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Some Governors among importers of illegal arms – Okereke, DG, NATFORCE 5 1
     
   
TRENDING -  Some Governors among importers of illegal arms – Okereke, DG, NATFORCE
#1
Dr . Emmanuel Okereke is the Director -General of the National Task Force to Combat Illegal Importation of Small Arms , Ammunition and Light Weapons and President of Importers Association of Nigeria . He speaks with OGBONNA CASMIR on the security situation in the country ahead of the general elections and how kidnappers , terrorists and other criminal elements could be made to surrender their arms
Are you not worried about the number of illegal arms and dangerous weapons in circulation?
We are worried about this . There are indeed so many illegal arms in Nigeria . Some arms were imported by politicians including some governors . They have also procured vehicles with different security apparatus which they plan to use to intimidate people during the elections . I have made it categorically known that those states have been marked ; the areas they are planning to operate , we know them too . So , we are waiting for the clearance of the Independent National Electoral Commission so that we can be part of the election security monitoring team . We ’ ll make sure that we stop those criminally -minded people from disrupting the elections . That is why we are now recruiting some young men; they are going to be members of NATFORCE. We also felt that since they are jobless, they could easily be used by those that want to foment trouble during the elections . This is because they are hungry and they need money .
Can you give the names of these states that have been marked for possible use of illegal arms to cause trouble?
I cannot tell you the states and zones but I am telling you that there is no state in Nigeria that is free of illegal arms . Every state in Nigeria today is loaded with illegal arms and ammunition. There are no local governments or wards that are free either . That is why we have to recruit or bring people from the grass roots into NATFORCE. They are the people that the bad politicians plan to use to cause chaos . We are training them to be able to detect how they could spot those that have been hired to destabilise the elections .
Have you formally made any report to the police and other security agencies about the governors and top politicians you alleged are stockpiling arms to cause trouble during the elections?
How can I make a report ? I cannot make any report to anybody . I told you we do not give information because if we give information and it leaks , we will be in trouble . We cannot leak the source of your information.
What do you intend to do about the situation ?
We are going to try them ? Remember that governors have immunity and because of that , you cannot go into their houses and begin to search for illegal weapons now . We are only waiting for the time they will use the arms . That is when we are going to do our job only if INEC cooperates with us . If not, there is nothing we can do.
Are you looking at the idea of granting amnesty to insurgents or terrorists to make them surrender their arms ?
The first step to take is to have discussions with these people ; we need to have consultations with most of them because nobody was born a Boko Haram , an armed robber or a kidnapper. Many of them went into crime because of hardship . And that is why we are asking the National Assembly to pass the bill establishing our organisation so that we will be able to get those youths engaged after rehabilitation . They will change because nobody wants to die ; that is what people should understand . There is a need to rehabilitate them and engage them so that they would not be left doing nothing . Remember that an idle hand is said to the devil ’ s workshop . The National Assembly has to pass that bill to enable us to do what we are supposed to do.
Several figures have been quoted as the number of illegal arms in the country . What is the official figure and what are you doing to really mop up all illegal arms in circulation?
Nobody can tell you the exact figure or the level of arms that we have in circulation today in Nigeria . Anybody who says they are giving the actual figure is not telling the truth . This is because these arms are coming in from different places . They do not come only from seaports or borders , they come in through so many areas . Anybody claiming to be telling the exact number of arms in circulation is not being sincere .
We have plans to mop up illegal arms but we cannot do it by word of mouth. We are certainly going to do it if we are fully authorised and empowered . We are supposed to be empowered and we have the axe . All these things are what we know and we have identified many areas and routes they are ferried into the country . If we are empowered , we will block those routes and then start searching for the illegal arms and mop them up . We have more than 10, 000 information channels but we cannot execute our plans because we have to share the information with other security agencies. And if you tell the security agencies, part of the reports may be leaked . So , we want to do it on our own . Also, we cannot give anybody the information because if we do, our lives may be in danger .
Will the security challenges in the North not affect the smooth conduct of the forthcoming general elections in the area ?
No , I don ’ t think so . Those living in the areas that have security challenges have vacated such places and they are now in the IDP camps . And INEC has registered them in the camps for the elections . I don ’ t think insecurity is going to affect the elections . We have been promised that there will be adequate security in the IDP camps for the people to cast their votes . We cannot , because of insurgency in some isolated areas in the North , boycott or cancel the elections . I don ’ t think it is appropriate especially when adequate measures are being taken by the security agencies to protect lives and property during the polls.
What role is NATFORCE playing to address the security situation in the troubled areas ?
We have written to INEC and we are waiting for our name to be included on the list of agencies that are going to monitor the elections . I have seen a number of non -governmental organisations and private people that have been shortlisted ; but we are not on the list. We have written to INEC and we are still waiting for its reply. Last week , we sent a reminder to the INEC chairman ; we are waiting. We intend to protect the voters to cast their votes .
How do bandits and insurgents get their so-called superior arms ?
Are you asking how they get their arms ? I am not their member ; so , I wouldn ’ t know . But I do know that they are coming in through many angles . I think such question should be directed to the men of the Nigeria Customs Service . This is because some of them are sabotaging the efforts of the government by allowing such arms to come into the country . Some of these weapons come through our regular borders while some come through neighbouring countries . There are seaports where vessels come in with illegal arms and leave without serious security checks . Look at the weapons that Boko Haram men are using . Where do they come from ? They came in through the borders .
What kind of collaboration exists between your agency and other security groups , including the Nigeria Customs Service for the effective execution of your duties ?
We have written to all the security agencies in the country to attend our orientation programme , which we are doing across the six geo-political zones. The Chief of Army Staff sent representatives and we had a fruitful meeting with the representatives . So , I can tell you that the army is willing to work with us . They are ready to give us backing. For the Customs , we are not really getting on well . The relationship has not been cordial because they believe that we are a threat to their operation, whereas we are not; we are not collecting import duty. Ours is to make sure that no illegal arms , weapons and ammunition are allowed to come into the country . They probably think that we are going to expose them or collect their job. But that is not our mandate. I think in due course, they will realise that they are making a mistake by not allowing us to do the work they cannot do.

#2
Well that what they do to make money


 
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