Where Are the Missing Firearms?

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Acting on a report from the Auditor-General’s office, the House of Representatives is determined to find over 178,459 arms and ammunition reportedly missing from the Nigeria Police Armoury, writes Udora Orizu

At the plenary last week, the House of Representatives resolved to investigate the missing 178,459 arms and ammunition in the Nigeria Police Force as contained in the 2019 report of the Auditor General for the Federation (AuGF).

The worsening insecurity in Nigeria, evident in terrorism, insurgency, kidnapping, communal clashes, armed robbery and so on, provide enough evidence that small and illicit arms are circulating in abundance. In Nigeria, the proliferation of small arms and light weapons is a problem that has been with us for a long time. The influx of these lethal weapons have brought about more heinous crimes, challenges to law enforcement agencies and availability of weapons for insurgents. Aside the lingering terrorism, they also help to explain the spate of armed robberies across the country and number of recovered arms from robbers by security agents. Arms proliferation dates back to the Nigerian Civil War. At the end of the war there was no comprehensive disbandment protocol and demobilisation programme implemented thus the post-civil war era marked the spread of illicit weapons.

However, the war was just one of the factors that led to proliferation. Another factor is arms smuggling, there have been deep concerns over the influx of firearms across the country attributed to the country’s porous borders and corruption by the agencies manning them. For instance, in October 2010 Nigeria’s Secret Service, reportedly intercepted the shipment of 13 containers filled with rocket launchers, grenades and other explosives and ammunition. The cargo was said to be on its way to Gambia and had begun its journey from a port in Iran. Another is the reported interception and seizure of a consignment of pump action rifles alleged to have originated from China through Turkey, along the Mile 2 – Apapa Road, Lagos by the operatives of Nigeria Customs Service (NCS). Also, the Tin-Can Customs Command of NCS in December of last year said it’s officers intercepted a container suspected to contain firearms and ammunition. Another instance is the discovery of an illegal arms factory in Agbada, Nenwe in Aninri Local Government Area of Enugu State during the first quarter of 2011 by the State Security Service, Enugu State Command. Also, in 2020, the police said at least 1,889 weapons and 52,577 rounds of live ammunition were recovered between January and December 2021.

While the Comptroller- General of Customs, Hameed Ali lamented that the porous borders and dearth of necessary equipment is a challenge to stemming the flow of weapons into the country, President Muhammadu Buhari worried by the frightening trend, recently said only God could “effectively supervise” Nigeria’s 1,400km border with Niger Republic.

The most worrisome factor which also account for the widespread circulation of arms, is theft from security agencies armories or claims of selling of arms by security agents.

In 2017, Directorate of State Service, (DSS) stunned members of the House of Representatives Joint Committee on Customs and Excise and National Intelligence with the revelation that some bad elements in security agencies were involved in the sale of small arms to bandits in the country.

It also noted that security agencies do not do enough checks on those they recruit, saying the agencies were flooded with former armed robbers and cultists, who have turned out to be the bad eggs in the system.

At the hearing also, both the DSS and Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) accused politicians and some states of stockpiling arms ahead of 2019 general election. The two agencies also claimed that Nasarawa, Benue, Taraba and Plateau states have had the highest presence. According to the DSS, the arms, classified as small and light weapons, were already being used by some individuals to perpetrate violence in parts of the country.

Director of Operations in DSS, Mr Godwin Eteng, who made the revelation while addressing the lawmakers said: “Some agencies have over a period of time recruited people who were cultists and armed robbers before and are now wearing uniforms. The question is, are we doing enough checks on our people who were recruited into security services? Like 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. In the armoury, no place was broken into, but the weapons were missing.”

But the Police in a swift reaction, said its personnel were not involved in such unwholesome act, saying they had been doing a lot in battling armed robbers and kidnappers in all parts of the country.

With the worsening state of security in the country, the recent AuGF report of missing arms from Police armoury has again raised concerns across the polity, as it is believed that those arms could have found their way into the wrong hands. This situation is very frightening, raising serious questions about the security of lives and property in the country.

The Audit Report

The Office of the Auditor General of the Federation last year disclosed that about 178,459 different types of arms and ammunition got missing from the Police armory in 2019 without any trace or formal report on their whereabouts.

The AuGF attributed the “anomalies” to “weaknesses in the internal control system at the Nigeria Police Force Armament.”

He listed the risks to include mishandling of firearms and the arms getting to the wrong hands; conversion of firearms to illegal use; and loss of government funds.

Of the figure, the details showed that 88,078 AK-47 rifles, 3,907 assorted rifles and pistols from different formations nationwide could not be accounted for as at January 2020.

Details of the missing arms were contained in pages 383 to 391 of the Auditor General for the Federation annual report on non-compliance, internal control weaknesses issues in Ministries, Departments and Agencies of the federal government of Nigeria for the year ended 31st December 2019, submitted to the National Assembly.

Referenced AuGF/AR.2019/02, the report dated 15th September 2021 and signed by the Auditor General of the Federation, Adolphus Aghughu was addressed to the Clerk to the National Assembly.

The report also accused the headquarters of the Nigeria Police Force of lacking comprehensive details of unserviceable weapons, fearing that such could fall into some unauthorized hands for illegal use.

The report stated that the action contravenes paragraph 2603 of the Financial Regulations which stipulates that in the event of any loss of stores, the officer in charge of the store in which the loss occur shall report immediately to the head of department or unit but not later than three days, by the fastest means possible if the loss occurs away from headquarters.

The reports stated thus “Audit observed from the review of Arms Movement Register, Monthly Returns of Arms and Ammunition and Ammunition Register at the Armoury section that a total number of lost firearms as reported as at December 2018 stood at 178,459 pieces. Out of this number, 88,078 were AK-47 rifles, 3,907 assorted rifles and pistols across different police formations which could not be accounted for as at January 2020. Formal report on the loss of firearms through dully completed Treasury Form 146 (loss of stores) were not presented for examination. Records obtained from force armament at the Force headquarters showed 21 Police Mobile Force (PMF) Squadron, Abuja did not report a single case of missing firearm, whereas, schedule of missing arms obtained from the same
PMF showed a total number of 46 missing arms between year 2000 and February 2019. The value of the lost firearms could not be ascertained because no document relating to their cost of acquisition was presented for examination.

“The above anomalies could be attributed to weaknesses in the internal control system at the Nigeria Police Force Armament. Several numbers of firearms from the review of Arm Issue Register, monthly returns of arms and ammunition obtained from Force Armament, Force headquarters for various States Commands, Formations, Zonal offices, Training Institutions, squadrons and physical inspection of firearms and ammunition at the Force Headquarters have become unserviceable and dysfunctional. Similarly, returns were not submitted by some Police Training Institutions and some Formations, and Physical verification of firearms and ammunition at the Force Armament, Force Headquarters showed large quantity of damaged and obsolete firearms which needed to be destroyed. The damaged and obsolete firearms and ammunition should be treated in line with Financial Regulations 2618 which requires the destruction to be carried out in such a manner as to render the firearms unusable for their original purpose.”

In the same vein, the Auditor General also queried the Police Force hierarchy for award of contracts without evidence of project execution.

It added that 10 contracts worth N1,136,715,200.00 were awarded to a single proprietor in the name of different companies with details of the three companies as the same.

“The three companies did not disclose their relationship in accordance with the fundamental principles of procurement as required by extant regulations,” it stated.

The report also indicted the Police Force for paying the sum of N924.985 million for 11 contracts involving construction of three units of Gunshot Spotter System, supply of f50 units of Ballistic Roller Trolley and 20 units of Ballistic Mobile Surveillance House in some selected Commands and Formations without evidence of project execution.

The report therefore asked the Inspector General of Police to provide details of the expenditure to the Public Accounts Committee of both the Senate and House of Representatives of the National Assembly and account for the funds as well as answer to other irregularities.

House to Investigate the Query

Resuming plenary after its Christmas break, members of the House of Representatives, last week resolved to look into the matter, in a bid to uncover the whereabout of the arms and the culprits involved.

The lawmakers also called on the Inspector General of Police, Usman Alkali Baba to take urgent actions to apprehend those culpable for the depletion of the armoury of the Nigeria Police Force.

The resolutions of the House were sequel to the adoption of a motion of urgent public importance sponsored by the Deputy Minority Leader, Hon. Toby Okechukwu (PDP, Enugu).

However while the Auditor General asked the Inspector General of Police to provide details of the expenditure to the Public Accounts Committee of both the Senate and House of Representatives, the House mandated one of its adhoc committee to look into the matter.

Okechukwu had while moving the motion prayed that the House mandate the Committee on Public Accounts to establish the veracity of those allegations and conduct due diligence of the control processes of the armoury of the Nigeria Police Force; and report back to the House within four weeks.

The Deputy Minority Leader, cited the the 2019 report from the Office of the Auditor General of the Federation on alleged disappearance of the 178,459 different arms and ammunition.

He said the House was aware of the findings in the report that the Police High Command failed to keep record of unserviceable and expired firearms and ammunition; owing to non-compliance to the internal control system of the Nigeria Police Force.

He expressed concerns that the value of the lost firearms could not be ascertained because no document relating to their cost of acquisition was presented for examination.

The lawmaker, pointing out that Nigeria did not undertake any war in recent times, worries that with the worsening state of security, kidnapping and banditry in the country, the missing arms could have found their way into the wrong hands.

Okechukwu said, “Also Aware that records of the total number of unserviceable firearms were not produced for examinations and there were no returns from Adamawa State Command, Police Mobile Force (PMF) 46, 56, 64 and 68 for the period under review. Alarmed that dully completed Treasury Form 146 (loss of stores) were not presented. Records obtained from force armament at Force Headquarters showed 21 Police Mobile Force (PMF) Squadron, Abuja did not report a single case of missing firearm, whereas schedule of missing arms obtained from the same PMF showed a total of 46 missing arms between year 2000 and February 2019.”

Shortly after moving the motion, the Deputy Speaker of the House, Hon. Ahmed Wase proposed an amendment to the prayer of the motion clarifying that an Ad-Hoc Committee already chaired by Hon. Abubakar Fulata was recently constituted by the House with the mandate of handling a similar case.

He advocated that the motion should be consolidated with that referral and the Ad-Hoc Committee should be allowed to take this motion under its purview, as there is a high sense of culpability by officers of the security apparatus in this case.

But, the Chairman of Public Accounts Committee, Hon. Wole Oke reacting said since the report originated from the Auditor General’s office, it is right for his Committee to be involved in the investigation.

The Speaker of the House, Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila while acknowledging Oke’s view, however said that the Ad-Hoc Committee was constituted to handle a similar issue, and it would be foolhardy not to let them undertake this mandate, pending of course; a vote by the House to rescind the earlier resolution that constituted the Ad hoc Committee.

Consequently, adopting the motion as amended, the House mandated the Ad-hoc committee set up in December 2021, to investigate the allegations bothering on the constant release of bandits and kidnappers arrested and handed over to the Police authorities by communities and other security agencies across the country, to carryout out the investigation.

The adhoc committee is to report back within four weeks for further legislative action.

QUOTE

The Office of the Auditor General of the Federation last year disclosed that about 178,459 different types of arms and ammunition got missing from the Police armory in 2019 without any trace or formal report on their whereabouts. Of the figure, the details showed that 88,078 AK-47 rifles, 3,907 assorted rifles and pistols from different formations nationwide could not be accounted for as at January 2020