As long as security challenges maintain the current crescendo, the gun problem in Nigeria is an inexhaustible issue. It is portrayed very strongly in the armed conflicts in the northwest and northeast, as well as in the perpetual gang wars in the southern region. Access to weapons remains a major contributor to violence and conflict around the world, including Nigeria. The abundance of weapons means more violence resulting in death, loss of livelihood and displacement. According to the Institute for Security Studies (ISS), the armed conflict is the main driver of displacement in Africa and the problem is getting worse.
While military engagements are necessary to wage war against armed groups, proactive efforts must prevent easy access to weapons. In 2013, representatives of the member states of the African Union met in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, and passed the law “Silencing the weapons in Africa by 2020”. Eight years later, the conflict on the African continent has increased. There are conflicts in Burkina Faso, Burundi-Rwanda, Gambia, Cameroon, Ethiopia and Mozambique. The ongoing violence in the Sahel is a major challenge for Africa and its development partners. The Boko Haram uprising, which began in northeast Nigeria, has now spread to Chad, Niger and Cameroon. The task of silencing weapons in Africa, particularly Nigeria, has become increasingly difficult.
In order to cope with the surge of arms, the ISS report recommends that the African Union and its relevant organs reinforce existing early warning structures such as the Continental Early Warning System (CEWS) and the Panel of the Wise with early action mechanisms to silence the arms agenda. In Nigeria and some of its African neighbors, non-state armed groups’ access to weapons benefits from their porous borders and the weakness of state structures in enforcing arms control measures. Therefore, concerted regional border securitization efforts will help combat small arms and light weapons smuggling in Africa.
In addition to arms control, African governments must commit to addressing structural weaknesses that increase the need for weapons by non-state armed groups. The rise of non-state armed groups has typically been due to structural violence, repressive measures, an imbalanced framework for allocation distribution, maladministration, human rights abuses, and a flawed criminal justice system. The national governments in Africa must concentrate on solving these structural problems in their states. Regional and continental government organizations in Africa and their international development partners must urge African governments to focus on these causal instability factors that are widespread across the continent. The demand for weapons and their proliferation will diminish when there are fewer reasons for conflict.