The Office of the National Security Adviser ONSA, on Sunday ordered the dismantling of illegal security outfits in the country including the National Taskforce on the Prohibition of Illegal Importation/Smuggling of Arms, Ammunitions, Light Weapons, Chemical Weapons, and Pipeline Vandalism (NATFORCE).
A statement issued by the Head, Strategic Communications, Office of the National Security Adviser, Mr Zachari Usman, said the directive followed what it said was the use of such outfits to extort, harass and intimidate Nigerians.
The National Security Adviser, Major General Babagana Monguno (rtd) said in 2020 that out of the 10 billion manufactured light arms and small weapons circulating globally, 10 million was circulating in Africa while one million circulated in Nigeria.
Former Head of State, General Abdulsalami Abubakar (rtd), said recently that six million small arms and light weapons were presently circulating in the country.
But a report prepared by a research and consultancy group, Beacon Consulting Ltd., a member of ASIS International, world’s largest association for security management professionals, showed that of the 6.5 million small arms and light weapons circulating in Nigeria, 5 million were in the possession of non-state actors while 568,000 were in the hands of law enforcement agencies.
The Office of the National Security Adviser (ONSA) said it observed with concern the proliferation of illegal security outfits in the country.
The statement said the illegal outfits were masquerading and acting as part of the Nigerian security architecture while extorting, harassing and intimidating Nigerians.
“The Office of the National Security Adviser has directed the immediate dismantling of all illegal security outfits and warned against the use of these outfits to extort, harass and intimidate Nigerians.
In particular, the office has cautioned individuals, organisations and foreign partners on the activities of NATFORCE which was illegally formed as a taskforce to combat illegal importation and smuggling of small arms, ammunitions and light weapons into Nigeria”, it said.
The ONSA said “the National Centre for the Control of Small Arms and Light Weapons (NCCSALW) domiciled in the Office of the National Security Adviser is the national co-ordination mechanism for the control and monitoring of the proliferation of small arms and light weapons in Nigeria.
“The Office of the National Security Adviser has observed with concern the proliferation of illegal security outfits in the country. These illegal outfits have been masquerading and acting as part of the Nigerian security architecture while extorting, harassing and intimidating Nigerians”.
It said “one of such groups is NATFORCE which seeks to combat illegal importation of arms, ammunition, light weapons, chemical weapons and pipeline vandalism and has been involved in mounting of illegal roadblocks, conducting illegal searches, seizures and recruitment.
“For the avoidance of doubt, the general public and all stakeholders are to note that NATFORCE is an illegal outfit without any mandate or authority to carry out these functions.
“This trend is unacceptable and the promoters of NATFORCE are warned to dismantle their structures and operations immediately”.
The statement affirmed that by the setting up of the National Centre for the Control of Small Arms and Light Weapons on May 3, 2021, Nigeria had initiated the process for the full implementation of Article 24 of the ECOWAS Convention on small arms and light weapons. “In this regard, national and international stakeholders are encouraged and expected to work closely with the centre to strengthen government-civil society initiatives”, he said.