By Olukayode Thomas and Joke Kujenya 18 hours 32 minutes ago
Members of the dreaded insurgent group, Boko Haram, armed robbers and hired assassins have done great havoc with guns acquired illegally. Where are they coming from? OLUKAYODE THOMAS and JOKE KUJENYA examine the sources of illegal arms into the country
The ruins are still visible on the police zonal headquatres in Kano. The offices of the State Security Service (SSS) and the Nigerian Immigration Service (NIS) testify to the Boko Haram bombing and armed assaults of January 20. The wards of the Murtala Muhammed Specialist Hospital, Kano have been homes to many since the assaults. No fewer than 211 people died in the Kano attacks. Some are to be buried in unmarked mass graves because no one can recognize their bodies.
Since the Boko Haram gun and bomb attacks began, posers have been raised as to how the insurgent group gets its arms. While the sources of the bombs have been established to be largely home-based, it is not clear where the guns are coming from.
Experts are of the belief that they are both from within and without. According to official statistics, there are over two million guns in the hands of ordinary Nigerians, which ranked us 34 out of 178 countries where arms are outside official control. The security agencies have 600,000 firearms.
In a country where statistics and data are unreliable, the number of guns in individual hands could be more.
President Goodluck Jonathan, at the inauguration of the Customs Staff College and World Customs Organization Regional Training Centre in Abuja, spoke about the growing proliferation of small arms and light weapons in the country, which, he said, was contributing to insecurity. Jonathan told the Customs to police the borders well to stem the tide.
Recently, a lorry-load of arms and ammunition destined for Nigeria was intercepted and impounded in Ghana.
The Ghanaian authorities seized hundreds of pump action and double action guns as well as type AA and BB cartridges, among others. The arms were being shipped into Nigeria by Sunday Eze, Samuel Taiwo and two others.
The Deputy Commissioner of Police for Greater Accra Region, DCOP Rose Bio Atinga told reporters: “We acted on a tip-off by someone in the neighbourhood. We quickly dispatched our policemen. We went and found the vehicle at the location, it was empty.
“However, the police did due diligence; they entered the vehicle, inspected it and found that at the base of the vehicle were some items which looked suspicious. So, they confronted the driver and he opened up the items.
“To their dismay, they found arms and ammunition stashed at the base of the vehicle. We realised it was a huge quantity of AA and BB cartridges and pump action guns and double barrel guns.”
Nigeria’s High Commissioner to Ghana, Senator Musiliu Obanikoro’s revelation that the group revealed that they had made successful trips to Nigeria is disturbing.
Earlier in the month, a New York gun dealer, Gary Hyde, a specialist in illegal arms importation to Nigeria, met his waterloo. A Westminster Magistrate’s Court charged him with illegally supplying 32 million rounds of ammunition and tens of thousands of guns to be exported to Nigeria.
A judge at the British court said Hyde’s alleged offences were in connection with the supply of weaponry between China and Nigeria.
Hyde, 41, a former director of York Guns in Dunnington, was arrested in Las Vegas while attending SHOT Show, a massive sales event for firearms distributors, hunters and gun enthusiasts.
A Westminster Magistrate’s Court spokesman said Hyde was charged with shipping 80,000 rifles and pistols, 32 million rounds of ammunition, to Nigeria. The shipment reportedly included supplying and delivering 40,000 AK47 assault rifles, 30,000 rifles and 10,000 9mm pistols between March 2006 and December 2007, with the intention of evading a prohibition within the Trade in Goods Control Order 2003.
Hyde and Karl Kleber acted as middle men between Polish companies acting for their Nigerian buyers and Chinese companies; they were said to have been paid $1.3m (N351 million) for the deals.
Apart from arms importers, there are illegally locally manufactured guns. Some policemen have also been indicted for renting out guns to criminals.
Bauchi Police Commissioner Ikechukwu Aduba disclosed that the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) recovered from the suspects two firearms, ammunition fabricating apparatus, one oxygen gas cylinder, corrugated local implements for firearms/ammunition manufacture, three locally made berretta pistols and 27 rounds, 10 cartridges from suspects.
He said: “SARS first arrested Alhassan Mohammed for suspicion of being a notorious firearms dealer resident in Bauchi Township. Upon his arrest, he voluntarily confessed to having sold numerous locally made pistols at the rate of N60, 000 per piece. His confession led the team of detectives to arrest Gambo Mohammed who also confessed to establishing and operating a functional illegal firearms/ammunition enterprise, through which he supplied Alhassan Mohammed these lethal weapons for financial gain”’
Also, the Adamawa State Police Command recently arrested three police officers, including an Assistant Superintendent (ASP) and two inspectors for allegedly renting arms and ammunition from the police armoury to robbers.
They were alleged to have stolen different categories of arms and ammunition which they gave to robbers for certain amount of money for every operation they reportedly carried out.
Commissioner of Police, Mr. Adenrele Shinaba, told reporters that those arrested in connection with the large-scale stealing of arms and ammunition include a retired armourer, one ASP Abuna Mainasara, from Gombe State as well as Inspectors Daniel Eliphas and Abubakar Hali.
He added that the two serving officers had been dismissed from the force after undergoing orderly room trial, preparatory to being charged to court.
The arms recovered from the dismissed police officers include AK 47 rifles, 1,200 rounds of live ammunition and one empty magazine with which the rifles were said to have been rented out to the robbers at the rate of N200, 000 per operation.
A security operative, who does not want his name in print, blamed the proliferation of arms in the country on politicians. He said: “Our leaders take party politics as a do or die affair. I think this is one area that still has to be tackled toughly. How do we explain it if someone thinks he has the financial muscle to do things and he continues to provide arms for some reasons known only to him? How do we explain politicians settling scores using guns in the name of occupying seats by force? Now, for instance, have you ever asked yourself how the Niger-Delta boys sustained their force until the introuduction of the so-called amnesty which to me seems like a surrender on the part of our leaders to show that they cannot tackle them? To me, it was like acknowledging that we could not handle those boys because they were always armed-to-the-teeth. And you know as we have read in the papers, some of these things come through the high seas and we may not be able to rule it out that probably from there, they supply those they are meant to give them to. So, you are not out of line to wonder how we seem to have suddenly become something I could call ‘a terrorist state’. I’m sure you would have read that the developed nations have listed Nigeria among those they dubbed terrorist states. Now, most of the politicians who hire thugs during the elections and want to collect them back after the elections never know that it can’t be that easy. It’s like when you give a Monkey a cup of water and you later want to retrieve the cup. It’s not going to be an easy task. Hiring someone to use the weapons to get you into power is not then the issue; but to disarm them, that is where the problem lies after knowing what you did. Secondly, between elections, such people usually commit all kinds of atrocities that range from murder to armed robbery.”