•’Only 97 borders manned out of 1,100’
Some bad eggs in the armed forces and security agencies are selling arms and worsening the country’s security challenges, Department of State Services (DSS) Director of Operations Godwin Eteng has said.
“Some agencies have over a period of time recruited people who were before cultists and armed robbers and are now wearing uniforms.
“And the question is: are we doing enough checks on our people who were recruited into security services?
“Like we had a situation where in one of the armories belonging to one of the armed forces, how many pistols just got missing with quantities of ammunition and all the pistols were new.
“In the armoury, no place was broken into, but the weapons were missing. And we’re interested in knowing what happened.”
Eteng said some states were not helping matters on the proliferation of small arms and light weapons.
He named Nasarawa, Benue, Taraba and Plateau as states acting as conduits for small arms and light weapons, which were being used to fuel ethnic crises in some regions.
His said: “When we did our studies, we discovered that three-quarter of the arms used to cause the crisis in Southern Kaduna, Zamfara and Plateau states are coming from the following states: Nassarawa, Benue, Taraba and Plateau states.
“We found out that if you can carry out serious operations to affect the supplies, which are coming from these areas, it will seriously limit part of what is happening there.”
Eteng said in the last one and a half months, the DSS “conducted more than 27 operations and arrested more than 30 persons involved in the supply of arms and ammunition and some of them are serving security men”.
He revealed that seven tactical teams were conducting the operation to apprehend culprits associated with the nefarious act. The operation, Eteng said, is ongoing.
The DSS director said communal clashes, terrorism, kidnapping, herdsmen/ farmers clashes, political thuggery, militancy, cultism and criminal gangs combine to create a constant demand for arms in the country.
Herdsmen from Senegal, Gambia and especially Central Africa come into the country through illegal borders carrying AK 47 rifles, Eteng said.
According to him, targeted legislations on prohibited firearms, more extensive vetting of those recruited into the security agencies, release of funds for logistics for border patrol personnel, electronic manning and deployment of cameras at borders, review of crisis management at local government levels will reduce the trend.
A Deputy Comptroller of Customs, Damgaiadinga Aminu Abubakar, who represented the Comptroller- General of Customs, Hameed Ali, said there were 1,100 illegal border areas. Only 97 are approved border posts. Abubakar lamented the dearth of equipment to curtail the flow of weapons into the country.
He said 2,671 pump action rifles had been seized from January 2017 to date. Abubakar said the Customs personnel found culpable in the import of 661 pump action rifles had been dismissed from service and handed over to the DSS for prosecution.
According to him, lack of operational vehicles, fast moving boats, cutting-edge technology and advanced scanning machines at airports, seaports and border points are limiting the effectiveness of the service.
Besides, there is inadequate welfare for personnel, with some living in deplorable conditions. According to him, hostilities by the border communities form part of the service’s problem.
Abubakar spoke of the need for more funds to be voted for security agencies in a timely manner to allow for operational activities.
To chairman of the committee Biodun Faleke (APC Lagos), however, took the DSS to task over vigilance groups armed by state governments with pump action rifles.
According to him, the DSS should be more proactive on saving citizens from the abuse of arms by governors and ensure that whatever arms procured are properly acquired to avoid abuse.
The House had on Wednesday, September 27 mandated its committees on Customs and Excise to invite the Nigeria Customs Service and DSS to brief the House on comprehensive plans to rid the country of the menace of small arms and light weapons.