James Emejo in Abuja
A Director of Operations in the Department of State Security (DSS ), Godwin N. Eteng, has said some unscrupulous individuals in the armed forces and other security agencies engaged in the sale of small arms, a development which had further compounded the security situation in the country.
Speaking when he appeared before the House of Representatives Joint Committee on Customs and Excise and National Intelligence investigating the â€œfrightening influx of small arms and light weapons into the country, he lamented that there are currently persons with criminal records in the security services.
He said:â€Some agencies have over a period of time recruited people who were before cultists and armed robbers and are now wearing uniforms.
â€œAnd the question is- are we doing enough checks on our people who were recruited into security services?
â€œLike we had a situation where in one of the armouries belonging to one of the armed forces, how many pistols just got missing with quantities of ammunition and all the pistols were new.
â€œIn the armoury, no place was broken into, but the weapons were missing. And weâ€™re interested in knowing what happened?â€
He also disclosed that some states are not helping matters when it comes to the incidence of the proliferation of small arms and light weapons.
He indicted states including Nasarawa, Benue, Taraba, Plateau as entities which are conduits for trafficking of small arms and light weapons which are being used to fuel ethnic crises in some regions of the country.
According to him,Â herdsmen from Senegal, Gambia and especially Central Africa come into the country through illegal borders carrying Ak 47 rifles.
Eteng,Â however,Â recommended targeted legislations on prohibited firearms, more extensive vetting of those recruited into the security agencies, the release of funds for logistics for border patrol personnel. electronic manning of and deployment of cameras at borders, review of crisis management at Local Government levels as a way forward.
He said:â€When we did our studies, we discovered that three- quarter of the arms used to cause the crises in Southern Kaduna, in Zamfara and Plateau States, are coming from the following states: Nassarawa, Benue, Taraba and Plateau states.
â€œWe found out that if you can carry out serious operations to affect the supplies which are coming from these areas, it will seriously limit part of what is happening there,â€ he explained.
He said within the last one and a half months â€œWe have conducted more than 27 operations and arrested more than 30 persons involved in the supply of arms and ammunition and some of them are serving security men.â€
He,Â further disclosed that seven tactical teams are conducting the operation to apprehend culprits associated with the nefarious act, an operation which according to him is ongoing.
Giving further reasons for the influx of illegal arms into the country,
He said communal clashes, terrorism, kidnapping, herdsmen/ farmers clashes, political thuggery, militancy, cultism and criminal gangs had combined to create a constant demand for arms in the country.
However,Â a Deputy Comptroller of Nigeria Customs Service, Damgaiadinga Aminu Abubakar who represented the Comptroller- General of Customs, Hameed Ali disclosed that while there are 1,100 illegal borders in the country, only 97 are approved border posts and lamented the dearth of the necessary equipment needed to stem the flow of weapons into the country.
He said 2,671 pump action rifles have been seized from January 2017 to date. The Customs personnel found culpable in the import of 661 pump action rifles have been dismissed from service and handed over to the Department of State Service for prosecution.
He lamented that lack of operational vehicles, fast-moving boats, cutting-edge technology and advanced scanning machines at airports, seaports and border points are limiting the effectiveness of the service.
Also, he said there is inadequate welfare for personnel, as some personnel live in deplorable conditions, hostilities by the border communities form part of the factors militating against the service.
Abubakar advocated adequate funding for the Service in a timely manner to allow for operational activities.
The Chairman of the Committee, Biodun Faleke (APC Lagos) however took the DSS to task over Vigilantes that are being armed by state governments with pump action rifles. According to him, the DSS should be more proactive in saving the citizens from the abuse of arms by the governors and ensure that whatever arms procured are properly acquired to avoid abuse.
The House had during plenary, mandated its Committees on Customs and Excise to invite the Nigeria Customs Service and Director of State Security to brief the House on comprehensive plans to rid the country of the menace of small arms and light weapons.