INSECURITY: NIGERIA'S 178,459 MISSING GUNS; A RECIPE FOR DISASTER
In early January, this year, the Office of the Auditor-General of the Federation published an audit of the Police Force and made some damning allegations. There were basically eight indictments but one or two were quite disturbing, to say the least. The report stated that by the end of 2019, the Force Headquarters was unable to account for 178,459 firearms. These include: 88,078 AK-47 riffles as well as other assorted weapons.
The queries were in the "Auditor-General for the Federation’s Annual Report on Non-Compliance/Internal Control Weaknesses Issues in Ministries, Departments and Agencies of the Federal Government of Nigeria for the Year Ended December 31, 2019" report. It was signed by the acting Auditor-General of the Federation, Adolphus Aghughu, and sent to the Clerk of the National Assembly, Ojo Amos. The contents of the audit report got public attention in early January, although the report itself had reached the Senate and House Committees on Public Accounts since September 15th, 2021.
According to the query titled "Loss of fire arms and ammunition", the Auditor-General said audit activities observed, from the review of arms movement register, monthly returns of arms and ammunition, and the ammunition register at the Armoury Section, that “The total number of lost firearms as reported as at December 2018 stood at 178,459. Out of this number, 88,078 were AK-47 rifles, 3,907 assorted rifles and pistols across different police formations could not be accounted for as at January 2020. Formal reports on the loss of firearms through dully completed Treasury Form 146 (Loss of Stores) were not presented for examination.
“Records obtained from Force Armament at the Force headquarters showed 21 Police Mobile Force Squadron, Abuja did not report a single case of missing firearm, whereas, schedule of missing arms obtained from the same PMF showed a total number of 46 missing arms between 2000 and February 2019, and the value of the lost firearms could not be ascertained because no document relating to their cost of acquisition was presented for examination.”
This disclosure is also conspicuous on pages 383 to 391 of the Auditor General of the Federation’s annual report on non-compliance, internal control weaknesses issues in Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) of the Federal Government of Nigeria for the year ended December 31, 2019. The report noted that the action of the Nigeria Police Force on this regard contravened paragraph 2603 of the Financial Regulations, which stipulates that in the event of any loss of item in the stores, the officer in charge of the store in which the loss occurs shall report immediately to the Head of Department or Unit, but not later than three days, by the fastest means possible if the loss occurs away from headquarters.
“Audit observed from the review of Arms Movement Register, Monthly Returns of Arms and Ammunition and Ammunition Register at the Armoury section that a total number of lost firearms as reported as at December 2018 stood at 178,459 pieces", the report stated.
The report also stated that there were huge lapses in the process of physical inspection and classification of obsolete and unserviceable firearms and ammunition at the Force Headquarters. These category is supposed to be destroyed and made unusable.
The Auditor General, in the report, therefore asked the Inspector General of Police, Usman Baba, to provide details of the expenditure to the public accounts committees of both Senate and House of Representatives, account for the funds, and answer to other irregularities. It's been two weeks now and all we hear is a loud silence.
Frankly speaking, 178,000 assorted weapons, including automatic hand guns and rifles in the hands of some undocumented characters within a country is a worrisome development. Meanwhile, experts say the proliferation of arms in the possession of non state actors have been on a steady rise for some times. For instance, there are suspicions in some quarters that arms are being smuggled in and supplied to bandits, terrorists, as well as secessionist groups through land and sea borders.
There are locally produced guns as well. These are said to be more popular in the South East, North East and in the Middle Beltern parts of the country. All these weapons are unlicensed and undocumented. They are in the hands of some drug abusing, mostly uneducated, ideologically whitewashed urchins who were never professionally trained to handle them in the first place. Some of them are so poor in weapon handling that they sometimes aim right but shoot left.
Little wonder, no day passes without the exasperating recounts of avoidable death from the nooks and crannies of the country.
According to Statisense data for instance, there were 705 deaths inflicted on innocent Nigerians by non state actors in January, 2020. 701, 785 and 725 in February, March and April, respectively. It was 1084 in May, 936, 679, 392 and 472 in June, July, August and September, respectively. October and November 630 and 611 deaths, respectively.
This records effectively translates to a total of 7,717 senseless and avoidable deaths in Eleven months. That is an alarming Twenty Three deaths per day and roughly one death per hour. If this is not war, let someone tell us what it is. It is high time the intelligence and security agents came up with proactive ways to mop up these arms from the system. This of course requires some some currently scarce amount of political willpower, diligence and dedication.
This move is in fact as important as any other one the government has made or is making in the fight against all forms of criminality and insecurity in the country. As it stands, considering the proliferation of arms and other weapons in the hands of these criminals, the quest to reduce armed robberies, kidnappings, banditary and all forms of terrorism may just be an exercise in futility.
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