The proliferation of light arms has contributed to violence and the displacement of populations in Nigeria’s Northwest region, security experts say.
According to Assessment Capacities Project, the violence in Zamfara, Kaduna, Niger, Sokoto, Kebbi and Katsina states has displaced an estimated 317,000 people, with more than 35,000 refugees crossing into Niger Republic by the beginning of March 2020.
Recent military briefings on operational success against armed groups in the region between August and September 15, 2020 included the seizure and recovery of different types of Kalashnikov assault rifle and locally produced firearms such as muzzle-loading Dane guns and break action shotguns.
Historically, locally crafted firearms produced by blacksmiths have been used for ceremonial and hunting purposes but recent violence and criminality in the region has led to the use of locally made shotguns and AK type rifles by armed groups terrorising communities and vigilante groups created in response to attacks.
Small arms survey report reveals that craft firearms are frequently purchased because of their ease of access and reduced prices which is up to four times cheaper than their industrially produced counterparts.
Craft firearms are also increasingly showing up in security forces interdiction, arms groups also use factory-produced firearms.
A recent study by London-based Conflict Armament Research on firearms recovered from groups linked with the herder-farmer in Nigeria conflicts highlighted the presence of the factory produced weapons from national and regional stockpiles as well as international smuggling sources.
On September 8, troops deployed at Daki Takwas intercepted and arrested 17 members of the self-defence group called Yansakai with 12 locally fabricated “Dane guns” at Danmarke village in Bukkuyum Local Government Area (LGA) of Zamfara State.
Also on September 10, troops arrested an illegal arms dealer with a pistol grip and 890 rounds of 7.62mm ammunition in Barkin Ladi LGA of Plateau State and the dealer was linked with supplying arms to groups in the Northwest region.
At a similar briefing on September 5, Brig.- Gen. Benard Onyeuko, the Acting Director, Defence Media Operations, revealed that troops of Operation Sahel Sanity recovered 43 AK-47 rifles, one general-purpose machinegun and 100 Dane guns, 3,261 rounds of 7.62mm ammunition and 151 live cartridges.
On August 23, troops recovered 20 locally fabricated Dane guns after raiding an illegal mining site located along Gadan Zaima – Zuru Road in Bukuyyum LGA of Zamfara State.
On August 22, troops on patrol recovered one AK-47 rifle, one AK-47 rifle magazine loaded with five rounds of 7.62mm ammunition after an encounter with bandits around Maigalma village in Anka LGA of Zamfara State.
More discoveries were made on August 20 and August 20 when troops raided a hideout around Dogon Karfe village in Bakura LGA of Zamfara State and recovered four Dane guns and one loaded magazine while a snap roadblock at Daki Takwas in Zamfara led to the interceptions of a Toyota Corolla car with 11 brand new locally-made guns and 150 live cartridges.
In an interview with HumAngle, MacHarry Confidence, a Security Analyst with SBM Intelligence, said the proliferation of locally made small arms was connected with soaring youth unemployment, rapid increase in ungoverned spaces and absence of security in the hinterland.
MacHarry added that the disarmament campaign by the police to mop up illegal arms across the country would only yield results when jobs were created, governance brought closer to the people and security guaranteed.
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