SEIZED ARMS CAN WIPE OUT CITIES â€“ EXPERTS
Nigeria may not be at war, but last Tuesday's shocking discovery of rocket launchers, grenades and other explosives at the Apapa Port in Lagos obviously rankled the country's security chiefs and other concerned citizens.
The heinous consignment shipped into the country in 13 containers was marked building equipment.
On Thursday, Israel added a fresh twist to the saga as it claimed the weapons, which landed in the country on July 10 this year from India, belonged to the Palestinian militant group, Hamas, and that they originated from Iran and were headed for the Gaza Strip.
Israel, however, did not provide evidence to support its claim, with its officials citing 'security concerns.' But while security agencies in Nigeria battle to unravel the importers of the deadly weapons, security experts have revealed that they had the capacity to wipe out large areas in minutes because of the distance they can travel when deployed to cause harm (See box).
They also hinted that if such weapons circulate among insurgents and criminals in the country, low-flying aircraft and banks could become targets of attack. A security analyst and former security adviser to the Rivers State Government, Chief Anabs Sara-Igbe, who spoke in a telephone interview with Sunday Sun, equally alerted that the security situation in the country was heightening as there was fresh arms build-up in the Niger Delta and that 'the governors are aware…but they are handicapped.'
Sara-Igbe, who is also a maritime expert, said if importers of the weapons had succeeded in clearing them, they could make the country ungovernable. He hinged his fear on the recent twin bombings in Abuja, which claimed about a dozen lives, the Boko Haram insurgency in parts of the northern states and the intractable Jos crisis. 'The Federal Government must step up its security and surveillance system. It must do more than it is doing at the moment and take more precautionary measures.
'As we speak, there is massive arms build-up in the Niger Delta. The region is again being proliferated with small weapons. Unfortunately, the (Niger Delta) governors are aware but cannot do anything. They are handicapped as they are not empowered to check the trend,' he said. In his view, Nigeria was gradually becoming a major terrorist state, with variants of ethnic, religious and criminal terrorism.
'Nigeria has been a terrorist state, which originated with the oppression by the Nigerian State of some sections of the country. The coming of groups like MEND (Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta) and OPC (Oodua Peoples Congress) are all a reaction to state-sponsored terrorism. So terrorism is not new in Nigeria. But the country is gradually turning into a major terrorist state and terrorism is a serious security breach,' he added.
The security expert identified some of the problems of the security agencies in the country, saying there is mutual mistrust among them and the tendency to hoard information. 'There is a problem with dissemination of information among the security agencies. For instance, those weapons arrived the country over four months ago but we became aware only a few days ago. The security agencies do not share information and this is not good for our national security.
'The government should also set up a proper Counter-Terrorism Unit (CTU) and not the type we have in the Nigeria Police. We must move away from the analogue CTU to a digital system with emphasis on modern technology and communication equipment.'
In the same vein, security consultant, Dr Ona Ekhomu, said the proliferation of small arms like AK-47 and General Purpose Machine Guns (GPMGs) in the country pose serious security challenges. For instance, he said an AK-47 had capacity for 600 rounds of ammunition and could hit its target 300 meters away, GPMG could make holes as wide as one diameter even from 1800 meters while rocket launchers can be fired from 8.5 kilometers away.
He explained that rocket launchers, AK-47 and GPMGs could cause incalculable damage to large areas in a city within minutes of being deployed, warning that they should not be weapons found on the streets or with regular policemen on patrol.
According to Dr Ekhomu, one of the reasons armed robbers target policemen is to be able to snatch AK-47 from them.
'Due to its potency, AK-47 should not be the sole weapon for the police. In fact, they should not be in possession of such weapons on the streets. This makes them targets of armed robbers,' he contended.
Ekhomu advised the government to pay more attention to the country's 'porous land borders' while the security agencies 'must sniff out and gather information intelligently.'