By Prudence Arobani
New York – Prof. Tijjani Bande, Permanent Representative of Nigeria to the UN, said the illicit influx of Small Arms and Light Weapons (SALWs) has become a source of worry to Africa.
Bande stated this while presenting the statement on behalf of the African Group at the UN headquarters in New York, called for international collaboration to control the inflow.
He spoke at the ‘Third UN Conference to Review Progress made in the Implementation of the Programme of Action to Prevent, Combat and Eradicate the Illicit Trade in Small Arms and Light Weapons in all its aspects’ (UN PoA).
Broadly speaking, ‘small arms’ refer to firearms designed for individual use, which include: handguns, rifles, carbines, sub-machine guns, assault rifles and light machine guns.
“The Group remains deeply concerned over the illicit trade, transfer, and circulation of small arms and light weapons, and their excessive accumulation and uncontrolled spread in many regions of the world, especially in light of their wide range of humanitarian and socio-economic consequences, particularly on the continent of Africa.
“The Group, therefore, attaches great importance to the central role of the UN PoA and ITI – International Tracing Instrument – as crucial multilateral instruments dedicated to fighting the illicit flow of SALWs and tackling their multifaceted effects, which pose a threat to international peace and security,” Bande said.
The Nigerian envoy called for the full implementation of ITI to enable States identify and trace in a timely and reliable manner, the illicit flow of small arms and light weapons.
“Africa continues to be at the forefront of the regions that suffer the most from the effects of illicit trade and transfer of small arms and light weapons, mainly produced outside the continent, yet acquired and used by unauthorised recipients and illegal armed groups within Africa”.
He said that the Conference should call on all States to ensure that the supply of small arms and light weapons are limited only to Governments, or to entities duly authorised by the Governments of recipient States.
Bande stressed the need to establish and maintain controls over private ownership of small arms adding, the Conference should implement legal restrictions and prohibitions preventing the illicit trade in SALWs.
“Therefore, the Group calls for increased support of the UN and relevant international bodies to the several initiatives of the African Union, including Silencing the Guns by 2020,” Bande said.
ECOWAS, in its statement, said the ECOWAS Commission had recorded remarkable achievements, especially in the area of Arms Transfer Controls, Weapons Marking and Record-keeping.
The sub-regional group reported on the significant efforts made at the establishment of National Commissions (NATCOMS) on Small Arms that were now functional across the Member States in the region.
It said Member States continued to comply with the commitment ensuring that no transfer of arms is made except for legitimate national security or if a state party is deploying for peace support operations.
“This is the novelty that ECOWAS Region is presenting to the world as a model that will allow us all to effectively regulate and to know the stocks that are available within the security forces.
“The Nigerian Government has availed ECOWAS Commission with its facility at the Martin Luther Agwai International Leadership and Peacekeeping Centre in Jaji, Kaduna State, North Central Nigeria.
“I, therefore, use this opportunity to thank the Government of Germany for its technical and financial support for the training centre and for the Nigerian Government for providing its facility”.
The sub-regional group said the region had large expanse of land, maritime and air borders that were being abused by miscreants engaging in transnational crimes and trafficking of illicit contrabands.
ECOWAS reported significant level of peace consolidation with the attainment of peaceful change of leadership in Liberia and Sierra Leone thereby deepening democratic practices in the region.
“In a related development, the political impasse in The Gambia was managed through a mix of high level diplomacy as well as exercise of strong military might as demonstrated by the ECOWAS Standby Force.
“Recalling these successes are important as elections and post-elections violence are characteristic features in our region and ECOWAS Commission ensures observations of elections for peaceful transition to thrive.
“In any breakdown of law and order, the weapons of choice are always the SALWs with grave consequences,” ECOWAS stated.