Proliferation of firearms being smuggled in from Libya, Yemen, Mali, Niger and Chad and increasing use of illegal drugs are responsible for the worsening crime situation in Nigeria, Minister of Interior, Lieutenant General, Abdulraman Dambazau (rtd) has said.
The minister also asserted that the farmers/herders conflicts being witnessed in some parts of the country has no ethnic or religious colouration, stressing that it is a regional problem over sharing of land and water resources.
According to Dambazau who met the Inspector-General of Police, Ibrahim Idris, Commissioners of Police and other senior officers at the Force Headquarters in Abuja on Wednesday, security and agriculture ministers from West and Central African nations will comprehensively address the issues at a conference scheduled to take place soon.
On proliferation of firearms and their sources, the minister said: “Firearms and drugs are drivers to violent crimes. They do not cause the crimes that we are witnessing but they drive them.
“As police officers, we have a role to play; weapons are drivers to criminal violence. There are huge numbers of the weapons in circulation and we know the sources.
“Some of these weapons come from Libya because of the instability, Mali, Yemen, Niger, Chad. We also know that some of the weapons come from Niger Delta by way of trade by barter involved between oil thieves and militants.
“They exchange oil for weapons. We know the sources and we also know that they come through armed merchants through our ports and seaports but we must do something about them because the weapons give confidence to criminals and they kill without thinking about it. They are easily accessible because you can either buy or acquire.”
On the way forward, the minister urged the police to enforce the law of firearms and also widen the scope of the law. “You must enforce the law against illegal possession of firearms and we must also widen our enforcement to include local made weapons that are not classified as firearms.
“We must widen our law to include those ones that are not presently included and as for me, anyone found to be in possession of firearms would be assumed to be a violent criminal. He is either armed robber, terrorist, cultist, militant or bandit.
“Today, in the front burner of issue of security is rural banditry and herders /farmers conflict. These are issues that have a lot of dimensions and for us to deal with the issue of farmers/herders conflict; there is need for us to look at it from multidimensional approach.
“Realising that this issue has regional implication, the ECOWAS President and some members we find it necessary to organise conference that would involve ministers in charge of Internal security and agriculture in the West and Central Africa region.
“We tend to look at the issue as a local problem but it is not, it is rather a national and regional problem. It is not a religious problem neither is it an ethnic problem, it is problem that has to do with resource sharing; water and land and we must find a way to deal with it.”
Also speaking, the IG disclosed that the Nigeria Police Force loses over 9000 policemen to retirement, sickness, death and dismissal every year, stressing that the Force is currently struggling with manpower shortage.
He said Nigeria Police Force was lagging behind the ratio of one policeman to 400 citizens as stipulated by the United Nations.
He however said 6000 policemen would be recruited in few months’ times to fill the vacancies in the rank and file cadre.
He said: “The issue of manpower is one of the challenges the police is facing and every opportunity I have, I tell stakeholders that there is need to look into the manpower strength of the police force.
“Presently, if you look at the UN ratio, the police is supposed to operate in this manner; 400 citizens to one policeman and presently if you look at our strength, we are just 308,000 to cover about 182million Nigerians.
“If you look at the ratio, Nigeria Police is operating about 600 citizens to one policeman. Definitely the ratio is below that of the United Nations. The issue of recruitment has been taken serious by us and the government.
“Between 2011 and 2015, there was no recruitment until last year and they have been trained and deployed to Commands.
“This year, we got approval to recruit 6000 for the rank and file to add to the recruitment we have. If you look at it, statistics wise, Nigeria Police forces loses 9028 officer every year through retirement, sickness and death and dismissal.
“Obviously, there is need for us to conduct recruitment to fill the vacancies and like I said, the wastages is over 9028 and there is need for replacement and that is what we are struggling with presently.”
“The federal government approved 6000 recruitment of rank and file in the police force. We are working out the modalities and I’m definitely sure, in a month, we are going to conduct that recruitment.”
The IGP who expressed optimism that in few months’ time, the Police Trust Fund Bill which is before the national assembly would be passed added that the passage of the bill would make the Force carry out their duties effectively.
On illegal firearms, he said the Force would soon construct public armoury to store recovered firearms as stated in Firearms Act.
He said: “We want to check the abuse of firearms all over the country. If you check the firearms Act, one of its provisions is public armoury in each Command where the illegal weapons recovered are stored and I’m sure all over the country, no Command has public armoury.
“Public armoury has not been constructed and these are issues that we need to address. We have to see how we can construct the armoury where we would store illegal arms and ammunitions from various citizens across the country.”