• Monday, July 22, 2024
businessday logo

BusinessDay

Weapons smuggling surge raises fresh security concerns

smuggling of weapons

The surging cases of smuggling of arms and ammunition into the country through the nation’s seaports and airports have raised fresh security concerns in the country.

There are increased security fears among Nigerians, heightened by the repeated interceptions of a cache of arms and ammunition by the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) and other security agencies in the nation’s border stations.

An SBM Intelligence report in 2021 estimated that there were 6.2 million arms in the hands of civilians, mainly smuggled. But since 2021, arms seizures have grown sporadically.

Soldiers and other security agents intercepted 385,079 firearms and ammunition in 12 months to May 2023, according to a report by the joint security forces. The military also seized 66, 692 firearms between January and April 2024. There have been hundreds of weapons seizures and interceptions by the Nigerian Customs Service (NCS).

According to analysts, the recent upsurge in illegal importation of dangerous weapons is not unconnected to issues of insecurity, including political unrest, kidnapping, terrorism, killings and banditry that have been rampaging the country.

Read also: FEC okays $1.442m to procure ammunition for NDLEA

Tony Anakebe, a maritime industry analyst, said the smuggling of arms and ammunition has become a trend for Nigeria’s political class who fortify their members with weapons to execute violence during or after elections.

He said there have been several political-related killings and assassinations in the country.

Anakebe expressed worry that smuggled arms usually end up in the hands of unauthorised persons, which explains the increasing rate of arms bearing in the country today.

Nigeria, Africa’s most populous nation, has been battling with challenges of insurgencies, banditry and terrorism by Boko Haram and other unpatriotic groups.

The activities of these militia groups have not only added to the security challenge experienced in Nigeria but also resulted in high levels of poverty and food scarcity.

BusinessDay reported that last week that the NCS intercepted 55 pieces of unassembled semi-automatic shotguns imported from Turkey at the Murtala Muhammed Airport in Lagos.

The illegal imports included military accoutrements such as drones, ballistic vests, helmets, walkies and talkies among other items with duty paid value of N1.56 billion.

According to Adewale Adeniyi, comptroller general of Customs, the analysis of the seizure indicates that some unscrupulous Nigerians based in Turkey are purchasing, packaging and exporting illicit arms to Nigeria.

He said intelligence further revealed that such individuals are exploring new frontiers to perpetrate their nefarious activities.

This comes 48 hours after the Port Harcourt Area II Command of Customs intercepted a cache of arms comprising 844 riffles and 112,500 rounds of ammunition in Onne Port.

Adeniyi said the items with a duty paid value of N4.1 billion were concealed among doors, furniture, plumbing fittings, and leather bags in a 40-foot container from Turkey.

The Customs boss said such illegal imports, if allowed into the country, could threaten national security and public safety.

“Some importers are licensed to bring in firearms for the government. Those who are not officially licensed but continue to bring in such items into the country are breaking the law. They are the smugglers,” said Jonathan Nicole, immediate past president of the Shippers Association of Lagos State.

He said smugglers spend time in finding shortcuts to mess up the government’s import policies.

Nicole advised the government to make public the approved firearms importers and approved items in their import license.

“Nigeria is a peaceful country and should not be turned into a battleground by overzealous politicians. It is not ruled out that the recent upsurge in importation of dangerous weapons is due to the prevalence of insecurity in the country,” he said.

Commending the Nigeria Customs for their recent proactive results in impounding dangerous weapons, he said Nigeria’s security agencies must be united to protect the country.

Nigeria is confronted with countless security challenges that come in various forms.

Just last week, a suspected female suicide bomber killed at least 18 people in Borno State in coordinated attacks targeted at a wedding, a funeral and a hospital.

The insurgency in Nigeria has led to the killing of over 35,000 people, displaced 2.6 million others and created a humanitarian crisis in northeast Nigeria.

Abdulsamad Dasuki, a member of the House of Representatives, has asked President Bola Tinubu to sack all security appointees for failing to meet Nigerians’ expectations.

Dasuki said this during a debate on a motion condemning the recent suicide bombing in Borno State.

The lawmakers wondered why nobody has been made a scapegoat for the challenging security trend in the country.

“In the last year, no one has been sacked. It is high time we held people responsible. It is high time we found a scapegoat, which is justifiable. These guys have not lived up to expectations.

“Every day, we have two or three security-related issues. We can call on the president to sack all security political appointees. All of them have been in the position for 10 months,” he said.

Meanwhile at the weekend, Afenifere, a pan-Yoruba socio-political organisation, called for a review of the country’s security architecture.

Jare Ajayi, national publicity secretary of Afenifere, said the government must enforce the Terrorism Prevention (Amendment) Act, 2013.

The group frowned at the failure of the government to prosecute five Nigerians mentioned by the United Arab Emirates (UAE) around 2022 as sponsors of terrorism.