including civil society.
Technical expertise will also be drawn from time to time to ensure performance.
It is definitely in line with regional and international treaties aimed at directly addressing the problem of illicit SALW proliferation in West Africa.
No doubt, the establishment of the NCCSALW is a move in the right direction, but to achieve maximum impact it is expected to open up new regional and international cooperation and strengthen existing efforts.
In 2001, UN countries adopted the Programme of Action to Prevent, Combat and Eradicate the Illicit Trade in Small Arms and Light Weapons in All Its Aspects (PoA).
In the instrument, member states agreed to: to improve national small arms regulations; strengthen stockpile management; ensure that weapons are properly and reliably marked; improve cooperation in weapons tracing; and engage in regional and international cooperation and assistance.
According to the UN, one of the most important components in the fight against SALW proliferation is weapons tracing.
In 2005, the UN General Assembly adopted the International Tracing Instrument (ITI) within the PoA framework as a global instrument for cooperation in weapons tracing.
Improving weapons tracing is now part of the 2030 Agenda for SDG and it is expected that both instruments can be embedded to form a workable framework in tackling the challenge.
The task of providing institutional mechanisms for integrating all these treaties and agreements, as well as providing policy direction, research and monitoring now has therefore been assigned to the NCCSALW.
Hopefully, the discharge of its functions will lead to drastic reduction in national, sub-regional and regional proliferation SALW, which is, in turn, crucial to the decline in armed violence. (NANFeatures)
****If used, please credit the writer and the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN)