By John H. T. Stewart
The leader of Nigeria’s Presidential Committee on Small Arms, Major-General (Rtd.) Olunaseun Olayinka Oshinowo, at the head of a 5-man visiting delegation, has expressed grave concern about the missing whereabouts of the very large inventory of sophisticated arms and ammunition maintained by deposed Gaddafi.” Where are the arms from Libya?” he asked.
In an exclusive interview with the Daily Observer, the General observed that Nigeria faces a huge problem with the possession of small arms by non-state actors, citing the Gulf of Guinea as a major area of concern which is a destination of illegal arms flow and where armed insurrectionists are known to be active.
General Oshinowo furthered that some of the problems of insecurity and the illegal proliferation of arms in the sub-region can be linked to the disappearance of large stocks of weapons held by the former Gaddafi regime which, since his overthrow has largely fallen into the hands of unknown non-state actors.
According to him, some of these weapons are now finding their way into areas south of the Sahel. He observed that his country’s drive to establish a fully-fledged Small Arms Commission is informed by the realization of the dangers posed to Nigeria’s and sub-regional security by the proliferation of Small Arms.
Further, the General said his Committee’s choice of Liberia over that of Ghana and La Cote d’Ivoire was informed by Liberia’s prolonged experience of civil conflict, disarmament and the development of the requisite legal architecture leading to the passage of a National Firearms and Control Act and the successful establishment of a National Small Arms Commission that has made enviable strides in the achievement of its objectives.
In response to questions about challenges likely to be faced, the General said the challenges are indeed many and difficult but will be surmountable only if authorities muster the requisite political will to handle these challenges.
Responding further to questions about how his Committee intends to address concerns of local communities who may support armed vigilantes and are requesting arms to ward off attacks by armed groups such as cattle rustlers, Boko Haram militants, etc, General Oshinowo emphasized honesty and transparency.
Honesty and transparency, he said, are key elements required to build trust between the authorities and local communities whose understanding and cooperation are key to any successful arms control program.
In conclusion, the General expressed thanks and appreciation to the Chairman, Commissioners and staff of the Liberia National Small Arms Commission for the very warm reception received and for the opportunity to benefit from its experience which he noted would serve as a guide in their efforts to establish a fully-fledged and effective Nigerian Small Arms Commission.
The delegation which departed the country over the weekend had come to Liberia on a 3-day experiential learning visit with the Liberia National Small Arms Commission (LiNCSA).
During their visit, the delegation met with top government officials including, amongst others, the Minister of Defense, retired Maj. Gen. Daniel D. Ziankahn and the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Dr. Bhofal Chambers. The delegation was however unable to meet President George Weah, who had travel to the Federal Republic of Nigeria to meet its President Muhammadu Buhari.