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Ayade blames high crime rate in Cross River on arms proliferation

The Cross River State governor, Ben Ayade, has attributed the high rate of crime in the state to 33 illegal routes which, he said, became a veritable source of arms into the state.

The governor made this known in Calabar, the state capital, during the flag-off of arms destruction exercise in the state.

The programme was organised by the European Union/ECOWAS, LITE Africa alongside the Presidential Committee on Small Arms and Light Weapons (PRESCOM).

Ayade said with the collapse of the Muammar Gadaffi regime in Libya, young men/women who were with him started migrating downwards from North Africa.

“As this persisted, the choice/option of the use of weapons to secure a means of livelihood became imperative to them,” the governor said.

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“Different religions/ethnic colourations of these young men who became radicalised and militarised took different forms, names from Boko Haram to bandits to kidnappers and so social habits and people changed psychologically,” he said.

Ayade said this development became accelerated with increased levels of poverty and a lot of them migrated to the riverine areas.

“Cross River became a prime target and this became accelerated with the Ambazonia conflict. The 33 illegal routes into the state became a veritable source for the harvest of arms,” he said.

About 260 arms and 5,510 ammunition were recovered and scheduled to be destroyed as part of the programme.

The governor commended the Operation AKPAKWU for their drive to secure the state and expressed optimism that with the recovery and destruction of these arms, the people of the state can now sleep in peace.

In his remarks, Joel Bisina of LITE-AFRICA, on behalf of the ECOWAS-EU, said the proliferation of arms has a devastating effect on Nigeria and the West Africa region.

He said the programme is aimed at addressing the peace and security challenges of West Africa.

“One cannot underestimate the dangers of illicit proliferation of small arms, light weapons and the negative impacts they have on peace and stability of our community,” Bisina said.

“In Nigeria, the commercial transaction in small arms and light weapons has been on the increase since the end of the civil war. LITE-AFRICA, PRESCOM with the support of EU/ECOWAS is working to strengthen efforts at preventing proliferation and trafficking of small arms and light weapons in Nigeria,” he said.

The Nigerian component of ECOWAS-EU under the current pilot phase focuses on seven states of Kaduna, Katsina, Kebbi, Sokoto and Zamfara in the North West and Cross River and Akwa Ibom in while South-South.

As part of the programme, about 150 repentant militants from Cross River State will benefit from the Alternative Livelihood Project of the Programme.

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