File photo used for illustration
Speaking at a public hearing organised by the House of Representatives joint committee on Customs and Excise and National Intelligence, investigating the “frightening influx of small arms and light weapons into the country,” Director of Operations at the DSS, Godwin Eteng, claimed some agencies had, over the years, recruited former cultists and armed robbers, who get involved in illegal activities, including arms sales to criminals.
“We have conducted more than 27 operations and arrested more than 30 persons involved in the supply of arms and ammunition and some of them are serving security men,” he disclosed.
He said there was a case in one of the armouries belonging to one of the armed forces, where many pistols got missing with quantities of ammunition and all the pistols were new. “In the armoury, no place was broken into, but the weapons were missing. And we’re interested in knowing what happened.”
The director listed four states in the North-Central zone as the major sources of illegal arms.
“When we did our studies, we discovered that three-quarter of the arms used to cause the crisis in Southern-Kaduna, in Zamfara and Plateau states are coming from the following states: Nasarawa, Benue, Taraba and Plateau states.
“We found out that if you can carry out serious operations to affect the supplies, which is coming from these areas, it will seriously limit part of what is happening there,” the DSS director said.
On interventions to counter criminal gangs and prevent violent attacks, Ekeng disclosed that seven tactical teams were conducting the operation to apprehend culprits associated with the arms sales, an operation, which, according to him, is ongoing.
On how to solve the problem of illegal arms, he suggested legislations on prohibited firearms, more extensive vetting of those recruited into the security agencies, release of funds for logistics for border patrol personnel, electronic manning and deployment of cameras at borders and review of crisis management at local government levels.
Damgaiadiga Abubakar, Deputy Comptroller, who represented the Comptroller-General of Customs, Hameed Ali, disclosed that there were 1,100 illegal entry points into the country, with only 97 approved border posts.
He said the Customs was short of equipment needed to stem the flow of weapons into the country, revealing that 2,671 pump action rifles had been seized from January to date, just as Customs personnel found culpable in the import of 661 pump action rifles had been dismissed from service and handed over to the DSS for prosecution.
According to him, lack of operational vehicles, fast moving boats, cutting-edge technology and advanced scanning machines at airports, seaports and border points were limiting the effectiveness of the Customs.