Elections, the violent strugle for political office, poverty, campus cult’s rivalry, oil bunkering, unemployment, lack of basic amenities and illegal activities are some of the reasons for the spread of these arms. The increasing circulations of arms within the region have prompted ECOWAS to react with its Convention on SALW. With the recent entry into force of the Arms Trade Treaty (ATT) the international community at large has also recognised the issue. Corresponding to the increasing demand for political discourse on ways how to stem the the proliferation of arms in the region, the Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung (FES) organised a debate on the 25th September 2013.
This debate brought together stakeholders from United Nations Regional Centre for Peace and Disarmament in Africa (UNREC), the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), the diplomatic corps, Academia, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Nigeria Customs Service, Civil Society Organisations (CSOs), National Defence College Students, Economic and Financial Crimes Commissions (EFCC), Journalists and the media.
A welcome address was given by Mr. Felix Henkel, the Regional Coordinator of the Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung who introduced Mr. Marco Kalbusch, Director, United Nations Regional Center for Peace and Disarmament in Africa (UNREC) who gave a brief insight into the proliferation of arms in the region. The proceedings were chaired by Mr. Dickson Orji, Head of the West African Action Network on Small Arms (WAANSA). The panellists were Rodger Glokpor, a consultant from Togo, Prof. Bonaventure d’Oliveira, President of the National Commission on Small Arms in Benin, Prof. Augustine Ikelegbe, Professor from University of Benin, Nigeria and Mr. Cyriaque Agnekethom, Head of the ECOWAS Small Arms Division.
The ensuing discussion centred on local arms production as a form of livelihood and the increasing purchase of locally produced arms and sophisticated arms in the region. The increasing circulation of arms from post conflict countries to another Member States was a worrisome concern. Further discussions were focused on harmonisation of National laws on SALW, border control by professional immigration officers and security agencies and a necessary joint border control by Member States could help curb the proliferations of arms. Practical difficulties to prohibit local production through establishing a legal binding regulatory bodies were highlighted. It was established that the sponsors of arms trafficking can be traced to political party leaders, politicians, cultists groups, community heads etc. The need to include citizens in the process of SALW management was seen as a constructive way forward.
Apart from the challenges of poor data collation, the where about of retrieved arms from militants and political thugs, cultists and the sponsors of the arms production was also a concern. From a legal standpoint, further need to study the complementarity of regional and global compacts was identified.