US embassy cable - 01ABUJA1249 (original version)

NIGERIA: ECOWAS Moratorium on Small Arms (original version)

Identifier: 01ABUJA1249
Wikileaks: View 01ABUJA1249 at
Origin: Embassy Abuja
Created: 2001-06-01 10:03:00
Classification: CONFIDENTIAL
Redacted: This cable was redacted by Wikileaks. [Show redacted version] [Compare redacted and unredacted version]
This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.

C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 ABUJA 001249 
E.O. 12598: 6/01/06 
SUBJECT: NIGERIA: ECOWAS Moratorium on Small Arms 
REF: STATE 86450 
AND (D). 
1. (C) SUMMARY: AF/RA LTC Mike Bittrick and PolMilOff 
called on the newly created Nigerian National Committee on 
the ECOWAS Moratorium on Small Arms and Light Weapons on 
May 16.  Chairman Musa Yahaya discussed the history of the 
ECOWAS Moratorium and gave a description of the role the 
new Nigerian Committee planned to play.  He emphasized 
dialogue with manufacturers and exporting states, and 
requested technical assistance.  Post received reftel on 
funds for stockpile destruction assistance after the 
meeting occurred.  However, Post does not believe that 
Nigeria has weapons stockpiles awaiting destruction.  END 
2. (U) AF/RA Michael Bittrick and PolMilOff paid a courtesy 
call (the first received by the Committee) on Nigeria's new 
National Committee on the ECOWAS Moratorium on Small Arms 
and Light Weapons.  Committee Chairman Musa Yahaya and 
committee members Police Deputy Commissioner Lawrence Alobi 
(a long-time contact of Embassy RSO), a representative of 
the Nigerian State Security Service, and a Customs Service 
representative were in attendance.  The Commission also 
includes representatives from the National Intelligence 
Agency, Immigration, Ministry of Internal Affairs and the 
military, but since the Committee was only recently 
inaugurated by President Obasanjo (May 7), not all members 
were present.  The Committee is housed in the Ministry of 
Cooperation and Integration in Africa, and reports to the 
Minister of that government agency. 
3. (U) Chairman Yahaya outlined the history of the ECOWAS 
Moratorium, noting it was signed by Heads of State on 
October 31, 1998, and that a Code of Conduct was signed in 
1999.  Yahaya said the objectives of the Nigerian Committee 
include: establishment of a culture of peace (meaning a 
public affairs drive, seminars, and state-level offices); 
facilitation of dialogue with producers and suppliers; 
enhancing weapons control at border posts; establishment of 
a database (for information and to house a weapons 
registry); collection and destruction of illicit small 
arms; and mobilization of resources (essentially, requests 
for assistance from donor nations and manufacturers). 
4. (U) Yahaya noted that, while small arms were a major 
problem in West Africa, the sub-region did not produce many 
weapons.  There was a need to reduce the role of weapons in 
solving conflicts in Africa, and to "find a more dignified 
way," such as mediation and dialogue.  Therefore, the 
Committee would work with manufacturers and exporting 
nations to reduce the number of illicit arms in 
circulation.  Yahaya went on to say that the Committee 
would seek technical assistance and train-the-trainer 
programs, and asked that Washington consider providing 
5. (C) Bittrick noted that, in some cases, states in the 
sub-region had sought to purchase or import arms without 
coordinating with the ECOWAS Secretariat, and that it was 
difficult for the U.S. to press the issue since not all 
ECOWAS states had ratified the Moratorium.  Yahaya said 
that this was why the Committee would seek dialogue with 
producer states, manufacturers and others, and asked that 
an effort be made to coordinate arms importation requests 
both with national committees and with ECOWAS. 
6. (C) Bittrick then asked if illicit arms were a 
significant problem in Nigeria, and how illicit arms came 
into circulation.  Deputy Commissioner of Police Alobi 
explained that the Nigerian Firearms Act defined two types 
of weapons, large arms (military-type weapons) prohibited 
except by decision of the President, and personal arms 
("like shotguns for hunting") which could be approved by 
the Police.  Alobi said that illicit arms enter Nigeria 
through border towns, usually over land routes, though some 
are produced locally (mostly single-shot handguns and 
rifles).  He noted that illicit arms in Nigeria were a 
serious contributor to crime, and in some cases, to inter- 
communal conflict.  (DAO NOTE: Criminals possess large 
quantities of illicitly obtained Nigerian military and 
police weapons as well as weapons smuggled into Nigeria 
from neighboring states.  END DAO NOTE.) 
7. (C) COMMENT: Nigeria's National Committee was formed 
just four months before the expiration/renewal date of the 
ECOWAS Moratorium.  It will take some time for the 
Committee to establish itself, and to identify its needs. 
Until that happens, the Embassy believes it would be 
inadvisable to begin a discussion of technical assistance 
for stockpile management and destruction.  However, we will 
continue to monitor the Committee's progress, and will seek 
additional information on the issue of illicit small arms 
and light weapons in Nigeria, as the Committee pursues its 
8. (U) LTC Bittrick did not clear this cable before 
departing Abuja. 
9. (U) Freetown Minimize Considered. 

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