One of the biggest security challenges facing Africa and Nigeria in particular is the arm control and demilitarisation process. In Nigeria, the trade in illegal SALW has fuelled ethnic clashes and brought about unrest in the Niger Delta region. This development calls for serious attention from states and regional organizations, little wonder, the 15 ECOWAS member states on 14th June 2006 adopted a Convention on SALW with the central objective of preventing and combating the excessive and destabilizing accumulation of SALW within the sub-region. The central aim of this study was to critically appraise the extent Nigeria has implemented the Problems of arm control. More importantly, the study was designed to ascertain the extent the Nigerian Firearms Act of 1959 has helped in curbing arms proliferation in Nigeria. The study was guided by two research questions and two hypotheses. To analyse the issues raised, the study was anchored on the regulative capability analytical framework of the General Systems Theory. The Regulative Capability addresses the capacity of the political system to exercise control over individuals and groups throughout the society. The theory x-rays the inability of the Nigerian political system to regulate the activities of its citizens and the proliferation of SALW. Our research design was non-experimental. We made use of both primary and secondary sources of data. The primary sources include arms seizure data from the Nigerian Customs, Nigerian Police Force, and ECOWAS Secretariat among others. We relied heavily on secondary sources such as current textbooks, journals, internet materials, conference and unpublished papers dealing on SALW. To ensure the reliability and validity of instruments, the technique of content analysis was rigorously and systematically applied. After a detailed review of extant literature and analysis of available data, the following findings were made; first, that the fight against excessive and destabilizing accumulation of SALW within ECOWAS sub-region is still a mirage in Nigeria. This is because an estimated three million SALW are in circulation in Nigeria. The study further revealed that since 2006 that the Problems of arm control came into being, Nigeria has organized just one illegal arms collection programme. That is, the recent Amnesty programmes organized by the Yar’Adua administration to pardon militants in the Niger Delta and have them submit their arms. A paltry 2760 arms were surrendered. Organizing just one arms collection programme since 2006, revealed the study is not impressive for a country that records armed violence in torrents. It was further revealed that institutional mechanism put in place in Nigeria as recognized by the Convention to combat proliferation of SALW in Nigeria is handicapped by lack of autonomy and funds. Finally, the study revealed that the penalties for breaching the law as recognized by the Fire arms Act of 1959 particularly in relation to fine has become obsolete. The penalty is often insufficient to ensure deterrence and enforcement in the event of breach.

1.1 Background of Study
The arm control and demilitarisation process has become one of the most urgent security and developmental challenges in Africa today. The uncontrolled proliferation and widespread availability of small arms is a development that is affecting virtually every African country and poses threats to domestic and regional security. The problems posed by small arms proliferation are complex and multidimensional in character. They are entangled with other broad security and societal issues such as conflict prevention and resolution, poverty, gender, cultures of violence, governance issues, criminal activity and links to terrorism. It also has serious implications for human rights and humanitarian activities (Ogaba, 2005: 9-10).

According to Gamba, it is believed that more than 500 million SALW are in existence globally, and these are produced in large numbers in more than 70 countries ( These weapons have fueled dozens of intra-state and local conflicts around the globe; killing, injuring and displacing millions of people primarily women and children. The damage and destruction caused by small arms in Africa is indeed astounding. Armed conflicts, which have been carried out largely with small arms in Africa, have been the most visible manifestation of the devastation caused by arms. According to World Health Organization (WHO), in 2000 alone, about 167,000 Africans died as result of conflicts


Over the past several years, the annual production of small arms has averaged between 7 and 8 million weapons with the United States and Russia Federation accounting for about 5 million of the new production. It is estimated that there are in the region of 650 million small arms in circulation. Out of that an estimated 5 percent of the total, is in sub-Saharan Africa (Ogaba, 2005: 11). The surprising finding however, as reported by the Small Arms Survey: Year Book 2001 is that only about 2 percent of the small arms in Africa (about 600,000) are thought to be in the hands of armed groups or insurgents. Thus, the relatively few number of weapons that have brought devastation and destruction in various parts of Africa highlights the lethal damaging capabilities of small arms weapons.

Besides being a direct cause of deaths, the effects of small arms are far-reaching when consideration is given to its economic cost, social upheavals, resource allocation away from human needs, and the undermining of the legitimacy of the states in Africa. According to the Oxfam International, armed conflict costs Africa around $18 billion per year ( is also a psychological dimension to the damage that is being perpetrated by small arms proliferation and use. Increasingly, across large parts of Africa, there is the growing perception that the well-being and security of individuals and communities can only be guaranteed through the possession of small arms.

In West Africa, the evidence of proliferation is an extreme concern. Out of the 650 million SALW circulating globally, some estimated 7 million are in West Africa, and 77,000 small arms are in the hands of major West African insurgent groups (Small Arms Survey, 2003: 82). In West Africa, small arms are easily obtainable and at low prices. For example, according to military sources in Nigeria, pistols can be obtained for between N3, 000 (about US$25) and N7, 000 (about US$58), depending on the type, seller, and area of purchase. In zones of conflict such as the Mano River Union (MRU), which is comprised of Guinea-Conakry, Liberia, and Sierra Leone, small arms appear easier to obtain illicitly than in more stable areas, and at considerably cheaper prices, although these can be extremely volatiles due to market conditions (Ebo, 2003).

Proliferation has been facilitated by legal means. During conflict, some states in West Africa have liberalized gun possession laws in order to stimulate civilian arming. Arms were directly distributed to paramilitary groups by governments in order to fight rebel forces during the civil wars in Côte d’Ivoire, Liberia and Sierra Leone, but legislation was also liberalized, and proved a major driver of small arms diffusion. Finally, the fragmentation of the political and economic space in West Africa has shaped the availability and circulation of SALW. The deterioration of many West African states’ capacity to enforce the rule of law has blurred the boundaries between legal and illicit markets, enabling a thriving trade in SALW. Politicians have even been known to acquire weapons from illegal dealers to arm security personnel during election season (Francis, 2008).

There are currently several initiatives in the world towards controlling the trafficking and proliferation of small arms. There is the United Nations Programme of Action on Small Arms (UNPOA). There are also some regional and sub-regional initiatives that have been undertaken under the auspices of the African Union (AU), Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), Southern African Development Community (SADC), etc. All geared towards controlling the proliferation and limiting the impacts of SALW.

The purpose of this study is to critically assess the extent the Nigerian state has implemented the Problems of arm, their Ammunition and other Related Materials, in order to ascertain the extent it has gone in curbing small arms proliferation in the country. More importantly, the study will critical analyse the extent the 1959 Firearms Act has helped in curbing arms proliferation in Nigeria.

1.2 Statement of Problem
Uncontrolled accumulation and spread of SALW poses a threat to peace and security and has reduced the prospects of sustainable development throughout the subregion of West Africa. Free cross border activity coupled with relatively weak administrative legislative and regulatory measures on weapons within each country have contributed to the indiscriminate proliferation of SALW from abroad and from within the sub-region. Recognizing the indiscriminate proliferation of weapons fuelling these conflicts had a negative impact on regional development and human security, ECOWAS member states adopted a Moratorium on the Importation, Exportation and Manufacture of Small Arms and Light Weapons in West Africa at the 21st Session of the meeting of Heads of State and Government of ECOWAS on 30th October, 1998 for a renewable period of three years; It was renewed successively in 2001 and 2004 (Mohammed, 2008).

On June 14, 2006, the ECOWAS Moratorium on the Importation, Exportation and Manufacture of Small Arms and Light Weapons was transformed in to a convention and became the Problems of arm, Their Ammunition and Other Related Materials. These are all geared towards curbing the proliferation of SALW within the ECOWAS sub-region.

Despite these efforts, Jennifer (2007) noted that there are an estimated seven to ten million illicit small arms and light weapons in West Africa. She goes further to state that there are an estimated one million to three million small arms and light weapons in circulation in Nigeria alone. Civilians possess the majority of weapons in the country. Millions of Nigerians have been killed or displaced as a result, and an immeasurable amount of property has been destroyed. SALW have been used to grossly violate human rights, to facilitate the practice of bad governance, to subvert constitutions, to carry out coups d’état and to create and maintain a general state of fear, insecurity and instability. They are also being employed for non-political and non-conflict-related crime and violence.

The oil-rich Delta region of Nigeria has seen conflict since 2003 involving well-armed militia groups motivated in part by economic interest in stolen crude oil. These groups use a range of sophisticated weapons, such as semi- and fully automatic rifles, alongside more traditional weapons to carry out deadly and paralysing attacks on oil and gas installations. They have killed scores of security officials, damaged oil facilities and infrastructure, and shut down oil production. They have also taken foreign oil workers hostage. Hundreds of people have been killed in the violence, which has also resulted in the displacement of thousands and the destruction of hundreds of properties.

In fact, most of the ethno-religious violence in Nigeria has been fuelled by the use of small arms. More appallingly, cases of gun running have been rampant in Nigeria as militant groups openly brag on how they procure their arms.

It is against this background, we raise the following research questions:

1. To what extent has Nigeria implemented the Problems of arm?

2. To what extent has the Nigerian fire arms law curbed the arm control and demilitarisation process in Nigeria?

1.3 Objectives of the Study
The central objective of this study is to critically appraise the Problems of arm, their Ammunition and other Related Materials in the West African sub-region since it was implemented. However, the study is guided by the following specific objectives:

1. To ascertain the extent Nigeria has implemented the Problems of arm.

2. To ascertain the extent the Nigerian Fire Arms law has curbed the arm control and demilitarisation process in Nigeria

1.4 Hypotheses
The study will be guided by the following hypotheses:

1. Nigeria has not successfully implemented the Problems of arm control since it was signed into law.

2. The Nigerian Firearms law is the main factor hindering effective arms control in Nigeria.

1.4 Significance of the Study
Existing scholarship on small arms and light weapons concentrated attention on the causes of small arms proliferation, its fatality, and economic consequences and how it has fuelled dozens of war all over the world and Africa in particular. Little attention was paid to how countries mostly in Africa tries to contain the incidence of SALW proliferation. More importantly, the ECOWAS Convention on Small Arms and Light Weapon, their Ammunition and other Related Materials as a policy statement to counter arms proliferation in the West Africa sub-region has not been properly assessed since it was adopted by West African leaders vis a vis arms proliferation in Nigeria.

These unattended issues help us to establish three basic significance of this study.

First, by appraising Nigeria’s effort at implementing the Problems of arm control in the West African sub-region, this study is expected to identify the pitfalls inherent in the Convention and how to plug them and influence the choices of the reviewers of the document whenever occasion calls for that.

Secondly, the study promised to x-ray various efforts Nigeria has made to curb the incidence of SALW. Most scholars are wont to argue that Africa, mostly sub-Saharan Africa is not doing enough to curb the incidence of SALW proliferation. Perhaps, this study will focus on efforts made so far in Nigeria to curb arms proliferation.

Finally, this study will be important for scholars interested in strategic studies, particularly in the West African sub-region. Experts in security studies will find this study very useful. This is because the issue of security is central to the study.

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