Security operatives have expressed worry over the rising proliferation of small arms and light weapons in Plateau State, north-central Nigeria.
Commander of the Task Force, Major General Rogers Nicholas, made the declaration while parading some crime suspects at the Operation’s Headquarters in Jos, Plateau State capital.
He noted that the proliferation of weapons was a threat to the peace of the state which they have been working hard to restore.
Major General Nicholas disclosed that the 13 suspects were on parade for various offences ranging from unlawful possession of firearms, armed robbery and car snatching as well as buying and selling of hard drugs among others.
He said six members of an armed robbery gang were apprehended in Langtang, southern part of the state while a syndicate that specialises in the business of hard drugs were also arrested by officers of the task force during their routine operations.
However, the special task force in the state, code-named “Operation Safe Haven”, says it has put strategies in place to mop up such weapons.
The Commander expressed delight that the inter-agency collaboration between the Task Force and other security agencies has been yielding positive results in the fight against crime and urged the public to give relevant information.
He advocated for a review of the criminal justice administration which he said has been an impediment in dispensing justice as it concerns various arrests made by the task force.
The Economic Community for West African States, ECOWAS, in collaboration with the European Union and the United Nations Development Programme, UNDP, has launched a new fight against proliferation of small arms in West Africa.
The ECOWAS community, the European Union and United Nations delegations believe that recent surge in terrorism across West Africa can be reduced through this project.
According to the officials, this intervention is aimed at supporting efforts to maintain regional peace and stability which has been threatened recently by terrorism.
ECOWAS President, Kadre Ouedraogo, said that the project would strengthen similar initiatives within the West African region aimed at reducing proliferation of illegal arms.
It is one of several projects launched in recent times to curb the rising waves of terrorism and other crimes escalated by proliferation of illegal arms in the West African region.
The European Union in agreement with ECOWAS is putting over five million Euro into the project that would be managed by United Nations Development Programme, UNDP.
They are confident that if well managed, the project is capable of restoring peace and stability in the troubled regions of West Africa.
Some of the activities of the project would include raising community awareness on the dangers associated with the proliferation of small arms and armed violence in the region.
It would also strengthen security and encourage voluntary weapons surrender and collection in return for community based development projects.
The project is targeting six countries, including Nigeria, Niger, Mali and Liberia.
Government officials from ECOWAS member states and a delegation from the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) have demanded an urgent attention to the proliferation of small arms in the sub-region.
This was the focus of the talks on addressing the challenge during the meeting on small arms trade in Abuja on Wednesday, as top government officials from the 15 member states of ECOWAS converged in Abuja to prepare for the United Nations arms trade treaty negotiations scheduled for July this year..
The head of delegation of the ICRC, Zoran Jovanovic warned that the unregulated trade in arms is causing immense human suffering to countries and communities therefore it is now imperative that arms transfers be strictly regulated on a global level.
The meeting noted that influx of small arms into the West African sub-region is not about to decline anytime soon unless the trade is speedily regulated through the United Nations small arms trade treaty.
They also warned that the unregulated trade in arms will continue to spur conflicts and violence giving rise to human suffering and economic stagnation in the sub-region.
The meeting is crucial in ensuring that ECOWAS interests are adequately reflected in the arms trade treaty even as the sub region is grappling with spill over of arms from countries such as Libya and the recent coup d’état in Mali.
Going forward in identifying the challenges standing in the way of reducing the large number of small arms flooding the region, lack of political will by governments and financial gains from small arms trade were some of the identified hindrances among others.
While the speedy endorsement of the United Nations small arms trade treaty has been identified as a key element in fighting the proliferation of small arms, adopting the treaty is just a minor step, the meeting noted and called for more action.