Government should codify the policy into law to elicit the confidence of the public

In a bid to throw the spotlight on illicit gun ownership and control in the country, the federal government announced recently that it has started drawing up rules for a whistle-blower mechanism. Aimed at preventing and eradicating illegal ownership of small arms and light weapons, this is without a doubt, an urgent and necessary initiative given that violent strife and crimes have been exacerbated by the huge quantum of illicit arms in the country. It is an idea we endorse and which we hope would be pursued vigorously.

It is noteworthy that we have several times on this page drawn the attention of the authorities to the growing influx and menace of Small Arms and Light Weapons (SALWs) and the urgent need to address the proliferation that has posed a clear and present danger to the security of the nation. Indeed, available statistics paint a grim picture of a disaster waiting to happen. And the pity is that, until now, the response from the authorities has been too lackadaisical to inspire hope that gun-running would be effectively brought under control anytime soon.

A recent document revealed that out of the 857 million small arms and light weapons in the world, 500 million were illegal with 100 million found in sub- Saharan Africa. About 7.5 per cent of that is in Nigeria. This damning figure was confirmed by the findings at a National Consultation on Physical Security and Stockpile Management in Abuja.
With a whopping 7.5 per cent of Africa’s illegal arms and 70 per cent of the West African sub-region’s SALWs, 90 per cent of which are in the hands of non-state actors, it is no surprise that there is so much strife in the country. With sundry criminal gangs creating territories for themselves, either in the guise of religion or militancy or the kidnappers that now target schools, the retention of these arms in the hands of non-state actors is one luxury the country can no longer afford. In the circumstances, the federal government has the responsibility to take concrete steps to retrieve these arms and put in place wholesome measures to block further infiltration of SALWs to the country, mostly through our porous borders.

The whistle-blower policy that would enable citizens who have knowledge of the existence of illicit arms to report to the authorities without any risk to their life is, in our view, a step in the right direction. The emerging success of this policy in the current administration’s fight against corruption can only be a pointer to the immense possibilities of a positive outcome in a similar war against illicit arms.

We must, however, caution that, for the policy to achieve its objective, it should be firmly rooted. Policy by its nature is essentially an administrative tool of governance, which is subject to the whims and vagaries of the men of power. As it is therefore usual, especially in our clime, few citizens repose sufficient confidence in it, knowing full well that it’s largely a transient and expedient instrument for governance.

We recommend, therefore, that the policy be codified into law to make it a more secured tool of fighting the menace that threatens the peace and stability of the nation. The executive will have to seek the cooperation of the legislature on that. There must also be guarantees for the security of such whistle-blowers. This, we believe, would give the citizens the confidence to step forward and expose the harbingers of evil who live among us.

The emerging success of the whistle-blower policy in the current administration’s fight against corruption can only be a pointer to the immense possibilities of a positive outcome in a similar war against illicit arms