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1.1 BACKGROUND OF THE STUDY
The (mis)use of small arms and light weapons (SALW) in the West African region, particularly Nigeria, has seriously assumed a macabre dimension. The major reason for this being the fact of the availability of such arms; and the deadly use to which such is put. Without mixing issues, one observes that the national security operatives enjoy the latitude to carry and/or use arms when duty demands. More than this however is the fact of such arms finding their ways into the possession of other citizens, who normally are not supposed to have access to arms. Some persons within the polity, it should be noted, acquire the possession of such by get license from the government.
The proliferation angle of the discourse arises from the fact that SALW enters the country from varying routes and through several sources; thus reducing the cost of the arms and even making it easier for persons to engage in criminalized activities. Beyond this however is the fact that some security operatives, who are permitted to carry arms for the purpose of protecting lives and properties, have in time past use the arms in their possession for extra-juridical purposes. And equally of note is the situation in which politicians, simply for the satisfaction of their egocentric purposes of winning and/or rigging elections, purchased arms for the use of the persons -mostly miscreants- that they employ as their security aides; and who after elections, not only fail to return it to the politicians, but employ the arms to satisfy their economic and self-actualization values, as well as interpersonal values (Gurr, 2011, 25-26)
Flowing from the foregoing therefore is the fact of the misuse of SALW has become a daunting phenomenon that affects people of all societies. Consequently, the death toll from its usage is mostly
high, ranging at over 1000 lives lost per day to violence in which SALW is employed and even leaving so many victims at the site of violence.
The proliferation of SALW in Nigeria has made it increasingly difficult to trace its effect on human security. SALW have become a common thing which individuals including the young and the old uses. The effect of the SALW cannot be over-emphasized as its usage is very rampant ranging from small suicidal acts to its usage for assassination and armed robbery. Typically, any act of violence and the extreme case of conflict- war, is perpetrated with the aid of weapons deployed by all sides in order to subdue or annihilate the opponents. To this extent, each epoch in the development of humanity boasts of its unique weapons of war that are germane to the pursuit of its agenda. Recorded tales of wars in ancient Rome and Greece are replete with various kinds of weapons used for prosecution.
Small arms are personal weapons that can be operated by only one person. They usually include revolvers, self-loading pistols, rifles, submachine guns and light machine guns. Light weapons on the other hand refers to heavy machine guns, hand-held launchers, under-barrel and mounted grenade launchers, portable launchers of antitank and anti-aircraft missile system and mortars of less than 100mm caliber. Approximately there are about 640 million small arms in the world and one for every ten people in the world; guns are manufactured year in year out. Small arms are relatively low-tech-tools of war, and due to state-driven demand, there arewell over 600 suppliers around the world. With more than 550 million in circulation whether newly produced, liquidated bydownsizing militaries or circulated from conflict to conflictsmall arms are inexpensive and easily diffused.
Arms smuggling to Nigeria increased in the year 2002 following the presidential elections and in the year 2004 before the local elections, Lagos gangs who were responsible for smuggling contra-brand from the Accra based firm transports bribed custom officers along the route to turn blind eye so that they could have a hitch free transportation. However the growing crises in Nigeria in the Niger Delta region remains a scene of recurring violence between members of different ethnic groups competing for both political and ethnic powers, and between security and militia groups in the region. The illegal availability of light weapons in the Niger Delta is a particular challenge as this escalated the crisis further.Hundreds of criminal andpolitically motivated gangs have sprung up many with eye-catching names such as Blood Suckers, Gentlemen‟s Club and the Royal House of Peace. Mostof these are linked to well-known politicians.
1.2 STATEMENT OF PROBLEM
Against the backdrop of purchases made by security outfits –military and paramilitary- the level of arms in Nigeria has increased. More than this however is the illicit dimension of the purchases, which oftentimes are traceable to individuals, who deal illegally in the buying and selling of arms in Nigeria (Ezeobi, 2014). Aside from the fact of the legal purchase done by the governments, some military and paramilitary personnel have been culpable of illicitly releasing –lease or outright sale- their arms to persons known for criminalized activities. Contributing to this challenge are the politicians, who in their bids to secure governmental positions, engage the services of some unemployed youths, as their aide and/or security guards; only for these politicians to not be able to retrieve such arms from these youths after disengagement, who afterwards employ such weapons as means of livelihood and thus pose as substantial threats to lives and properties within their neighborhoods. In spite of the foregoing, it is realized that the challenges posed by the growing spread of arms in the country is presently, perhaps
because of the lackadaisical approach of the government in time past, seemingly losing its place on the radar of consideration. In view of the growing insecurity within the polity however, any attempt at resolving the widespread insecurity would start with the addressing of both the sources and instruments of insecurity. It is against this backdrop that this study focuses on this important issue area – the challenges of the proliferation of small arms and light weapons in Nigeria.
1.3 OBJECTIVES OF STUDY
The specific objectives of this study are to:
a. identify both the sources of and the factors engendering the proliferation of small arms and light weapons in Nigeria;
b. examine the challenges that the proliferation of small arms and light weapons pose to human existence in Nigeria; and to
c. Analyze the varying implications of the proliferation of small arms and light weapons to Nigeria and the citizens.
1.4 RESEARCH QUESTIONS
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