Dickson Orji is the Programmes Coordinator, Nigerian Presidential Committee on the Control of Small Arms and Light Weapons (PRESCOM). He is an expert in Defence, Security and Human Development and also the President, West Africa Action Network on Small Arms (WAANSA-Nigeria). After a two-day training of Trainers Workshop For Border Security Operatives sponsored by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) Nigeria in Lagos last week, Orji explained reasons for the training to journalists. According to him, the capacity of the men on the field must be enhanced for visible efficiency. DAYO EMMANUEL reports. Excerpts:
You have trained a number of security operatives across board on border security. Can you give an overview of the training?
We are here today because we have a project funded by the United Nations Development Project (UNDP) on border management targeted at security agencies.
We wrote to security agencies to nominate participants for this programme. The people you are seeing here are nominees of the various security agencies and we are putting them through the tenets of border management. We also included some civil societies groups to build cooperation between security agencies.
I think you should be aware of the newspaper report focusing on a report on the dissension on the decision among members of the House of Representatives based on the passage of the Bill on Small Arms and Light Weapons. How do you react to the fact that there is division among the members of the House of Representatives on this issue?
You would agree with me that anywhere you have a meeting of people there is bound to be disagreement. For me it is actually a good development that the subject matter is being discussed at the beginning of the 9th Assembly. I recall clearly that during the 8th Assembly, the Chairperson of the committee on Foreign Affairs was also championing the establishment of a committee on Small Arms and Light Weapons. You may be aware that sometimes last year, the President approved the establishment of a commission and after that the National Security Adviser inaugurated a working group to work out the modalities on the establishment of a commission. That working group already submitted its recommendations to the government so we are waiting for the President to send his approved proposed Bill to the National Assembly. But right now, that is yet to be done. So once that is done as an Executive Bill, it will supersede whatever is happening in the Assembly now and when the President sends that Bill to the National Assembly it becomes an Executive Bill and the executive Bill will naturally supersede whatever Bill that is being discussed now.
Don’t you think the objective of this program would be better achieved if you also train more senior officers; those senior to the crop you are training presently?
I agree with you completely but these are the people on the line of duty. These are the people you find on the field not those in the offices. If you train the big men as far as I am concerned, I don’t think we would achieve more than when we train those ones on the field.
…but the bulk stops at the tables of the senior officers…
Yes it does stop at their tables and not the ones on the field. We are enhancing the capacity of the ones on the fields and like we say, the young will grow. When these ones get to the top positions they will know they need this kind of training in their services. We target low level and middle level officers because we know they are the ones on the field.
From the previous trainings you have had, do you see positive impart or do you see them utilising some of these tips they receive at the training?
Usually after this kind of meetings we do a survey of the impact of the training programs and I can assure you we have succeeded. Because of the size of our agency, we are not able to take every body at the same time. The results will be seen over a period because we have been consistent in organising this kind of programmes over the years. I think we have organised over 50 of this and at each time we take between 30 and 50 personnel selected across board. Because of budgetary issues we cannot take more than that. We are being supported by partners and UNDP to be able to do that. If we constantly do that for five years I am sure we would have trained over 2,000 people and that will bring the full impart to the fore.
We know that in Nigeria we found most of those small arms and light weapons produced locally and when the Federal Government wants to acquire weapons, Nigeria imports. Don’t you think the local manufacturers are threatening the system and don’t you think the local manufacturers should be stopped?
The local arms fabrication is a concern to the government I can assure you because from our own field work, the weapons that are being used for kidnapping and communal clashes are 70% locally made. It is only the military, insurgents that go for outright foreign weapons. That gives us the knowledge that the local industry is thriving. But in order to mitigate that, they are part of the ones being asked to surrender their arms. If they can surrender their arms, what we can do for them is to put them into other alternative livelihood project to provide them other opportunities of livelihood different from producing arms. If they have the production ability and apply to Dicon, Dicon may as well give them employment because Dicon is government’s industry that produces arm. If Dicon can absorb them, they will now join government force instead of independently producing arms.