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  • Writer's pictureJude Ademola Ikumapayi

Illegal weapons and Insurgency in Nigeria

No fewer than 10 million small arms and light weapons are in circulation in Africa, of which one million are in Nigeria[1] it is essential to note that the illegal arms and ammunition in Nigeria do not come from thin air. There are two sources of the proliferation of illicit arms and ammunition into Nigeria. One is through domestic -production of arms by local blacksmiths; they manufacture small components and sell to their local hunters, criminals, and dubious politicians. Gun blacksmiths are found in rural areas of Nigeria. Two are importing arms and ammunition from North Africa, Europe, America, the Middle East, and the Asian Tigers countries. Some of these arms are smuggled into the country through our porous borders in the North and the seaports and airports. Deceptively, the lethal items are sealed and declared as goods[2].

Local production of weapons has become a lucrative form of livelihood in Nigeria. These locally-made weapons are preferred over the imported weapons as they are just as lethal yet significantly cheaper to obtain. For instance, a locally-made rifle in Nigeria costs between $200 and $400 apiece[3].This has increased the number of illegal weapons within the country. Nigeria has an extensive border and coastal lines which are not adequately patrolled. This condition is worsened by corrupt public officers and inadequate modern surveillance equipment, and a ready market for the smuggled weapons. Naturally, arms traffickers take advantage of this lapse to move large caches of weapons across Nigeria. Besides local production and smuggling, theft has become a common means by which arms are obtained in Nigeria; for example, from 1998 - 2005, the Nigerian Police reported a loss of 472 weapons from its inventory[4].

Partnership with other countries on illegal arms proliferation

The governments of Nigeria, Benin, Chad, Cameroon, and Niger have made efforts to strengthen border security, prevent the spread of terrorism, and curb the proliferation of illegal arms; for example, these countries have for decades organized the International Joint Patrol Force (IJPTLF). However, these efforts are insufficient as Boko Haram, bandits, and other terrorist elements still move and trade across Nigerian borders[5].

ECOWAS also advocates for the establishment of a database and regional arms register[6]; this recommendation has not been implemented by the parties involved, Nigeria inclusive.

Impacts of illegal weapons in Nigeria


The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) says 34,457 people were killed by insurgents in Borno, Adamawa, and Yobe states between 2009 and early 2020, Many more have died from the indirect effects of conflict in these region. UNDP gave an estimate that through the end of 2020, the conflict would have resulted in nearly 350,000 deaths, with 314,000 of those from indirect causes[7].

Annual conflict-attributable deaths in the Borno Adamawa and Yobe state, source-Assessing the Impact of Conflict on Development in North-east Nigeria | UNDP in Nigeria


Kidnapping incidents are generally underreported in Nigeria, but since 2013 kidnapping rate has been on the increase in several parts of Nigeria; in April 2018, UNICEF reported that Boko Haram had abducted more than 1000 children since 2013, 1,236 persons were kidnapped between June 2018 and June 2019, Between June 2011 and the end of March 2020, at least $18.34 million has been paid to kidnappers as ransom[1].


According to a report by SB Morgen (SBM) Intelligence[1]., bandits have kidnapped a total of 769 students from their boarding schools and other educational facilities across northern Nigeria in at least five separate incidents between December 2020 and March, 2021, JAMB registrar also lamented that insurgency was part of the reasons why student got low grades in their matriculation exams[2]The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) estimated that 1.8 million students are out of school who would have been enrolled if not for conflict[3].

Standard of living

The National Commission for Refugees (NCFR) reported that, there were 3.3 million IDPs in Nigeria as of December 2013[4], displaced populations must often live in overcrowded and degraded living conditions without access to clean water and sanitation. Young children, who are especially vulnerable to malnutrition and disease from a lack of clean water, are hit hardest[5].


Insecurity has led to decline in agricultural production and trade, reducing access to food and threatening the many households who depend on agriculture for income, the trend relationship between terrorism and agricultural production as shown below, the variables in the figure reveal that with increasing terrorist incidents, agricultural production dropped from 2009[6].

Terrorism and agricultural production (Alenoghena & Ndubisi, 2018)

Conclusion & recommendation

The illicit proliferation and misuse of weapons ranks among today‘s most pressing security threats. Tens of thousands of people are killed or wounded each year in conflicts that are fought primarily with these weapons and in crime-ridden areas outside of conflict zones, reading from the above, the impact of illegal weapon proliferation is enormous; efforts at mitigating these challenges are indeed very demanding, beyond commitments of the federal government of Nigeria alone but also civil society organizations, individuals, and private organizations.

The federal government needs to demonstrate commitments not only in policy formulation, endorsement of agreements, and codification, but also practical effort at implementation need be put in place and meet their primary responsibility by providing social and economic security and development for Nigerians. It is the bases for addressing arms trade by tackling the roots causes of armed violence namely, porous borders, underdevelopment, unemployment, insecurity, inequality and corruption.


[1] Taiwo ojoye june 2019,one million illegal weapons in nigeria one million illegal weapons in nigeria – nsa document - punch newspapers (

[1] Vincent Chi Ezinwa; Revd.Fr. Joseph C. Inmpey; proliferation of illegal arms and ammunition into Nigeria: implications and threats to national security, International Journal of Progressive and Alternative Education, Volume 4 No. 1, August 2017. ISSN: 2408 – 6452

[1] Obi, E. (2005). Small Arms and Light Weapons Proliferation in Nigeria: College Paper. Kaduna, Nigeria: AFCSC.

[1] Okoro, V. U. (2008). The Proliferation of Small Arms and Light Weapons in West Africa: Implications for Sub-Regional Security. Fort Leavenworth, kansas: US Army Command and General Staff College

[1] Sadiq misbau murtala (2018), illicit arms trafficking and seizures: the nigeria customs phenomenon.

[1] Cheikh O. D.(2005), ECOWAS as the Institutional Framework for Efforts to Combat the Proliferation of Arms in West Africa: Handbook for the Training of Armed and Security Forces; UNIDIR Geneva, Switzerland.

[1] UNDP, 2021 Assessing the Impact of Conflict on Development in North-east Nigeria

Assessing the Impact of Conflict on Development in North-east Nigeria | UNDP in Nigeria

[1] SB morgen Nigeria’s kidnap problem 2020; the economics of the kidnap industry in Nigeria 202005_Nigeria-Kidnap.pdf (

[1] Ibid

[1] Grace Edema, 2021 Mass failure: Students, parents groan over UTME results, JAMB blames lockdown Mass failure: Students, parents groan over UTME results, JAMB blames lockdown (

[1] UNDP, 2021 Assessing the Impact of Conflict on Development in North-east Nigeria

Assessing the Impact of Conflict on Development in North-east Nigeria | UNDP in Nigeria

[1] National Commission on Refugees (2014). Annual Report of the Commission retrieved on August 1st, 2016

[1] UNDP, 2021 Assessing the Impact of Conflict on Development in North-east Nigeria

Assessing the Impact of Conflict on Development in North-east Nigeria | UNDP in Nigeria

[1] Alenoghena Raymond O. Ndubisi I. Nwokoma (2018) Terrorism and its effects on Nigeria’s economic performance

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