The Nigerian Government has announced the creation of a National Centre for the Control of Small Arms and Light Weapons. The Centre will be domiciled in the Office of the National Security Adviser (NSA). In a statement issued on May 3, the NSA’s office announced that the Centre would replace the Presidential Committee on Small Arms and Light Weapons. The Centre will provide policy guidance and research on small arms and light weapons in Nigeria, with zonal offices in the six geopolitical zones. The statement also announced that the Centre will be headed by retired Major General A.M. Dikko. The illicit influx of arms and its spread across Nigeria is bewildering, with research by experts indicating that 6.5million small arms and light weapons are in circulation in Nigeria. Out of this number, 586,000 are said to be in the hands of law enforcement agents, while over 5 million are in the possession of non-state actors.
It will be recalled that member states of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) adopted the ECOWAS Convention on Small Arms and Light Weapons, their Ammunition and other Related Materials on June 14, 2006, to check the proliferation of small arms and light weapons in West Africa, with a view to tracking and combatting illicit circulation of such weapons. The Convention seeks to promote the establishment of a regional database of arms, enhance weapons control at border posts, review and harmonise legislation and administrative procedures governing small arms, as well as the destruction of surplus and unauthorised weapons. Among other things, the Convention seeks to promote a culture of peace and facilitate education and public awareness on the issues of small arms and light weapons. The Convention also provides for institutional arrangements to implement its provisions, including the establishment of National Commissions and National Action Plans, reinforcement of state security forces and promotion of sub-regional co-operation and partnership with civil society. It was pursuant to this that several bills have been introduced at the National Assembly, since the 7th Assembly with the most recent bills introduced in the House of Representatives in 2018 and in the Senate in 2020, seeking to establish an independent National Commission against the proliferation of small arms and light weapons. However, instead of an independent Commission, the Muhammadu Buhari-led administration has established a Centre under the NSA to tackle the issue of small arms. This is contrary to the ECOWAS Convention, which provides that the Commissions be independent in their operations and funding.