AN APPRAISAL OF THE ECOWAS LEGAL REGIME ON PROLIFERATION AND MISUSE OF SMALL ARMS AND LIGHT WEAPONS: A CASE STUDY OF NIGERIA

AN APPRAISAL OF THE ECOWAS LEGAL REGIME ON PROLIFERATION AND MISUSE OF SMALL ARMS AND LIGHT WEAPONS: A CASE STUDY OF NIGERIA

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ABSTRACT

This dissertation examines the Proliferation and Misuse of Small Arms and Light Weapons under the ECOWAS Legal regime taking Nigeria as a case study. The objective of this dissertation it to find out why small arms and light weapons have continued to proliferate in Nigeria despite being a signatory to the ECOWAS Legal Regime, in this case, the ECOWAS Convention on Small Arms and Light Weapons and Other Related Materials. Using Doctrinal Methodology, the dissertation shows that Small Arms and Light Weapons proliferation and misuse has increased criminality, youth violence, hostage taking, militancy, community crises, oil bunkering and insurgency. More so, it further asserts that their wide availability fuels ethno/religious conflict, political instability and has direct influence on the escalation and sustenance of peace, insecurity and development.This dissertation examines the sources of small arms and light weapons, the motivational forces behind the proliferation and Federal Government initiatives to curb this menace in Nigeria. It also focuses on the legal regime on small arms as they concern the control of small arms proliferation in Nigeria and argues that the National Law in place is out-dated and inadequate to curtail and impede the proliferation and misuse of SALW. It further argues that though the extant ECOWAS legal regime is robust enough to support any sustainable progress in this area, however, non-compliance by member States and particularly Nigeria to harmonise their laws with the provisions of the ECOWAS Convention certainly lives much to be desired.Findings revealed that the inability of the Nigeria government and the law enforcement agencies to check the supply and the demand factors of the proliferation of SALW in Nigeria has heightened and worsened the security situations in the country. To this extent, the dissertation recommended amongst others, that there should be significant changes in the National legislation harmonizing same with the ECOWAS Convention because of the minimum standard requirement in article 21 of the Convention while dealing with the demand factors of SALW that heightens the proliferation of SALW by partnering with the private sector to undertake an aggressive job creation programme for Nigeria‘s teeming and idle youths.

CHAPTER ONE

GENERAL INTRODUCTION

1.1       Background to the Study

Whether it is Africa, Sri Lanka, or even Chechnya and Afghanistan, it is not heavy

weaponry or hi-tech devices that kill the most people, but the flood of cheap, easy to get,

Small Arms and Light Weapons that has swept over so many countries. Yet a lot of this

cross-border arms trade is illegal.1 Relying on highly organized international logistical

structures, criminals trespass territorial boundaries, whilst law enforcement agents act

within the confines of domestic law to counter the proliferation of Small Arms and Light

Weapons. Report has it that Small Arms and Light Weapons (SALW) are responsible for

the majority of battle-related conflict deaths, an estimated 60-90 percent of all direct

conflict victims are killed with firearms. Large numbers of men, women, older people

and children die indirectly from the effects of armed conflict on the economy, ruined

health and security infrastructures, disease and famine2. Ironically, the  use     of     these

weapons is common to the global South. For instance Africa is one of such places

because of its vulnerability to different kinds of conflicts including ethnic and religious

crisis. The relation between the accessibility of SALW and the outbreak and severity of

conflict is more dramatically evident in West Africa. Liberia was the first to suffer. With

only 100 irregular soldiers armed primarily with AK-47 assault rifles, Insurgent leader

1. Lumpe, L. (2000) Running Guns: The Global Black Market in Small Arms. London: Zed. PP. 1

2 Akinosho, L (2014, February) Small Arms, Light Weapons and Weapons of Mass Destruction: The Journey Towards Non-Proliferation and Disarmament. NigeriaWorld. Retrieved on 24 July, 2015 at 6:24pm from www.nigeriaworld.com/feature/publication/akinosho/021414.html

1


Charles Taylor invaded the country and within months, he had seized mineral and timber

resources and used the profits to purchase additional light weapons. Had he needed to

equip his forces with heavier weapons such as artillery, armored cars and tanks—the

weapons conventionally associated with a conquering army—Taylor would have faced

crippling logistical obstacles. In comparison, a few boatloads of assault rifles, rocket-

propelled grenades and machine guns were simple to transport and provided more than

enough firepower3.

The firepower of modern SALW —and the rapid escalation of violence that such

weaponry makes possible—was evident even in the early stages of Liberia's civil war.

Much the same cycle of violence engulfed in Rwanda, with SALW as the primary

weapon of the day. Once competing groups have been armed with SALW, any minor

dispute can escalate quickly into a major bloodbath. And the availability of such

weapons, even in remote and inaccessible places makes it difficult for the International

community to bring the warring parties to the bargaining table and, curb the cycle of

bloodletting. Brokering peace has proved especially difficult in countries such as Angola

and Sierra Leone, where rebel forces have been able to exchange diamonds or other

commodities for guns and ammunition on the black market.4

In West Africa, due to porous borders, weak state institutions, and increasing trade

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