UN Blames Arms Proliferation in West Africa on Archaic Laws

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Adedayo Akinwale in Abuja
The United Nations Regional Centre for Peace and Disarmament in Africa (UNREC) yesterday blamed the proliferation of illicit  arms in West Africa on archaic laws currently being used by the countries in the region  to tackle arms and ammunition trafficking.

It added that the various legal systems and national laws in different African countries tend to inhibit regional progress in illicit trafficking.

The UNREC Director, Ms. Olatokunbo Ige, made this known in Abuja at the Experts Meeting on ‘Improving Cross-Border Sub-Regional Co-operation in Small Arms and Light Weapons (SALW) under Existing Regional and Sub-regional Instruments’.

 She noted that the issue of diversion and illicit transfers of weapons to non-state actors, including armed groups, terrorists and networks of criminals, remain a major challenge in the fight against their illegal and abusive use, stressing that the transfers are not specific to any given territory and are not limited by states borders.

 According to Ige, “Despite global framework implemented by several policy and legal binding instruments at the global and regional levels regulating the control of small and light weapons, the Sahel continues to be confronted with the destabilising effects of the widespread proliferation and availability of arms and ammunition from within the region and beyond. This negative phenomenon weighs heavily on the security of populations in the region.”

She stressed that the UN has therefore followed a coherent and holistic approach to counter the menace in a terrorism context, with a project entitled ‘Implementation of UN Security Council Resolution 2174 (2014) by  the capacities of States in Africa to prevent the acquisition of arms and ammunition by terrorists or terrorists groups.”

The UN director emphasised that since Boko Haram insurgents are increasingly operating beyond the Nigerian borders, the project would be piloted in Boko Haram affected countries of the Lake Chad Basin-Cameroun, Nigeria, Chad and Niger.

Ige explained that despite the fact that judicial and legal cooperation at the national and international levels is a topic which is not often addressed and analysed by practitioners and experts working in the arms control sector, she revealed that it  was an important part of this comprehensive approach.

Ige said it related to the unresolved question of how to bring perpetrators, often operating in cross-border and cross-region scenarios to justice and how to prevent further illicit transactions through knowledge exchange as well as precedent setting. “In many African countries, trafficking is currently dealt with under several archaic laws; Customs and Excise Acts, Firearms Acts and State security Acts,” she stated.

In her remarks, ECOWAS Commissioner of Political Affairs, Peace and Security, Mrs. Halima Ahmed, said the regional body had advanced in the establishment and strengthening of National Commissions on SALW, their ammunition and other related materials.

She regretted that “except for Nigeria, all the member states have functional National Commissions on Small Arms,” while urging the country to do same.
On his part, the Ambassador of Switzerland to Nigeria, Dr. Daniel Cavegn, said the availability of SALW fuels the cultures of violence and undermines the security and stability of states and the entered region.