- Nigeria to chair ATT conference in Geneva in August
By Senator Iroegbu in Abuja
The increasing spate of armed struggle and militancy championed by the Niger Delta Avengers (NDA) has been blamed on poor implementation of the Presidential Amnesty Programme (PAP) and proliferation of Small Arms and Lights Weapons (SALW) in the country.
This was disclosed in Abuja at the weekend by the Chairman, Presidential Committee on Small Arms and Light Weapons (PRESCOM), Emmanuel Imohe, during the inter-ministerial roundtable on the Arms Trade Treaty (ATT) in Nigeria organised in collaboration with West African Action Network on Small Arms and Light Weapons (WAANSA) and Control Arms Coalition.
Imohe raised the alarm that Nigeria is awash with SALW and that the implementation of the amnesty programme was poorly carried out while the militancy return knocked out weapons in exchange for funds with which might have likely used to purchase more sophisticated arms.
He said while PAP initiative was a right move, its execution did not align with the spirit and letter of its initiators.
“Something is wrong with the implementation of the Amnesty Programme so that the spirit does not tally with the letter of the programme. There is no congruent in the two, and I pray that as the things stand in the Niger Delta, government does not allow the crisis to degenerate further.
“Anybody who wants to resolve the security situations in this country must first of all mop up the weapons so that these groups do not have access to them. The country is awash with small arms and light weapons. So it is important for us as a country to put up a system that can help mop up the weapons in circulation,” he stated.
Speaking further, Imohe, who is the President of second Conference of State Parties (CSP2) of ATT coming up in August this year in Geneva, Switzerland, urged African countries to ratify the treaty.
He frowned at the poor level of ratification of the treaty by African countries despite the fact that the region is bearing the highest burden of the consequences of the unregulated trade on arms.
According to him, no Arab and North African country have ratified the treaty, saying it does not portray good signal for Africa as “small arms are the continents Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD“It is important for us to embrace the ATT and to know that Africa will be the most beneficial and that’s why we compelled them at the discussion leading to the ATT for the SALW to be included. Small arms is what has been killing our people. It is our weapons of mass destruction and that is why I said ATT is a significant addition to all the efforts against arms proliferation.”
Presently, he said, 130 countries are signatories to the treaty, out of which 86 countries have been ratified including 18 from Africa with 16 signatories.
Imohe however highlighted that resource constraint is most likely to be a contributing factor for the low rate of participation of African countries in the implementation of ATT, adding that: “Exploring the platform of the Regional Economic Community (RECs) in Africa to enlist the participation of African countries in the ATT implementation was critical in view of their active participation in canvassing the African position during the ATT negotiations.”
In the same vein, the President of WAANSA-Nigeria, Mr. Dickson Orji, reiterated the importance of ATT especially when considered within the context of the grave impacts of illicit SALWs proliferation in Africa.
Orji noted that an effective implementation of the ATT would help in curtailing illicit SALWs proliferation thereby decreasing the prevalence of instability and threats to international peace and security.
He further emphasised the universality of ATT is very crucial, thus Africa should practically be in the forefront towards achieving it in view of the immense advantages.
According to him, Africa’s presidency of the CSP2 and the interim head of the ATT Secretariat should serve as platforms to be explored to galvanise more enlistment of African countries as state parties of ATT.
Orji further noted that the implementation of the treaty in West Africa in general and Nigeria in particular has remained a crucial issue of discussion.
At the meeting of the round table, the chairman of PRESCOM who is also the president of CSP2 of the ATT was urged to continue engaging critical stakeholders both in government, legislature and CSOs towards an effective implementation of the ATT and other arms control instruments in Nigeria.
PRESCOM was also urged to engage critical government stakeholders especially the heads of the defence, security and intelligence institutions in the country to ensure that they always explore regional and sub-regional platforms to promote international arms control instruments such as the ATT.