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Nigeria is highly heterogeneous and multi-religions with over two hundred ethno-linguistic groups and the Niger Delta region is not an exception. The issue of arms proliferation has been given wide spread international focus due to the fact that it has become source of violence, war, conflicts and crimes.
It has equally been observed that developing countries in the third world, particularly in Africa are the most vulnerable. The question is why are such conflicts persisting or why do they reoccur even after the end of such conflicts? Does it mean that the disarmament, demobilization and reintegration process has not been able to sufficiently address the problems that may have necessitated the occurrence of such conflicts? What is the implication to National security? Answers to questions of these nature would go a long way in making us to understand the persistent instability and security implication of the Niger Delta, made possible by SALW proliferation that has reached a crisis level, hence the topic of this paper Arms Proliferation in the Niger Delta and its implication to National Security.
The Niger Delta region which comprises six (6) states namely; Akwa Ibom, Rivers, Bayelsa, Cross Rivers, Delta and Edo is an oil rich region in Nigeria. It is characterized by the existence of wide spread poverty, squalor and environmental degradation due to long period of neglect and marginalization by successive regimes both civil and military. Several efforts have been made through representations of traditional rulers, opinion leaders and public spirited individuals on behalf of the people. These moves have been met by successive regimes with disdain and draconian brute force. The Small Arms and Light Weapons crisis we are witnessing currently in the Niger Delta is as a result of such brute force, as the people had no alternative than resort to violence. Though some disarmament, demobilization and disintegration programmed were carried out by former President Olusegun Obasanjo, they could not provide the needed lasting solution to the crisis due to lack of genuine interest on the part of government. The concern of
this paper therefore, are causes of Arms proliferation in the Niger Delta, it’s implication to National Security, its effects to the nation and possible solutions.
1.1 BACKGROUND OF THE STUDY
Arms proliferation is the unauthorized and illegal sales and use of arms. In most cases weapons proliferation refers to weapon of mass destruction. Although small arms and light weapon are conventional weapons in that they are not weapon of mass destruction.
The United Nations panel of government experts on small arms defined small arms and light weapon as follows:
– Revolvers and self-loading pistol
– Sub machine gun
– Assault rifles
– Light Machine guns
– Heavy Machine gun
– Portable articraft guns
– Portable antitank guns, recoiless rifles
– Handheld under-barrel and mounted grenade launcher
Ammunition and explosives
- Cartridges (rounds) for small arms
– Shells and missiles for light weapons
– Hand grenades
– Land mines and Explosives
The Niger Delta has experienced great violence arising from arms proliferation. The current problem conflict in the region arose in the early 1990s over tensions between foreign oil corporation and a number of the Niger Delta‟s minority ethnic groups who feel that they are
being exploited, particularly the Ogonis and the Ijaws. (Anne Look 2003). Ethnic and political unrest has continued throughout the 1990s and persists as of 2007 despite the intervention of President Yar‟Adua.
Ethnic and political unrest has continued throughout the 1990s and persists as of 2014 despite the conversion to democracy and the election of the Obasanjo government in 1999. Competition for oil wealth has fueled violence between many ethnic groups, causing the militarization of nearly the entire region by ethnic militia groups as well as Nigerian military and police forces (notably the Nigerian Mobile Police). Victims of crimes are fearful of seeking justice for crimes committed against them because of growing "impunity from prosecution for individuals responsible for serious human rights abuses, [which] has created a devastating cycle of increasing conflict and violence".
Nigeria, after nearly four decades of oil production, had by the early 1980s become almost completely dependent on petroleum extraction economically, generating 25% of its GDPC (this has since raised to 60% as of 2008). Despite the vast wealth created by petroleum, the benefits have been slow to trickle down to the majority of the population, who since the 1960s have increasingly been forced to abandon their traditional agricultural practices. Annual production of both cash and food crops dropped significantly in the latter decades of 20th century, cocoa production dropped by 43% (Nigeria was the world's largest cocoa exporter in 1960), rubber dropped by 29%, cotton by 65%, and groundnuts by 64%. We no longer had the famous groundnut pyramids in the northern Nigeria.
In spite of the large number of skilled, well-paid Nigerians who have been employed by the oil corporations, the majority of Nigerians and most especially the people of the Niger Delta states and the far north have become poorer since the 1960s. After the era of the oil boom, the naira has been devalued several times since the 1980s up to present day; leading to imposition of austerity measures where the Niger Delta region has been worse hit.
The region has a steadily growing population estimated to be over 30 million people as of 2005 census figures, thus accounting for more than 23% of Nigeria's total population. The population density is also among the highest in the world with 265 people per square kilometer, according to the
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