Recover missing Police weapons

Recover missing Police weapons

Penultimate week, Nigerians received the shocking news, from the Office of the Auditor-General of the Federation no less, that huge stocks of weapons belonging to the Nigeria Police Force have been pilfered without any trace whatsoever.

According to the 2019 Auditor-General Report, the latest so far in a string of damning reports about how Nigeria is governed, or rather, misgoverned, some 178,459 different types of arms and ammunition got missing from the armory of the Nigeria Police force in 2019 without any formal report on their whereabouts. This includes, the report says, 88,078 AK-47 rifles and 3,907 assorted rifles and pistols from police formations across the country.

There are several implications of this gargantuan theft of arms and munitions within one of the very agencies of the solely mandated to use and keep custody of weapons in the country. But first, the Auditor-General report and its relevance in our democratic governance system. In our statues, the Auditor-General Report is a robust mechanism for public accountability. And since at least 2003, that office has released annual reports of its audit of federal ministries, departments and agencies (MDAs), which, as statutorily required, it has submitted to the National Assembly for consideration and action, as a part of our checks and balances system.

And since 2003, each of these reports has included details about missing arms and ammunitions of various police units and commands across the country. That the National Assembly almost always does nothing about these reports of misgovernance in the MDAs to advance democratic accountability in our governance is a scandal in its own right. That they do nothing about thousands of missing arms and ammunitions from the police, civil defence, and our other security forces is an indictment of their own complicity in the rising levels of insecurity in the country.

In the 2016 report, for instance, the Auditor-General of the Federation stated that “Fifty-five (55) Police riffles with 2,048 rounds of ammunition were missing at different Divisions” of the Anambra State Police Command. Similarly at the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) command, the report notes that twenty-two (22) AK 47 and two (2) other Riffles with 395 rounds of ammunition from Zuba and three (3) arms from Bwari could not be accounted for on the Daily Arms Returns, from 20th October, 2016 to the time of inspection in January 2017”.

These are only indicative examples of how the entire police force is replete with cases of missing weapons and ammunitions purchased by the state for the sole purpose of keeping security in the country. According to the Statista database, there are 5,556 units of police stations, police posts, commands, and headquarters in Nigeria as of 2017. And with cases of missing weapons so rampant across of these formations, it is easy to see how the total could reach of 178,459 missing arms and ammunitions as revealed by the Auditor-General’s office in its latest report.

And yet, in almost all cases, the police itself does not even conduct its won routine assessment of the whereabouts of these weapons, let alone leave detailed reports that other agencies of government could act upon. This raises a number very serious questions for Nigerian authorities at various levels.

First, the National Assembly should, for once, act in the national security interest. The Senate and the House of Representatives need to conduct a thorough investigation of Nigeria’s armories across all the security and para-military formations, with a view towards strengthening the custodial and reporting procedures of all arms and ammunitions within the security agencies. The National Assembly must do this with dispatch.

More specifically, the Inspector-General of Police (IGP), Usman Alkali Baba is in fact the chief accounting officer of all the arms and ammunitions under police custody. We urge the IGP to immediately probe the reported missing weapons under his charge with a view towards their recovery. It is important that the IGP should not only name and shame all police officers across the country found wanting in this scandal but to prosecute them under the full weight of our laws. More important however, we insist that the missing arms must be recovered to police custody.

The rise of armed non-state actors of all kinds, from insurgents, bandits and violent secessionists all across the country has been enabled by a corresponding increase in the proliferation of small and light weapons in Nigeria in particular, and in the West Africa sub-region more generally. With such a large stock of missing arms and ammunitions from the police armory, there is every reason that a sizable number of them will get into the hands of the criminals terrorizing Nigeria and its people.

Secondly, the argument has always been made that the Nigeria Police Force is under-equipped and under-armed, particularly in comparison to the criminals that they fight. Consequently, it is suggested that the federal government should invest in more police equipment, including arms and ammunitions in order to reposition the police to take on its responsibilities of fighting crime. But of what use is more investment in this area if the police cannot be relied upon to keep custody of its arms?

The IGP must arrest these sorry developments by recovering the missing weapons.


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