“1st step towards achieving peace is to replace the widespread culture of war with the culture of peace. 2nd step towards achieving peace is to support disarmament policies because arms fuels tensions and undermine peace and stability”-Widad Akrawi
According to EUCPN Secretariat, it is estimated that about 640 million illicit firearms are in circulation. This accounts for one firearm per 11 people in the regions of the United Nations. The United Nations report that over 500 million weapons are currently in circulation around West Africa further highlights the importance of this year’s essay topic “The role of arms control in enhancing economic growth and reducing inequality”. The burden of this research paper lies in exploring a case study from Nigeria and examining the vital role arms control plays in economic growth and inequality reduction. The paper further goes ahead to proffer some recommendations that can be adopted to control firearms globally.
DEFINITION OF TERMS
Arms control is a term for international restrictions upon the development, production, stock piling, proliferation and usage of small arms, conventional weapons, and weapons of mass destruction.
Disarmament refers to measures, usually formal agreements to reduce or completely abolish military capacity and means (both weapons and troops)
Economic growth is an increase in the production of economic goods and services, compared from one period to another
Inequality is the difference in social status, wealth or opportunity between people or groups.
Arms control to some extent was effective during my childhood days but due to the neglect, the reverse is the case presently. It was rare to see unlicensed individuals with firearms during that period but presently, teenagers who ought to bury their heads in school libraries parade arrays of sophisticated weapons that even the militaries of their countries do not have. Many in possession of these arms resort to armed robbery, kidnapping, banditry, cultism and terrorism. The United Nations raised an alarm over the proliferation of illicit small arms and light weapons in Nigeria. Although reliable data of the number of these weapons currently circulating is unavailable, analyst estimates that about 70% of the 500 million weapons circulating in West Africa is domiciled in Nigeria. This is possible because the firearms laws in place are obsolete and ineffective in the face of the 21st century security challenges.
Benue State is an agricultural region in Nigeria, which has immensely contributed to the actualization of the SDGs of zero hunger and no poverty, but infiltration of uncontrolled firearms is taking its toll on this feat. Recurring attacks has displaced a fourth of farmers leading to food scarcity and price surge. At the Ugba international yam market for instance, trucks numbering 45 to 48 with yams ply the road weekly to transport yams for local consumption and export but with the breakout of violence, the economic fortune of the farmers have been negatively affected. According to the State Government, thousands have lost their lives while more than a million have been displaced thereby, increasing inequality. In 2015, an amnesty policy was enacted with about 500 persons in possession of uncontrolled firearms surrendering them to the Government. Among the surrenders’ was a most wanted warlord, Terwase Akwaza, who submitted a cache of sophisticated weapons and other weapons of warfare. Trickles of peace is gradually returning but more is expected.
In the Northern region of Nigeria, the activities of bandits and terrorists continue to inflict pain upon the inhabitants of the region. Kidnapping, cattle rustling and killings are daily occurrences that have left millions impoverished and at the mercy of these enemies. Since it’s an animal rearing region, inhabitants have been forced to flee their homes in search for safety at Internally Displaced Persons camps (IDP). The case of Leah Sharibu, a young student adopted by terrorists for over 4 years paints a picture of how uncontrolled firearms in the region is increasing inequality.
In another report by BBC Pidgin, a female student of Government Secondary School Cross River in February 2021 carried a locally made gun to school with the intention of shooting her teacher who had earlier asked her to cut her coloured hair previously. Alarm was raised by the principal of the school, which prompted people around to seize the gun and hand her over to the security for further investigation. Under the Nigerian law, no individual is expected to be seen with Ak-47 except the military officers but this is barely in practice as many a person’s move freely in Nigerian forests with firearms. As a measure to enforce arms control, Nigeria president, Muhammadu Buhari has reportedly ordered the military to shoot on sight, anyone seen with an Ak-47 rifle in the bush.
INFLUENCE OF ARMS CONTROL ON ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT
When firearms are controlled, there will be peace and security. People will be free to go about their businesses and economic endeavours. From the case study examined, it is evident that in regions across Nigeria where firearms have not been properly controlled, economic hardship and inequality have become the order of the day. Millions of able-bodied youths who ought to be advancing the economic prosperity of their communities are idly loitering across IDP camps. Some even end up been recruited to take up arms and indulge in vices.
In Benue State where amnesty and other firearms control policies have been put in place, peace is gradually been restored with significant economic growth springing forth. Farmers are gradually returning to their farms while traders flock markets for transactions. This was not the case during the heat of the farmers-herdsmen crisis but with the recent arms control policies, the economic climate is changing positively.
Migration has become a common scenario in Northern Nigeria especially in regions where firearms control laws are weak. In Borno State, the activities of a deadly Islamic sect (Boko Haram) has continued to wreak havoc and sack many from their ancestral homes. This has resulted in the scarce supply of human resources leading to increase in production cost and higher cost of living.
Controlling firearms through laws, policies, amnesty programmes and other innovative measures is a sure step to restore peace and enhance economic growth globally.
INFLUENCE OF ARMS CONTROL IN REDUCING INEQUALITY
With the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic, the fight against inequality suffered defeat globally. Those who were not physically challenged grappled over limited resources with the physically challenged during the lockdowns. With all these in play, the problem of ineffective arms control further widened the inequality divide. Many a girls living in crisis prone regions are often deprived of education because of insecurity.
Many physically challenged persons are often short-changed where arms control are not in place. Many are been deprived access to public places for their inability to escape during an emergency involving the use of firearms.
Enforcing arms control can help create a level playing ground reduce the inequality divide and give everyone everywhere a chance to succeed.
“When I look back, I am so impressed again with the life giving power of literature. If I were a young person today trying to gain a sense of myself in the world, I would do that again by reading, just as I did when I was young ”-Maya Angelon. Stakeholders, educationists and creative writers tasked with the responsibility of creating literary works should endeavour to discuss matters related with arms control.
Secondly, the education sector should be encouraged to integrate firearms control courses into the school curriculum. This will help in transforming the hearts of the younger generation to shun illegal arms acquisition and use in the future.
With many youths currently unemployed globally, stakeholders and policy makers should create job opportunities for youths who are the agents facilitating illegal arms possession. Such projects can help in reducing the unemployment rate and increase arms control.
According to GSMA real-time intelligence data, 5.27 billion people have a mobile device in the world. This means that about 67.03% of the world’s population own a mobile device. Statista predicts that by 2023, the number of mobile device users will increase to 7.33 billion. Leveraging upon the use of digital technology can help in creating wide spread awareness about arms control.
Furthermore, a recent study by the University of Arkansas in collaboration with the Manchester business school in London found that consumers (ages 18-24) take on an active role in developing their identities and appearances based upon celebrities. Since celebrity endorsements resonate more strongly with generation Z (ages 15-20) and millennial (ages 21-34) audiences, leveraging upon the use of global icons from the music, sport, economic and entertainment industry can help in stimulating youths to shun illegal arms possession.
Security clubs and societies should be created in every school around the world to promote UNIDIRs effort. Embarking on such laudable feats can help in raising worthy firearms control ambassadors.
In addition, the organisation of public awareness campaigns should not be relegated to the background. This could be in form of conferences, workshops, film exhibitions or festivals where teachers can be enlightened to teach others. Doing this will reduce ignorance and demystify myths about arms control.
As a measure of last resort, adopting the policy of the Nigerian Government to arrest or shoot anyone in possession of illegal firearms is a welcome development. This is an effective way to enforce arms control when all other measures fail.
Finally, in regions where firearms are not yet under control, Governments across the world should collaborate with agencies like UNIDIR to create amnesty policies for the sole aim of controlling firearms to foster economic development and reduce the effects of inequality.
Barry Kolodkin, “What is Arms control? About.com, US Foreign policy. The New York Times Company” Retrieved 20 August 2021.
Chalmers, David (1997). The conscious Mind: In search of a Fundamental Theory. Oxford: Oxford University press .pp. 225 ISBN 978-0195105537
Macmillan Dictionary Publishers Limited. Retrieved 2021-07-12