SUNDAY SERMON - IMPACTS OF SMALL ARMS AND LIGHT WEAPONS IN ELEME
Eleme is not an exemption to the devastating effects of gun violence. Of recent, Eleme has recorded over 30 painful gun-violence related deaths. These gun violence which include but not limited to cultism, political violence and armed robbery have killed many; left many maimed, and frustrated several families. From Akpajo to Ekporo and from Agbonchia to Onne, the stories are the same.
This scenario points to the danger ahead as we approach the 2014 Local Government Elections in Rivers State and the 2015 General Elections. Agreed the Eleme Youth Council is sensitizing the citizenry to stop political violence in Eleme, stop over-heating the polity and to consider elections as not a do or die affairs. Talks and write-ups are not enough, especially in an environment where the youths detest printed-matters and the reading culture is fast decaying. Actions are required NOW to reorient the youths because it is the youths that bear arms: they are the agents of gun violence and they are the users of these killer machines.
A word for our youths is imperative here. Those who have lost one or two of their own to cultism or politically motivated gun violence abound in our communities. In tears, they have been narrating the bitter, painful tales of how they lost their love one to gun violence to who cares to listen. Their experiences are not only pathetic but also frustrating. Apart from losing a promising member of the family, they suddenly find themselves relegated to the background and forgotten by the socio-political system that murdered their relations. Replay this drama in your mind-eyes; imagine the pains, the frustrations and the sufferings.
The proliferation of small arms in Eleme is of great concern to security practitioners in the area. In addition to the above sources many of these small arms and light weapons in Eleme can be traced to the Eleme and Okrika communal conflicts; others are linked to the recent Niger Delta “militants for negotiation for development” operations. These weapons outlast these conflicts.
Still others were purchased by the criminally minded to terrorized innocent citizens and residents and dispose them of their belongings.
Other sources of these arms are known to us all. The suppliers of these weapons are with us. The purchasers of these instruments of human destruction are known to us. The users of these war machines are our brothers and sisters. Government officials, military officers, politicians, entrepreneurs, traditional rulers, religious leaders and elites in various communities are known to have encouraged and financed the acquisition and use of weapons by youths to execute ethno-religious and inter/intra communal conflicts. And as pointed out earlier, these weapons outlast these conflicts and are taken up again and again in the post-conflict period by criminal gangs, vigilantes, dissidents, insurgents or individuals concerned about personal security for diverse purposes. The possession of a gun is a matter of survival and protection from attack. Gun is an instrument of seizure of property, murder, kidnapping and so on. No week passes without news of gun violence resulting to loss of human life. No region or state in Nigeria is spared; no community is safe from the bullets of the killers. The situation is pathetic. Until our security agencies begin to monitor, investigate and prosecute the money-bags who procure and supply arms and use money to entice the youths into violence the problem will remain with us and will continue to increase in both scope and devastation. Private jets, fuel tankers and vehicle fuel tanks, rice and garri bags and all sorts of craftily created spaces have been used to convey arms into and within the country. The increasing number of transporting agents, coupled with the flexibility of arms mobility across Nigerian borders and within the country, calls for all hands to be on desk to check arms buildup in the country as 2015 General Elections approaches. There is therefore urgent need for the government to put all necessary machinery into motion to mop-up these arms.
The Federal Government of Nigeria must rise up to check the misuse of small arms and light weapons by moving aggressively to reduce their availability, institute tougher gun control laws with more and better-trained police to enforce them. The “Money-for-Gun” strategy should be pursued aggressively to collect weapons in wrong hands. Communities and schools should be encouraged through prizes and awards to declare their community/premises gun free so as to reduce the allure of small arms and light weapons.
The strategy has worked in few communities where it has been implemented. But, this cannot be done successfully with the present arrangement of multi-agencies coupled with rising rivalries among them. There is therefore urgent need to establish National Agency for the Control of Small Arms (NACSA) charged with the responsibility of checking illicit proliferation and trafficking in arms; regulating the acquisition and use of arms; registering and licensing of gun ownership; carrying out periodic audit of guns and their possessors in the country; enforcing appropriate sanctions and doing those things incidental to the control of the legal acquisition and use of small arms and light weapons in Nigeria.
The National Agency for the Control of Small Arms (NACSA) is needed now, backed by an appropriate legislation to marshal a coordinated effort at all levels (Federal, State, Local Government, Ward and Community) to check the rising cases of illicit proliferation and trafficking in small arms and light weapons in Nigeria and its consequential loss of human lives and properties.
Guns are not pens; bullets are not books; hard-drugs are not hard-currency-scholarships to give to our youths. As a youth, rethink before you carry that gun. Consider the implications before you pull that trigger. To be a good citizen, ask your BOSS, the SPONSOR to give you writing implements not killer machines; tell him to give you books not bullets; let him know that you need scholarship to study not hard-drugs to propel you into killing others.