By Ike Uchechukwu
The European Union, Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and the Leadership Initiative for Transformation and Empowerment (LITE Africa) on Monday began the destruction of 260 arms and 5510 weapons in Calabar.
The arms and ammunitions were the ones surrendered by members of the defunct Bakassi strike force,BSF, a militant organization and members of some cult group in the state.
Speaking in Calabar on Monday ,Cross River State Governor ,Prof Ben Ayade of Cross River, said that the destruction of the arms and weapons would further give residents of the state the desire to work closely with the state government and security agencies.
Ayade, who said there were over 33 illegal routes in the state, lamented that suspected armed smugglers were proliferating the state with arms through the routes.
He commended security agencies in the state for working tirelessly to secure the state in collaboration with the Operation Akpakwu security outfit established by the state government to fight criminality.
His words :”I want to appeal to the Federal Government to capture the ex Bakassi militants under the Federal Government Amnesty programme. These youths who have surrendered their arms deserves an empowerment and better rehabilitation to keep them off the creeks,” he said.
Ayade, who carried out the symbolic destruction of the arms, urged those who were yet to surrender their arms to do and embrace peace for the growth of the state.
LITE Africa representative ,Mr Joel Bisina who spoke on behalf of EU-ECOWAS, said that one cannot underestimate the dangers of illicit proliferation of small arms and light weapons and the negative impact they have on peace and stability in various communities.
Bisina said that small arms and light weapons had continued to have devastating effects on socio-economic situation in Nigeria and the West African subregion.
“In Nigeria, the commercial transaction in small arms and light weapons has been on the increase since the end of the Nigerian Civil War. The trend has continued despite the illegality of the trade.
“The wide availability, stockpile and illicit flow of such weapons tend to escalate conflicts; undermine peace agreement, intensify violence and impact on crime, impede economic and social development, increase poverty and hinder democracy and good governance.
“In a bid to promote peace, reduce armed conflict and small arms proliferation in the region, LITE Africa and the Presidential Committee on Small Arms and Light Weapons, with support from the EU/ECOWAS is working to strengthen the efforts at preventing further proliferation and trafficking of illicit arms in Nigeria,” he said.
Mr Dickson Orji, a representative from the Presidential Committee on Small Arms and Light Weapons, said that the committee was set up in 2013 with a mandate to be the focal point in the efforts by Nigeria to stem the tide of proliferation of illicit arms.
Orji said that the Nigerian component of the EU-ECOWAS small arms under the current pilot phase focuses in the seven states of Kaduna, Katsina, Kebbi, Sokoto, Zamfara, Cross River and Akwa Ibom.