WAANSA Wants FG To Back Small Arms Treaty

The West African Action Network on Small Arms (WAANSA), Nigeria chapter, has called on government to express vocal support for a comprehensive Arms Trade Treaty (ATT) in a move to broaden the base of the national assault against gun violence with reference to the restive Niger Delta region.

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The group’s president, Mr. Dickson Orji, who made this call at a briefing to mark the global week of action on small arms and light weapons, said the call is coming as civil society organisations worldwide begin a global week of action against gun violence.

Orji explained that the week of action is intended to draw attention to the atrocities of uncontrolled proliferation of small arms as well as strengthening governments, particularly at the open-ended working group meeting on Arms Trade Treaty, slated for July 13, 2009 at the United Nation’s headquarters in New York

The WAANS boss observed that government can only achieve meaningful development and peace in the restive region, and the nation in general, if the transfer and use of authorised arms is checked as would be prescribed by the treaty, and urged government to support and incorporate its golden rules.

Describing the treaty as urgent, Orji said its main objective was to crystallize existing obligations into a legal framework, an international document which would not be biased to a particular region of the world.

He pointed out that one of the basic principles of ATT is that all states must authorise all international transfers by the issuing of licences.

“This treaty will impose a law against manufacturing countries’ transfer of weapons to non-state actors where it would be abused, particularly as it is happening in the Niger Delta. This is because the sale or transfer of such weapons to nations, where they are abused, pose great danger to the nation. With this in mind, we call on the Nigerian government to champion a common cause in Africa by supporting the treaty,” he said.

Placing more emphasis on why Nigeria should be heard in the United Nations OEWG meeting, Orji pointed out that between one third and three quarters of all grave human rights violation reported by Amnesty International involves the use small arms and light weapons.

According to his statistics, 85 per cent of killings reported by Amnesty International involve the use of these weapons.

“Between 10 and 14 billion units of military, small arms ammunition are produced yearly; that is roughly two bullets for every man, woman and child on the planet, coupled with the disturbing fact that at least one million firearms are lost, more are stolen worldwide.”

In her remark, the National Coordinator, International Action Network on Small Arms (IANSA), Ms. Mimidoo Achakpa, enjoined government to stop the use of force and to peacefully resolve the crisis in the restive Niger Delta region.