The flow of illicit SALW across national borders in the EC0WAS and the Sahel region of West Africa in the last decade have had grave security implications for Nigeria and has become a destabilizing force in the West African sub-region. It has accentuated armed rebellions, violent insurgencies and undermined the rule of law in several countries in the region and in Nigeria. The growing capacities of these non-state actors have stretched the limits of security services, leaving scores of untoward incidents in parts of Nigeria. The number of casualties among civilian and members of the forces continue to mount. These unprovoked acts of violence in parts of the country are committed with the aid of SALW.
The United States National Counter Terrorism Centre on Terrorism Report 2011 ranked Nigeria 10th out of 15 top countries that witnessed terrorist attacks. The report also ranked Nigeria 5th out of the 15 countries with the highest death figures. The work paper from the Geneva Declaration on Armed Violence Secretariat shows that since 2011 the protracted conflict in Jos has claimed over 7000 lives. Militancy and criminality in the Niger Delta between 2005 and 2009 left Nigeria with the loss of 1.4 million barrels of crude oil estimated at N3 trillion.
It was further reported that by 2010, 24,794 lives and N13.2 billion were lost to kidnapping and hostage taking as well as illegal oil bunkering (Ekong 2008). The availability and use of SALW in religious, ethnic clashes and armed robbery has killed more than 10,000 Nigerians since 1999, an average of 1000 persons per year (IRIN, 2006:17). The spate of the activities of armed gangs indicate that while security forces are acquiring weapons in a bid to live up to the demands of the country, individuals and groups in the various geo-political zones are acquiring SALW for political gains and for the benefits derived from acts of illegality and criminality.
In West Africa, reports indicate that there are Seven to Eight million SALW estimated to be in circulation in the sub-region. This is about the same number of people living in Benin Republic. It is estimated that one million out of this figure is currently in circulation in Nigeria. This is however, considered a conservative estimate as the onslaught by the Boko Haram terrorist gang particularly since 2009 may have substantially increased the number of illegal SALW flow in the country.
The exact origins and transit countries of illicit SALW and ammunition flows into Nigeria are not well documented. On a general note, countries like Cote d`Ivoire, Liberia, South Africa, Turkey, Ukraine, Bulgaria, Kosovo and Siberia are often mentioned in the flow of SALW into Nigeria. (Hazen and Horner 2007:33). Analysts also draw attention to smugglers operating from the Equatorial Guinea, Gabon, and Cameroon and within Nigeria itself as facilitating the flow of illicit SALW. Libya since the fall of Gadhafi in 2011, deserves special mention as source of illicit SALWs supply to Nigeria.
On land, SALW weapons are reported to be smuggled in through Benin, Niger, Chad, and Cameroon. Significant numbers of these weapons also enter from neighbouring West African states, which either are in or have recently come out from a state of war by dealers who collect these weapons and ship them to Nigeria for resale. The three most notorious entry ports of illicit SALW according to the International Alert Study are the South-West (Idi-Iroko and Seme borders). The port city of Warri in Delta State and the Northeast borders with Nigeria and Cameroon (Adamawa, Borno and Yobe states).