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This dissertation examines the Proliferation and Misuse of Small Arms and Light Weapons under the ECOWAS Legal regime taking Nigeria as a case study. The objective of this dissertation it to find out why small arms and light weapons have continued to proliferate in Nigeria despite being a signatory to the ECOWAS Legal Regime, in this case, the ECOWAS Convention on Small Arms and Light Weapons and Other Related Materials.


Using Doctrinal Methodology, the dissertation shows that Small Arms and Light Weapons proliferation and misuse has increased criminality, youth violence, hostage taking, militancy, community crises, oil bunkering and insurgency. More so, it further asserts that their wide availability fuels ethno/religious conflict, political instability and has direct influence on the escalation and sustenance of peace, insecurity and development.

This dissertation examines the sources of small arms and light weapons, the motivational forces behind the proliferation and Federal Government initiatives to curb this menace in Nigeria. It also focuses on the legal regime on small arms as they concern the control of small arms proliferation in Nigeria and argues that the National Law in place is out-dated and inadequate to curtail and impede the proliferation and misuse of SALW.

It further argues that though the extant ECOWAS legal regime is robust enough to support any sustainable progress in this area, however, non-compliance by member States and particularly Nigeria to harmonise their laws with the provisions of the ECOWAS Convention certainly lives much to be desired.Findings revealed that the inability of the Nigeria government and the law enforcement agencies to check the supply and the demand factors of the proliferation of SALW in Nigeria has heightened and worsened the security situations in the country.

To this extent, the dissertation recommended amongst others, that there should be significant changes in the National legislation harmonizing same with the ECOWAS Convention because of the minimum standard requirement in article 21 of the Convention while dealing with the demand factors of SALW that heightens the proliferation of SALW by partnering with the private sector to undertake an aggressive job creation programme for Nigeria‘s teeming and idle youths.




1.1        Background to the Study

Whether it is Africa, Sri Lanka, or even Chechnya and Afghanistan, it is not heavy weaponry or hi-tech devices that kill the most people, but the flood of cheap, easy to get, Small Arms and Light Weapons that has swept over so many countries. Yet a lot of this cross-border arms trade is illegal.1 Relying on highly organized international logistical structures, criminals trespass territorial boundaries, whilst law enforcement agents act within the confines of domestic law to counter the proliferation of Small Arms and Light Weapons.

Report has it that Small Arms and Light Weapons (SALW) are responsible for the majority of battle-related conflict deaths, an estimated 60-90 percent of all direct conflict victims are killed with firearms. Large numbers of men, women, older people and children die indirectly from the effects of armed conflict on the economy, ruined health and security infrastructures, disease and famine2. Ironically, the use of these weapons is common to the global South. For instance Africa is one of such places because of its vulnerability to different kinds of conflicts including ethnic and religious crisis. The relation between the accessibility of SALW and the outbreak and severity of conflict is more dramatically evident in West Africa. Liberia was the first to suffer. With only 100 irregular soldiers armed primarily with AK-47 assault rifles, Insurgent leader

Charles Taylor invaded the country and within months, he had seized mineral and timber resources and used the profits to purchase additional light weapons. Had he needed to equip his forces with heavier weapons such as artillery, armored cars and tanks—the weapons conventionally associated with a conquering army—Taylor would have faced crippling logistical obstacles.

In comparison, a few boatloads of assault rifles, rocket-propelled grenades and machine guns were simple to transport and provided more than enough firepower3.The firepower of modern SALW —and the rapid escalation of violence that such weaponry makes possible—was evident even in the early stages of Liberia’s civil war. Much the same cycle of violence engulfed in Rwanda, with SALW as the primary weapon of the day.

Once competing groups have been armed with SALW, any minor dispute can escalate quickly into a major bloodbath. And the availability of such weapons, even in remote and inaccessible places makes it difficult for the International community to bring the warring parties to the bargaining table and, curb the cycle of bloodletting. Brokering peace has proved especially difficult in countries such as Angola and Sierra Leone, where rebel forces have been able to exchange diamonds or other commodities for guns and ammunition on the black market.

4In West Africa, due to porous borders, weak state institutions, and increasing trade in small arms and light weapons in the sub-region, post conflict States such as Cote d‘Ivoire, Guinea-Bissau, Liberia and Sierra-Leone are increasingly prone to destabilization. The region has witnessed an outbreak of ethnic, religious and sectarian conflict characterized by routine massacre of civilians. These wars have killed millions, devastated entire geographic regions, and left tens of millions of refugees and orphans. Little of the destruction was inflicted by the tanks, artillery or aircraft usually associated with modern warfare; rather most was carried out with pistols, machine guns and grenades5.

Recent events show that influx of small arms has caused instability even in relatively stable West African Countries. For example, armed with small arms and other light weapons, Islamic rebels returning from the Libyan conflict have excised Northern Mali from the rest of the Country6.In Nigeria, Small Arms and Light Weapons (SALW) and groups misusing them, are dangerously out of control in the Niger Delta Region while BokoHaram insurgents employing the use of light arms have also caused considerable instability in the Northern part of the Country.7

Although small arms and light weapons are not themselves a cause of conflict, their ready accessibility and low cost can prolong combat, encourage a violent rather than a peaceful resolution of differences, and generate greater insecurity throughout society—which in turn leads to a spiraling demand for, and use of, such weapons8.However, despite the notorious and disruptive reputation that SALW has generated, it has failed to attract the degree of International commitment it deserves.

Major world powers have not demonstrated the degree of resoluteness and un-equivocation it has in stemming the proliferation of SALW. Some scholars expose the irony of this priority by arguing that nuclear weapons, with all their horror, have not killed since Nagasaki in 1945, while SALW have killed an estimated three million men, women and particularly children since 1990.

For West Africa, foreign interest in her vast mineral resources and viability of the SALW trade has both been identified as being responsible for the less than sufficient interest of the developed world in stemming this lethal trade. The argument by some other scholars that SALW do not cause conflict is well taken, but its spiral effect on conflicts remains too significant to ignore.

According to Ero and Ndinga-Muvumba9 writing on Small Arms and Light Weapons in a contribution to Adebajo and Rashid‘s West Africa‘s Security Challenges Building Peace in a Troubled Region ―While Small Arms and light weapons do not of course, cause conflicts, they soon become part of the conflict equation by fuelling and exacerbating underlying tensions, generating more insecurity, deepening the sense of crisis, and adding to the number of casualties.‖

The small arms trade is a lucrative industry. The gun trade is worth $ 4 billion annually, of which up to $ 1 billion may be unauthorized or illicit10 that exploits Regional conflicts for economic gain. Estimates of SALW in circulation worldwide is put at Comfort, E. & Angela, N.M. (2004). Small Arms and Light Weapons. In Adekeye, A., and Ismail, R. (Eds.), West Africa’s Security Challenges: Building Peace in a Troubled Region (pp 224-235).

Apart from civilian casualties, the global proliferation of small arms contributes to terrorism, the use of child soldiers in violent conflicts, Regional instability, and the weakening of National Governments as non-state actors monopolize military resources15. The issue of proliferation of Small Arms has surfaced at the United Nations in recent years with International recognition of the disproportionately large destructive capacity and potential of Small Arms.

Some of the largest exporters of small arms (which include the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council) face responsibility for supplying arms, directly or indirectly, to conflict zones16. Lack of transparency by weapons exporters makes it difficult to assess the extent to which terrorist organizations and other non-state actors are receiving State support. Once Small Arms fall into the hands of Non-State actors that are unaccountable to International or domestic laws, regulating their distribution is an even larger challenge17.


Given the horrifying situation above, up on till 2014 when the Arms Trade Treaty was signed, the only existing Mechanism for the Timely Information on Global

Trafficking, the United Nations Register of Conventional Weapons, covered major weapons only. No doubt that so many measures have been put in place by both Government and Non-Governmental organizations, but as recognized by Professor Micheal T. Klare,18none of these measures by itself can overcome the dangers posed by the uncontrolled spread of Small Arms and Light Weapons.

The problem is far too complex to be solved by any single initiative. Combating proliferation and illicit trafficking therefore requires a multi-sectoral approach that provides for a wide variety of measures and approaches, including legislation and regulation, law enforcement, civil society cooperation, stockpile management, collection and destruction and development19.This dissertation will identify measures that can help combat the proliferation of Small Arms and Light Weapons, by adopting a multi-sectoral and comprehensive approach.

1.2 Statement of the Problem

The ECOWAS Sub-region has for many years been the most unstable Sub-region on the continent. The preponderance of SALW has particularly fuelled conflicts from which the Sub-region is still struggling to survive. The wide spread availability of SALW has fueled conflicts that resulted in the loss of lives and displacement of millions of West Africans. It has also caused the destruction of an immeasurable amount of property, gross violation of human rights, and facilitation of the practice of bad Governance, subve

of constitutions, coups d‘état, creating and maintaining general state of fear, insecurity and instability. They are also being employed for non-political and non-conflict-related crime and violence. These conflicts have been fuelled by a pool of young people frustrated by a lack of employment prospects and easy access to light weapons. The proliferation and misuse of small arms is increasing in proportion. These Small Arms have played a major role in exacerbating crimes and armed violence.

Nigeria‘s internal security environment has deteriorated in the last decade. Old security threats have remained or even assumed worrisome dimensions, while new threats have emerged. One of the old threat that assumed new dimensions is small arms and light weapons (SALW) proliferation20. Threats considered to be relatively new in Nigeria – though not without precedent, in the strict sense of it – are the outbreak of Insurgency and domestic terrorism, evident in the growing audacity of the Boko Haram sect21, the 50th Independence Day (1 October 2010) twin bomb blasts in Abuja that killed 12 people and injured several dozen others carried out by a faction of the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta, the recent, 14 April 2014, Nyanya motor park bombing that claimed more than 75 lives and injured several dozen others and the abduction of over 200 girls of GGSS in Chibok, Borno State the next day, leaving the country in a state of insecurity. A common denominator in the manifestation of both old and new threats is the use of SALWs. Thus, Nigeria now features prominently in the three-spot

cline of transnational organised trafficking of SALWs in West Africa: origin, transit route and destination22.In a research carried by Oxfam International, the International Action Network on Small Arms (IANSA) and Safer world, African countries spent over 300 billion dollars on armed conflict and this amount according to the report corresponds almost identically to the sum of International aid that was granted to Africa within the same period23.

Spending this kind of money in a part of the world where millions perish yearly due to easily curable diseases, hunger and starvation and where basic education is not guaranteed is grossly irresponsible, intolerable and clearly demonstrates how many African countries suffer from bad governance as well as from the irresponsible actions of weapons producing states.

Africa is also a major transshipment point for the international trade, as well as a major producer of local arms.24 This phenomenon threatens the consolidation of democracy and security in the region, which is necessary for sustainable development. According to Bello25, there are about eight to ten million illicit small arms and light weapons in West Africa. The proliferation and misuse of Small Arms and Light Weapons directly enables a horrifying number of deaths and injuries around the world each year, and it poses a grave threat to the stability and development of many countries, as well as to the success of UN-mandated peace operations.26There are an estimated three million to six million27small arms and light weapons in circulation in Nigeria. This dissertation appraised the ECOWAS Convention on SALW and Other Related Materials, 2006, and the level of Nigeria‘s compliance with the Convention, the dissertation also examined the extent to which Nigerian Firearms Act has curbed the proliferation and Misuse of SALW in Nigeria.

It further examined the sources of small arms and light weapons into the area, discussed the motivational forces behind the proliferation, examined Federal Government initiatives to curb these menace and gave recommendations that can combat the proliferation of SALW in Nigeria.

1.3          Aim and Objectives of the Research

The aim of this dissertation is to appraise the ECOWAS Legal Regime against the proliferation and misuse of Small Arms and Light Weapons in the ECOWAS Sub-region with a view to finding out why SALW has continued to proliferate in the sub-region and in Nigeria in particular, despite being a signatory to the ECOWAS Convention on Small Arms and Light Weapons and other International Instrument on SALW, with a view to proffering solution on how to curb the menace of SALW proliferation. The objective of the dissertation is to realize the following

  • To ascertain the extent Nigeria has complied with and implemented the ECOWAS Convention on Small Arms and Light Weapons.
  • Why Small Arms and Light Weapons proliferation have continued to thrive in Nigeria, despite being signatories to the ECOWAS Convention and other International Instruments dealing with illicit proliferation of SALW.
  • To ascertain the extent the Nigerian Fire Arms law has curbed the proliferation of small arms and light weapons in Nigeria
  • To ascertain if the inability of the Nigerian state to deal with the demand factors and the inability of the law enforcement agencies to check the supply factors heightened the proliferation of SALW in Nigeria.
  • To also examine the successes, effectiveness and challenges of the ECOWAS Small Arms control regimes from voluntary to legally and politically binding Agreements.
  • To come out with some viable recommendations.


1.4          Scope and Limitation of the Research

This dissertation is a general work that will take a look at the situation in Nigeria and how it can move along with the global community in addressing the problem of proliferation and misuse of SALW in the Country. There are several countries that are signatories to the ECOWAS Legal Regime on the proliferation and misuse of SALW within the sub-region.

This Dissertation is not concerned about the effectiveness of the ECOWAS Legal Regime in curbing the menace of such proliferation of SALW in theentire sub-region. Rather the Dissertation would be limited to the appraisal of ECOWAS Convention on SALW and how far it can assist in curbing such menace in Nigeria f complied with and implemented.

Tremendous amount of research has already been done in this field. Therefore, due to logistical constraints, this dissertation will, to a large extent, make use of secondary data obtained from books, articles and publications in both print and electronic media (the internet). Where information and opinion(s) of experts in this field are used, it will be clearly indicated for purposes of credibility and reliability of the data in this research. To the extent of the dependence on secondary data, this dissertation will be limited in that regard.

1.5          Significance/Justification of the Research

Without doubt, there exists a major lacuna in the domain of public policy for the management of Small Arms and Light Weapons proliferation. By appraising Nigeria‘s effort at implementing the ECOWAS Convention on SALW in the West African sub-region, this dissertation is expected to identify the pitfalls inherent in the effort and how to plug them and thus provide useful reference to policy makers in the Sub-region and contribute to ongoing debates on the problem of SALW proliferation. The dissertation will x-ray various efforts Nigeria has made to curb the incidence of SALW and thus further contribute to existing body of knowledge, while serving as reference material for other researchers on similar topics. This dissertation shall therefore provide recommendations that will address the problems of Small Arms and Light Weapons. This will also enhance assessment of the extent to which small arms can be identified as a threat to security and development, by outlining the existing scholarly work on re-conceptualizing security and analysing the socio-economic consequences of the phenomena of SALW. This dissertation is therefore justified because it is timely and topical and beneficial to Law makers, policy makers, researchers and students interested in the study of SALW.



Research Methodology is defined as the overall strategy employed by a researcher in collecting and analyzing data with a view of finding solution to the identified problem. The research methodology of this dissertation is structured on a doctrinal approach, employing deductive reasoning to draw conclusions about the issues of SALW proliferation and misuse in Nigeria. Extensive use was made of the wealth of existing materials on the subject in private Libraries around me and on the internet. Sources of such secondary information are well acknowledged.


Weapons proliferation has attracted widespread attention and critical analysis not only from the media but also from the academic circles worldwide and within Nigeria too. This is because of the national sensitivity of the issue and the danger it posed to the sovereignty and hegemony of the State and the general public security. Corpus of literatures exist on the security related issues of weapons’ proliferation detailing some of the origins, dynamics, evolution, peculiarities and extant danger to National, political, social and human security, not only within Nigeria but with equal strength West Africa.

Linda Darkwa28 posits that the licit and illicit dichotomy in arms proliferation is problematic, given the fluidity of the two terms. It is a function of legal interpretation/status, which may depend on a change of location, designation, jurisdiction and ownership. Licit firearms are those that are (a) manufactured or assembled in conformity with the laws of the country of manufacture and (b) procured and distributed in accordance with national, regional and international laws.

Illicit firearms, on the other hand, are those (a) manufactured or assembled in violation of national laws and (b) procured and distributed in contravention of national, regional and international laws. Distribution of arms includes sales by states and commercial entities as well as transfers by states. An arm is licit only if it meets the triple criteria of legal manufacture, procurement and distribution in its totality. \

Therefore, if arms are legally manufactured, legally procured, but illegally distributed, they lose their licit status. Flowing from this, the classification of an arm as licit or illicit is a product of origin, destination and use. It is important to clarify that the function to which a weapon is put does not render it illicit. Thus, a licit weapon used in the commission of an illegal act does not change the status of the weapon.

The end of the Cold War saw the opening of a Pandora‘s Box in several countries. Governments that had been able to fend off the opposition suddenly found themselves in fierce battles with non-state actors. The need to dispose of Cold War weapon surpluses and expansion of production capacity led to a glut of weapons in arms-producing countries.

Consequently the ―desire to promote arms exports as a means of earning foreign exchange29‖ resulted in the availability of weapons to non-state actors. This new access to weapons provided a new impetus to groups in opposition to the governments of their countries and arguably helped to transform erstwhile latent tensions into armed violence in some countries.

With profit as the main driving force, states were willing to overlook weapons control regimes in order to promote sales and maximize returns. Consequently, although the end-user certificate was supposed to be ―a pledge by relevant officials in the purchasing country that the arms were intended solely for the use of that country‘s military forces and would not be transferred to third parties without permission of the country of origin30‖, this practice was severely undermined in a number of ways by states.

Fiske31 observes that with a seemingly constant supply of smuggled arms at their disposal, groups as far afield as West Africa… have been able to prolong conflict, with disastrous effects on their immediate communities and beyond, gun runners need war to keep them in business. The proliferation of Small Arms is thus a brisk business in the West African sub-region for the USA and its allies.

Estimates of the size of this trade are put at between $1 billion to $4 billion annually32.For Onuoha33, when and where these SALWs are deployed, human security has been the main victim. As Wallacher and Harang34 cited in Linda Dikwa, noted in their well-researched report, there is a ―common understanding that proliferation of conventional arms contributes to human rights violations, breaches of international humanitarian law, to intensifying and prolonging armed conflict, and threatens national and regional security‖.

Their observations have deeper significance in those regions of the world where SALW have become weapons of choice for warlords, criminal networks (drug and human trafficking, piracy, mineral and oil smuggling) and other conflict actors, resulting in immense human suffering, death, destruction and insecurity. They assume even more significance in national and local contexts where the destructive impact of SALW proliferation is directly experienced.

This situation makes it more compelling that global efforts and discourses be harmonized with ongoing processes at the local, national and regional levels. Nigeria is one of the Third World countries where the proliferation of this arsenal is manifested in crisis proportions and its society has become fully militarized and enmeshed in the culture of the gun, opines Isiaka Badmus35.

Okoye cited in Gyong and Ogbadoyi 36, observes that, no man is an island unto himself. Individuals interact at the social, psychological and mental levels of existence in real life. This social interaction usually results in meeting the needs of members as well as creating situations of disagreements, quarrels, clashes and sorrow, which invariably lead to conflict.

The above statement indicates the imperativeness of conflicts in human society. The world continues to  witness  various  forms  of  conflict  as  a  result  of  competing  interests,  values  and ideologiIn the words of, Godwin Onuoha37,The sources of small arms and light weapons proliferation are many and varied. They include the manufacture and supply of new weapons both inside and outside the continent to the remnants of weapons shipped into Africa in the 1970s and 1980s by the former Soviet Union, the United States, and their allies to facilitate different inter-state and intra-state proxy wars. Intra-state armed conflicts, such as in the case of Nigeria’s Niger Delta region, has however expanded the frontiers of the gun trade in Africa by creating considerable demand for these weapons of war.Malam38  however posits that the proliferation of arms in West Africa could be attributed to a number of factors, prominent among them were: the surplus arms that were provided during the cold war by the two opposing super powers, these arms were pumped to serve proxy inter-state conflicts; Massive flow of weapons from central and Eastern Europe and the loosening control of arms industry as a result of the collapse of Soviet Union. Following the end of cold war, these arms in circulation lost their way into the

hands  of  illegal  arms  dealers,  security  entrepreneurs,  ethnic  militia  groups,  private military companies, and local smugglers there by fueling on-going wars and facilitating the commencement of new ones in Africa. Also, the accelerated pace of globalization inthe same period facilitated both legal and illegal cross-border transfers of these weapons,In the current world environment in which the realities of globalization are literarily forcing the rapid break down of border lines, low intensity conflicts in which small arms are critical, and widely used, are threatening the non-negotiable core value (National Security) of especially developing countries of Africa and indeed the countries of the West African sub-region including Nigeria.

According to Malam39, the forces of globalization bring with it opportunities and challenges, the elimination of state enforced restrictions on exchanges across borders and the increasingly integrated and complex global system of production and exchange that has emerge as a result further complicate the challenge of containing SALWs proliferation.

The idea of globalization and its advocate for free market forces with minimum economic barriers and open trade for world development provides ground for illicit trade in arms by minimizing custom regulations and border control, trafficking of small arms becomes easier. Malhotra, cited in Malam40, stressed that, a miniscule percent of container ships have cargo checks, therefore making the arms movement smooth. Faking documents bribing officials and concealing arms as humanitarian aids are common practices. He went further to identify globalization factors that facilitate proliferation of illicit trade in arms as follows41:

  • Political and economic integration are coupled with lesser restrictions in migration and human movement. Dealers in SALW migrate to various regions, motivated by business expansion or reduced operational ri
  • Banking reforms and capital mobility have aided the black market to spread its trade internationally, utilizing every angle of the well linked financial market. This also gives rise to offshore markets and tax shelters. Banks have introduced cards bearing microchips, which are able to store large sums of money. These cards are portable outside conventional channels or can be easily bartered among individuals.
  • The linkage of banks with the internet has posed a new challenge in combating illegitimate activities in the financial sector. E-banking has digitized money making it prone to criminality, including illicit trade in SALW. Adding to this, economic integration among regions blesses arm brokers with more opportunities to shelter their money, by investing in different stock exchanges.
  • Profound expansion of commercial airline and freight industry (making transport cheaper and easier) are instrumental in increased penetration of arms in conflict zones. Global merger of airline companies, supply chains, shipping firms make it tough to supervise unlawful practices in air and water.
  • The growth of global communication in the past two decades has been unfathomable. This has enhanced the ability of arms dealers to communicate internationally through the web at a cheap rate.

The report from the Secretariat of the Geneva Declaration, 2011 cited by Bashir Malam42, provided that: SALW kill between 500,000 and 750,000 people annually and are a ―contributory factor to armed conflict, the displacement of people, organized crime and terrorism, thereby undermining peace, reconciliation, safety, security, stability and sustainable social and economic development‖.

An estimated 50 percent of illicit weapons that proliferate in Africa are used in internal conflicts, armed robbery and drug trafficking. Availability of small arms outside the formal security structures had contributed greatly in creating continuous cycle of violence and instability in which particularly women and children are brutalized. Studies indicates that people are very sensitive to electoral outcomes and that it is one of the biggest triggers of armed conflict in many countries in West Africa. Violence in Africa‘s elections affects between 19-25 percent of elections.

The regularity with which electoral violence occurs suggests that underlying grievances or structural characteristics may be tied to the elections and fuel the violence says Bekoe, cited in Malam43. In recent past West Africa witnessed some of the worst moments of tension in; Cote d’Ivoire in 2010, Nigeria in 2003, 2007, and 2011 elections, Sierra Leone, Liberia, Guinea, Niger, among others44. In many of these conflicts, small arms remain the key instruments used to unleash violence on innocent people destroying thousands of lives and property, displacing millions of people. Malam45 citing Jones & Hoetu, underscored that resort to violence serves as a basis for refusal to accept the outcome of declared election‘s results, sometimes, supporters of

political parties resort to the use of small arms to protest against their dissatisfaction against the outcome of the votes – a development that resulted in a full blown armed conflict. These are indications that people may choose to express their frustration, suspicion and dissatisfaction with the outcome of the elections by resorting to the use of arms as it happened in Cote d’Ivoire in 201046.

According to Gyong and Ogbadoyi47, where there is the greatest deprivation and frustration… and where there exists the greatest disparity between the social values to which people aspire and the availability of facilities for acquiring these values in conventional ways, the development of crimes as an organized way of life is most marked. Crime, in this situation, may be regarded as one of the means employed by people to acquire, or to attempt to acquire, the economic and social values generally idealized in our culture, which persons in other circumstances acquire by conventional means.

In Nigeria, there is overwhelming emphasis on being successful which means to be wealthy, to engage in ostentatious lifestyle and conspicuous consumption (possess expensive cars, large and expensive buildings, make huge donations at public fund-raising, etc.), to be highly educated and to wield political power. The emergence of men of means and wealth who indulged in conspicuous consumption and materialism and an equally impoverished human category48 has negatively impacted on crime wave bordering on kidnapping and robbery spurred by the use of SALW. Nigerians who failedto meet these aspirations and goals prescribed by society experience tremendous pressure or strain. Because of the, disconnect between the goals and the means, many individuals may turn to other (non-institutionally prescribed) means to attain the cultural goals.

Hence, with the massive flow SALW into many parts of the sub-region, the incidences of high profile crime waves and criminality became entrenched49. It is common to now hear young men pronounce the cliché ―if the rich have smart cards to make purchases, I have my arm which is my smart card‖ says Dube cited in Ayuba and Okafor50,explanation of crime and frequent conflicts in Nigeria, and particularly Kaduna metropolis lies in the degree of correspondence between culturally prescribed goals and institutionalized norms or means for attaining the cultural goals. In another dimension, Orosanye and Igbafe51 noted that the increased rate of indiscipline, disregard for the rule of law and the culture of impunity are some of the local factors that account mostly for the rise in criminal violence in Nigeria.

The lack of respect for the rule of law results in indiscipline. And indiscipline thrives because of the culture of impunity. This is as a result of failure of government to effectively and adequately punish offenders. And such violation is prevalent amongst the elite class which has been engendered by the culture of impunity. And this has found its way from the elite class down to the grass root. The lack of ideals among the ethnic groups is another factor that accounts for the increased rate of violent crime and conflict in Nigeria. Ethnic groups should be built on ideals; and such ideals should be the guiding principle for their existence. They should have a meaningful cause for which they struggle. In the absence of such ideals, criminal violence, conflict, crises and social and political disturbance have been the attendant results greatly empowered by the availability of SALW. Abdel-Fatau Musah52, in his article: The Political Economy of Small Arms stated that many societies are becoming increasingly militarized. Militarization includes the presence of heavily armed policemen or soldiers patrolling streets, military personnel occupying high government posts, military censorship, armed guards in schools and public buildings, armed checkpoints along roads and curfews. The consequence of societal militarization has been the realization of cultural militarism and the horizontal diffusion of weapons throughout communities. Widespread proliferation has often led to the acceptance of weapons as a normal part of life and violent conflict as an everyday occurrence.

As noted recently by the UN Secretary-General53: While not by themselves causing the conflicts in which they are used, the proliferation of small arms and light weapons affects the intensity and duration of violence and encourages militancy rather than a peaceful resolution of unsettled differences. Perhaps most grievously, we see a vicious circle in which insecurity leads to a higher demand for weapons, which itself breed still greater insecurity, and so on.

For Akinosho54, it is more difficult to achieve agreements on SALW than on Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD) and further argues that despite several agreements on SALW, these have not impeded the illicit trade in these arms compared to WMD. Existing instruments of SALW control have focused on criminalizing illicit transfers, marking and record keeping, stockpile security and reductions, international co-operation and assistance, transparency and information exchange, and transfer controls.

However, transparency and transfer controls remain relatively weak55However, transparency and transfer controls remain relatively weak56 while the regulation of interstate SALW transfers is weak57 In the same vein, Abdul-Fatau Musah58, observed that the thrust of international efforts to curb proliferation tend to concentrate on the manufacture and supply of new weapons, a major pipeline of SALW remains the stockpiles that were pumped into Africa in the 1970s and 1980s by the ex-Soviet Union, the USA and their allies to fan proxy interstate wars.

These leftover weapons Musah claimed, have found their way through clandestine networks involving rogue arms brokers, private military companies, shady airline companies and local smugglers to exacerbate on-going conflicts and facilitate the commencement of new ones in the continent. Africa itself boasts of countries that are arms manufacturers – South Africa, Zimbabwe, Egypt, Morocco and Nigeria, among others, and countries that are dotted with growing small arms cottage industries.

Finally, small arms have found their way into civilian hands from official sources due to a combination of factors, including the breakdown of state structures, lax controls over national armouries and poor service conditions for security personnel. According to Musah, these weapons have helped regionalize and prolong wars in conflict clusters around the Sub region.

The effects – a most insecure social environment, spiraling violence, the mounting death toll and floods of refugees and Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) – constitute a major developmental and human rights challenge. Where wars have officially come to an end, the presence of small arms makes sure that physical insecurity persists through banditry and violent settlement of scores.

But even in these societies armed robbery is rampant and coercive; protection and vigilante justice are replacing the incapacitated state security rackets. As long as the small arms pipelines remain open, the prospects for peaceful conflict management, reigning in crime and promoting human rights will be greatly undermined. This has dire consequences for the process of democratization and fostering secure livelihoods. The proliferation and diffusion of SALW often take on a life of their own, creating multiple centre of power and bring into play many more armed actors. SAWL are particularly prone to rights abuse, as they are easier to maintain, manipulate and carry, and are deadly.


From our review of literature, there is growing body of published and unpublished works on SALW proliferation in Nigeria. Such works consider issues pertaining to small arms proliferation in the entire West African sub-region. Some dealt in detail with the dynamics of small arms trafficking, factors that encourage its proliferation and itsimplications. They also provide a critical appraisal of the ECOWAS Moratorium on Small Arms over the years and identify the challenges and prospects of sustainable disarmament in the West African sub-region. However, none of these studies have appraised the ECOWAS Convention on SALW to ascertain the extent that the Nigerian State has complied with the contents of the Convention in its fight against the proliferation and misuse of SALW. It is this gap in literature and knowledge that this study sets out to fill.


This dissertation examines the proliferation and misuse of Small and Light Weapons under the ECOWAS Legal Regime, with particular reference to Nigeria. The Dissertation is structured into five chapters:Chapter one provides a general introduction and background information of the Dissertation and opens the reader up to the purpose and significance of the subject matter.

Furthermore a review of existing literature on SALW was conducted with the intent to providing an insight into the dynamics of SALW in general.Chapter two deals with conceptual clarification of key terms. Key terms are defined. The definitions of key terms are critical to the dissertation owing to the general held misconception of what differentiates Small Arms from Light Weapons.

In Chapter three, the first part of the core analysis and appraisal of the topic of the dissertation commences. It contains sequential details of the scourge, the modes of circulation of SALW and the impact of the presence of SALW in the West African Sub-Region. It also gives an insight into the history of the establishment of the ECOWAS. Furthermore, it evaluates and appraises the ECOWAS Legal instruments in combatting the SALW proliferation, its successes, weaknesses and challenges.Chapter Four, the 2nd and main core analysis of this dissertation, critically evaluates the problem of SALW in Nigeria.

It gives brief history the possession and proliferation of SALW in the country. While also acknowledging the existence or artisans in the country, it gave a run-down of the active participation of Nigeria on the developments of International Instruments against illicit proliferation of SALW. It also outlined the impact of this menace on the country. It concluded this chapter by stating that the existing National Lawson Firearms is outdated, weak and falls short of modern day instruments against the misuse and illicit proliferation of SALW.Chapter five will dwell on the conclusion drawn from the body of analysis presented within the preceding chapters. These conclusions would represent a credible analytical deduction from observed trends and patterns in the analysis of Chapter 4. This Chapter will also make recommendations in the context of Law Reviews, capacity building of relevant departments and good governance as measures to stem the proliferation of SALW in West Africa in general and Nigeria in particular.


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