Former head of state and chairman, National Peace Committee (NPC), Gen. Abdulsalami Abubakar (rtd), yesterday lamented the proliferation of all calibre of weapons in the country.
Speaking at the dialogue session of the NPC held with key stakeholders at the Transcorp Hilton in Abuja yesterday, Abubakar about six million of such weapons were in Nigeria.
Some other leaders like former head of state, Gen. Yakubu Gowon (rtd); the Sultan of Sokoto, Alhaji Muhammadu Sa’ad Abubakar and President of Dangote Group, Mr. Aliko Dangote, also raised concerns over the negative effects of growing insecurity in the land and sued for peace.
He said the proliferation of weapons heightened insecurity in the country and led to over 80,000 deaths and close to three million persons internally displaced.
He stated that the challenges facing the country were not only insecurity in the narrow sense of the military definition but that it had assumed an all-encompassing nature.
He listed the challenges to include the Boko Haram insurgency, banditry, kidnapping, increasing poverty, balkanisation agitations from different quarters, the threat of hunger arising from insecurity that farmers have faced and continue to face and the increasing sense of collective despair and despondency among the populace.
“The proliferation of all calibres of weapons not only in our sub-region in general and in Nigeria, in particular, is worrying. It is estimated that there are over six million such weapons in circulation in the country. This certainly exacerbated the insecurity that led to over 80,000 deaths and close to three million internally displaced persons.”
He added that the situation is dire because security forces were not just overstretched but underfunded.
He said the security agencies could perform better with more sophisticated weapons, equipment and more funding.
“We believe Nigeria must find a way out of these problems. Our hope is that perhaps among us, by listening to your different perspectives, we can begin to build up confidence among our people so that we can hold together.
“So, our hope is that we shall not only share our collective lamentations about the current situation, but propose some concrete suggestions that can point the way forward – suggestions that can inspire more confidence among our people and ensure that our country remains one,” he said.
In his contribution, Gowon, who spoke via zoom, urged all Nigerians, irrespective of religious and political affiliation, to see the nation’s challenges, including insecurity, as ones that must be tackled and resolved collectively.
For his part, the Sultan urged Nigerians to learn to love one another irrespective of religion or tribe.
He said: “As individuals, we need to add value to ourselves and we should know that we did not create ourselves; God created us and when God was creating us, he did not ask us where do you want me to bring you into the world? We just found ourselves in various places.
“So what we need to do is to see who we are and work for humanity because we are individuals; yes, but we have to close rank and work for humanity and while we are working for humanity, you have to respect your own religion, if you respect your own religion, you see what is right and wrong for you.
“Before, there was nothing like whether this person is a Yoruba, Igbo, Hausa or whatever,” he said.
He added that everyone saw each other as human beings.
“We as leaders, we have to know that we are going to account for this leadership that God gave to us on the final day. So please let us look at the various problems we have; let us look at being our brother’s keeper. We should not allow the elites to break us because they are the ones shouting break up,” he said.
In his remarks, Dangote pleaded with Nigerians to guard against sensationalising reports of crisis so as not to heighten tension in the land.
He said security issue should be everybody’s business because no one can do any business in the absence of security.
“We have to be careful with the kind of news we disseminate because in areas where there is no peace, nobody will invest and that is why it is always good for us to talk good about the country and not just to be spreading rumours that are not there,” he said.