Kano State Commissioner of Police, Ibrahim Idris
By Michael Olugbode, Shuaibu Ibrahim and John Shiklam
The pace of illegal arms recovery by the security operatives since the dawn of the Boko Haram insurgency in northern Nigeria has been alarmingly high, according to feelers put out by security agents.
This signals that the country still has a surfeit of illicit arms. But THISDAY investigations have revealed that there is uncertainty regarding the custody of the recovered arms and ammunitions.
It was gathered that whereas security agencies have mopped up thousands of unlawful weapons being used by members of the Islamic terrorist sect and other perpetrators of crime in many parts of the North, particularly, Borno, Yobe, Kano, and Kaduna states, THISDAY checks revealed that the exact number of such weapons are not diligently tracked while a large chunk are also merely dumped at the weapon stores of the security agencies.
Security experts, however, say such arms ought to be destroyed or transferred to the Nigeria Police headquarters for proper documentation and investigation to ascertain the number and their source.
Destruction of the illegitimate weapons or their transfer to the police headquarters would also ensure they do not find their way back to the illegal possessors, the experts said.
A source at the Kano State Police Command headquarters, who craved anonymity because he was not authorised to speak on the matter, said, “We have hundreds of AK-47s recovered from gunmen in the past eight months while the ammunition figure is yet to be ascertained because they flow in all the time we arrest gunmen or recover them.
“They eventually end up as exhibits at the CID. Since I joined the Kano State Police Command three years ago, I have seen uncountable guns recovered and kept in the armoury unit of the command and I believe there was no attempt to destroy them or transfer them to the force headquarters.”
Kano State Commissioner of Police, Ibrahim Idris, confirmed that the command had recovered or detonated 963 improvised explosive devices (IEDs) at different locations in the state during the past eight months.
“From August 1 this year, the command was able to detonate a bomb at the Federal College of Education, Kano, and recover 10 undetonated explosives at Rijiyar Zaki, along Jambulo Estate. Four IEDs were recovered and detonated at the same Rijiyar Zaki on August 6 while another one was recovered at the Bayero University Kano,” Idris said.
The police commissioner said 10 rounds of ammunition, two pistols, one air rifle and nine double-barrelled guns were among arms recovered within one week, recently, in the state capital. Other items included three AK 47 riffles, 226 cartridges, 12 knives, 11 stolen vehicles and 45 rounds of ammunitions.
Arms recovery, according to sources in the state, has become a routine exercise, but uncertainty surrounds the keeping of the weapons.
It was gathered that the Joint Task Force – a combined police and military outfit – patrols have recovered caches of arms from operations carried out at black spots or in response to distress calls and intelligence.
A JTF source in Kano told THISDAY, “I don’t even know the number of guns and ammunition recovered during our operations in the last eight months, but I believe they are all in the barracks as exhibits.”
Declining to give the actual number of rifles recovered by either the police or the army, he added, “I am not in charge of the armoury, so it’s the duty of the command to keep this issue for security purposes.”
Deputy spokesman of the Kano State Police Command, Musa Magaji Majia, an Assistant Superintendent of Police, declined to make comments and referred our correspondent to the army spokesman.
But the Army spokesman in the state, Lt. Ikedichi Iweha, was not available for comments.
In Borno State, JTF spokesman, Lt. Col. Sagir Musa, said, “The cause of the proliferation of arms in the area is something the task force is also interested in knowing and would want everyone to assist it in knowing and this does not leave the journalists out as well.”
On the numbers of arms and ammunition recovered so far in the state, Musa said, “It will be difficult to give the number of arms and ammunitions recovered so far by the Joint Task Force offhand since it will require compilation from the record since its establishment years back and would definitely take time.”
He added that the record of arms and ammunition recovered was given to the appropriate authorities within the chain of military command.
The Kaduna State Police Command also said it had recovered hundreds of assorted weapons from suspected terrorists and armed robbers in the state in the past two years.
The weapons include AK47 rifles and locally made guns that were recovered and kept in the police armoury.
A source said most of the weapons, especially the AK47s, were smuggled into the country, as they are different from the ones used by the Nigerian security personnel.
He said the indiscriminate possession of sophisticated arms by criminals posed a serious problem for the police and other security agencies.
“In the last two years we have recovered hundreds of guns and other weapons from terrorists and armed robbers. I am not in a position to tell you precisely how many guns were recovered, but they are in hundreds.
“We have also recovered explosives, ammunition and bomb making equipment. All these are normally kept in the police armoury. Some of the guns, especially the AK47s that we recovered, are not the type we use in Nigeria, they smuggled them into the country and that is giving us a lot of concern,” the source said.
Proliferation of illegal weapons has remained a threat to peace and security in the continent, especially, the West African sub-region.
In July, the Chief of Army Standards and Evaluation, Major-General Shehu Abdulkadir, disclosed that 70 per cent of the about 10 million illegal weapons in West African were produced in Nigeria.
He gave the figure in Abuja in his paper titled, “The challenges of internal security and implications for national development,” at the 7th annual Ramadan lecture of Muslim Media Practitioners of Nigeria.
Abdulkadir said, “Out of approximately 500 million illicit weapons in circulation worldwide in 2004, it was estimated that about 100 million are in sub-Saharan Africa, with eight to 10 million concentrated in the West African sub-region. Regrettably, more than half of these Small Arms and Light Weapons are in the hands of non-state actors and criminal groups.
“Nigeria is both a producer and consumer of SALW in the West African sub-region. Although it is difficult to determine the exact quantity of illegal SALW circulating within or penetrating into Nigeria, it is estimated that over 70 per cent of eight to 10 million illegal weapons in West Africa are in Nigeria.”
Last month in Abuja, Nigeria and the Republic of Benin pledged to renew their commitment to the tackling of illegal trade in small arms and light weapons across their borders.
The Comptroller-General of Nigeria Customs Service, Alhaji Abdullahi Dikko, and his Beninois counterpart, Col. Soussia Theophile, made the promise during the latter’s two-day visit to Nigeria.