President Muhammadu Buhari recently held a consultative meeting with the Service Chiefs over the proliferation and hoarding of weapons ahead of the 2019 general elections.
The meeting is to fashion out ways of reducing illegal stockpiling of weapons into the country. Since the inception of the Fourth Republic, elections have become a do or die affair which have led to loss of lives and property.
Politicians who are the mastermind of this crime equip gangsters, armed robbers and thugs with arms and ammunition to intimidate, maim and kill political opponents in their quest to acquire power, a typical example is the just concluded party primaries by political parties.
The Firearms Act 2004 prohibits unlawful possession of lethal weapons while some categories of arms and ammunition are totally outlawed.
Although, the Nigeria Customs Service has intercepted a few containers bearing illegal arms, it is a known fact that for every seizure made, many more of such cargoes might have passed through undetected, as a result of the complicity of Security Agents.
For example, a cargo with 440 guns said to have been imported from Turkey, landed at Tin Can Island Port last year, just as customs officials in Port Harcourt, Rivers State, impounded a shipment with 620 sets of military uniforms and over 10,000 military t-shirts in July.
Within the same period, the Nigerian Army intercepted some trucks laden with 300,000 cartridges for pump-action rifles, transiting through Ogun State.
The consignments were suspected to have entered Nigeria through Benin Republic, indicating an influx of arms through land and sea borders.
This became worrisome, and as such the National Assembly set up investigation into the matter in November 2017. At the House of representatives, investigation by its joint committees on Customs and Excise, National Intelligence, and the State Security Service, said weapons in the ordinance of a sister agency whose identity was not disclosed, adding that in the armory, no place was broken into, but the weapons were missing.
In the words of the Senate President, Bukola Saraki, people illegally go about with weapons as if they are fashion accessories.
This is one of the contributory factors to the Sectarian, Tribal and Communal crises occurring constantly in Plateau, Benue, Southern Kaduna, araba villages and the genocidal rampage of herdsmen which have resulted in the loss of lives and nobody seems to be safe, including the military and policemen, whose personnel are sometimes killed, kidnapped or beheaded by armed men.
A typical example is the disappearance of a Retired Major General in Plateau State, Idris Alkali, whose dead body was recently discovered.
This is why the Inspector General of Police, Ibrahim Idris, in March this year directed Police Commands in the 36 States and Abuja, to mop-up illegal arms and ammunition.
A 21-day ultimatum was issued for owners of such weapons to either surrender them or risk being arrested, investigated and prosecuted in
line with the law.
All what this is pointing to is that, the perpetrators of this act should be made to face the wrath of the law, to serve as deterrent to others.
It requires the Government and the Service Chiefs to put on their thinking cap, and save our election from the grip of politicians by massively deploying intelligence and technology, to detect illegal importation of arms into the country.
Smashing illegal weaponry is a challenge the Security Agencies cannot run away from, by making sure that those caught in the act are prosecuted speedily.
The battle definitely cannot be won without going after those seemingly larger-than-life characters that mastermind the arms importation.