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Nigeria is highly heterogeneous and multi-religions with over two hundred ethno-linguistic
groups and the Niger Delta region is not an exception. The issue of arms proliferation has been
given wide spread international focus due to the fact that it has become source of violence, war,
conflicts and crimes.
It has equally been observed that developing countries in the third world, particularly in Africa
are the most vulnerable. The question is why are such conflicts persisting or why do they reoccur
even after the end of such conflicts? Does it mean that the disarmament, demobilization and
reintegration process has not been able to sufficiently address the problems that may have
necessitated the occurrence of such conflicts? What is the implication to National security?
Answers to questions of these nature would go a long way in making us to understand the
persistent instability and security implication of the Niger Delta, made possible by SALW
proliferation that has reached a crisis level, hence the topic of this paper Arms Proliferation in
the Niger Delta and its implication to National Security.
The Niger Delta region which comprises six (6) states namely; Akwa Ibom, Rivers, Bayelsa,
Cross Rivers, Delta and Edo is an oil rich region in Nigeria. It is characterized by the existence
of wide spread poverty, squalor and environmental degradation due to long period of neglect and
marginalization by successive regimes both civil and military. Several efforts have been made
through representations of traditional rulers, opinion leaders and public spirited individuals on
behalf of the people. These moves have been met by successive regimes with disdain and
draconian brute force. The Small Arms and Light Weapons crisis we are witnessing currently in
the Niger Delta is as a result of such brute force, as the people had no alternative than resort to
violence. Though some disarmament, demobilization and disintegration programmed were
carried out by former President Olusegun Obasanjo, they could not provide the needed lasting
solution to the crisis due to lack of genuine interest on the part of government. The concern of
this paper therefore, are causes of Arms proliferation in the Niger Delta, it’s implication to
National Security, its effects to the nation and possible solutions.
Arms proliferation is the unauthorized and illegal sales and use of arms. In most cases weapons
proliferation refers to weapon of mass destruction. Although small arms and light weapon are
conventional weapons in that they are not weapon of mass destruction.
The United Nations panel of government experts on small arms defined small arms and light
weapon as follows:
Small Arms
– Revolvers and self-loading pistol
– Sub machine gun
– Assault rifles
– Light Machine guns
Light Weapons
– Heavy Machine gun
– Portable articraft guns
– Portable antitank guns, recoiless rifles
– Handheld under-barrel and mounted grenade launcher
Ammunition and explosives
– Cartridges (rounds) for small arms
– Shells and missiles for light weapons
– Hand grenades
– Land mines and Explosives
The Niger Delta has experienced great violence arising from arms proliferation. The current
problem conflict in the region arose in the early 1990s over tensions between foreign oil
corporation and a number of the Niger Delta‟s minority ethnic groups who feel that they are
being exploited, particularly the Ogonis and the Ijaws. (Anne Look 2003). Ethnic and political
unrest has continued throughout the 1990s and persists as of 2007 despite the intervention of
President Yar‟Adua.
Ethnic and political unrest has continued throughout the 1990s and persists as of 2014 despite
the conversion to democracy and the election of the Obasanjo government in 1999. Competition
for oil wealth has fueled violence between many ethnic groups, causing the militarization of
nearly the entire region by ethnic militia groups as well as Nigerian military and police forces
(notably the Nigerian Mobile Police). Victims of crimes are fearful of seeking justice for crimes
committed against them because of growing “impunity from prosecution for individuals
responsible for serious human rights abuses, [which] has created a devastating cycle of
increasing conflict and violence”.
Nigeria, after nearly four decades of oil production, had by the early 1980s become almost
completely dependent on petroleum extraction economically, generating 25% of its GDPC (this
has since raised to 60% as of 2008). Despite the vast wealth created by petroleum, the benefits
have been slow to trickle down to the majority of the population, who since the 1960s have
increasingly been forced to abandon their traditional agricultural practices. Annual production of
both cash and food crops dropped significantly in the latter decades of 20th century, cocoa
production dropped by 43% (Nigeria was the world’s largest cocoa exporter in 1960), rubber
dropped by 29%, cotton by 65%, and groundnuts by 64%. We no longer had the famous
groundnut pyramids in the northern Nigeria.
In spite of the large number of skilled, well-paid Nigerians who have been employed by the oil
corporations, the majority of Nigerians and most especially the people of the Niger Delta states
and the far north have become poorer since the 1960s. After the era of the oil boom, the naira has
been devalued several times since the 1980s up to present day; leading to imposition of austerity
measures where the Niger Delta region has been worse hit.
The region has a steadily growing population estimated to be over 30 million people as of 2005
census figures, thus accounting for more than 23% of Nigeria’s total population. The population
density is also among the highest in the world with 265 people per square kilometer, according to
the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC). This population is expanding at a rapid 3%
per year and the oil capital, Port Harcourt, along with other large towns are growing quickly.
Poverty and urbanization in Nigeria are on the rise, and official corruption is considered a fact of
life. The resultant scenario is one in which there is urbanization but no accompanying economic
growth to provide jobs. This has led to a section of the growing populace assisting in destroying
the ecosystem that they require to sustain themselves.
This section provides a general overview of the people and land of the Niger Delta Region of
Nigeria. It covers the characteristics of the people, the political and administrative institutions
and structures and the region’s social, economic and natural environment. Seen from either the
national or international perspective, the Niger Delta Region (NDR) of Nigeria is a unique
region. As the world’s third largest wetland, it is characterized by significant biological diversity.
It also contains the bulk of proven oil reserves that have generated a lot of controversies.
1.1 The Region
According to Niger Delta Regional Development Master Plan report, the region is situated in the
southern part of Nigeria and bordered to the south by the Atlantic Ocean and to the East by
Cameroon, occupies a surface area of about 112,110 square kilometers. It represents about 12%
of Nigeria’s total surface area and it was estimated that by the beginning of 2006 it population
will be over 28 million inhabitants. The region comprises nine of Nigeria’s constituent states (see
Table 1.3.2 and Map
Table 1.1.3: The Nine States of the Niger Delta Region

Land Area
(projected to
Capital City
Abia 4,877 3,230.000 Umuahia
Akwa-Ibom 6,806 3,343,000 Uyo
Bayelsa 11.007 1,710,000 Yenegoa
Cross River 21,930 2,736,000 Calabar
Delta 17,163 3,594,000 Asaba
Edo 19,698 3,018,000 Benin
Imo 5,165 3,342,000 Owerri
Ondo 15,086 3,025,000 Akure
Rivers 10,378 4,858,000 Portharcourt
TOTAL 112,110 28,856,000
Source: GTZ population projection base on 1991 census & NDRDMP
Demography & Baseline sectors study; Agriculture and Rural development sector study
Map 1.1.4: States of the Niger Delta Region
1.1.5 Administrative Structure
Nigeria has a vertical three- tier administrative structure comprising the Federal Government
(with a Federal Capital Territory, namely Abuja), 36 State Governments and 774 Local
Government Councils. The 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria distributes
power among the three tiers: exclusive powers (Federal); concurrent powers (Federal and State
Governments); residual powers (State Government and Local Government). The constitution
guarantees the existence of a democratically elected system of local government, even though the
State Government can make laws for certain functions of such councils. Under the present
presidential democracy, the federal government comprises three arms: the executive, the
legislative and the judicial arms, which act as checks on each other. The principle of separation
of powers provides for the separate power of the President and National Assembly members.
Thus the executive does not emanate from the legislature, but bills from the legislature would
ordinarily require the President’s assent in order to become Acts. The President may however be
overridden by the legislature, if he withholds his assent after 30 days. The judiciary is an
adjudicator in cases of conflict between the legislature and the executive. This structure is
replicated at state and local government levels.
In the Niger Delta States, as in other States in the federation, administration of affairs at the state
level is vested in the elected Governor, a Deputy Governor and a cabinet of appointed
Commissioners, which constitute the State Executive Council. Special Advisers, Assistants,
Advisory Committees and the state bureaucracy or the civil service and parastatals assist in the
discharge of state functions. The State has a unicameral legislature i.e. the House of Assembly
with elected members from different constituencies working together to determine the laws of
the State. The State judiciary consists of customary courts of appeal, Magistrate courts, and High
Courts from which appeals go to the Federal Court of Appeal. At the Local Government level, an
elected chairperson assisted by supervisory councilors administers the government. The elected
members of the Local Government Council form the legislative organ at this level. The councils
can make by-laws in the area of their jurisdiction. Area or customary courts form the judiciary at
the local government level .An aspect of the administrative structure of the Federation, which is
of importance to the inter-governmental relations, is the distribution of resources. Under section
16 of the 1999 constitution, all revenues of the Federation are paid into the Federation Account.
Among the principles for the distribution of the funds in the Federation Account are derivation
(not less than 13%), equality of states, internal revenue generation, landmass, terrain, population
density and ecological damage. These revenues are shared vertically among tiers of government
and horizontally among states and among local governments. There has been no approved
change in the revenue allocation formula since military rule, in which the Federal Government
was allocated48.5%, States 24%, local governments 20%and special funds 7.5 %.The advent of
democratically elected representatives at the local, district, and ward levels has subordinated the
traditional structure of government, which features family/clan representation with traditional
leaders playing effective advisory roles within specific areas. Nonetheless, every community is
still headed by a chief or king. The chiefs of all the clusters form the council of chiefs, headed by
a king/ traditional ruler (officially recognized by the Nigerian Government).
The internal structures of a small community living in a single settlement and the structures of
the community belonging to a larger village community spread out over several settlements are
typically the same. Both men and women of most communities are subdivided into the youth and
the elders, the latter being committed persons who are more advanced in age and have actively
contributed to the development of the community and have to be recommended by other elders
or the chiefs/traditional ruler. The “elders” (women and men) have a high status in the
community because of their experience and often make the decisive contributions regarding
important activities at the Community level.
However some youth movements are increasingly challenging the status quo due to the
perceived inaction of the elders with respect to securing anticipated communal benefits with
government and corporations.
1.1.6 The People
The very rich culture and heritage of the region is based on the presence of about 40 different
ethnic groups speaking 250 languages and dialects. The numerous ethnic groups include Ijaws,
Ogonis, Ikwerres, Etches, Ekpeyes, Ogbas, Engennes, Obolos, Isoko, Nembes, Okrikans,
Kalabaris, Urhobos, Itsekiris, Igbos, Ika-Igbos, Ndoni, Oron, Ibeno, and Yorubas, Ibibios,
Annangs and Efiks. Other groups include Ibibios, Anang, Efiks, Bekwarras, Binis, etc. The
heritage of the people is reflected in modes of dressing, marriages, traditional culture and
festivals. The traditional economic activities of the communities fall into two main categories:
Land based type on the drier parts at the northern end of the Delta, which includes farming,
fishing, collecting and processing palm fruits, as well as hunting, Water based type of economy
at the southern parts of the Delta including fishing and trading, with a less diversified economy.
The diverse ethnic groups living in the region have a long history of participation in trade and
travel, which has led to the widespread exchange of ideas and art forms, among the various
groups and with the Western nations.
1.1.7 Settlement Pattern
The pattern of settlement in the Niger Delta Region is largely determined by the availability of
dry land and the nature of the terrain. Low relief and poor ground drainage are the primary
factors responsible for the low number of large settlements in the region. The larger settlements
are found in the interior parts of the Delta, which has better drainage conditions and accessibility.
In the mangrove swamp zone, the main settlements such as Port Harcourt, Sapele, Ughelli, and
Warri, have developed on islands of dry land that intersperse the zone with settlements being
located at the head of the navigable limits of the coastal rivers or estuaries. In total, there are
13,329 settlements in the Niger Delta Region. The average population of 13,231 of these (99% of
the total) falls below 20,000 people. Settlements of fewer than 5,000 inhabitants constitute nearly
94% of the total number of settlements and only 98 settlements, that is less than 1% of the
settlements, can be truly regarded as urban centres according to their population sizes. The main
towns in this category include Port Harcourt, Warri, Asaba, Benin, Akure, Calabar, Uyo,
Umuahia, Aba, Owerri and Yenagoa. The predominant settlement type in the Niger Delta is
small and scattered hamlets. The vast majority of settlements comprise largely rural communities
in dispersed village settlements. The typical community consists of compounds, which are
closely spaced groups of small buildings housing 50 to 500 people, most of whom are farmers or
fisher folk. There are also larger settlements, which are usually separated from other clusters of
rural residences by their outer, rotational farmlands, oil palm or rubber plantation, bush, or
stretches of secondary forest. These towns are usually located along roads, which radiate from a
‘core’ where churches, schools, market places and other functions are situated. Most rural
settlements lack essential amenities, such as medical facilities, efficient marketing services,
adequate shopping facilities, good water, power supply and good transportation system.
1.1.8 Population
At the time of the 1991 Census the total population for the Niger Delta Region was about 20
million, or about 23% of Nigeria’s total population. Projections by Government Departments
using an annual growth rate ranging between 2.0% and 2.9% indicate that the total population in
2005 will be nearly 27 million. However, the Master Plan Baseline sample survey, conducted in
2003, shows that the average annual rate of population growth in most communities, based on
the household fertility and mortality data, is about 3.1%. This would mean that in 2004 the
population of the Niger Delta Region amounts to about 30 million. Projected to 2015, it is
expected therefore that population will increase to between 41.5 m and 48 million, depending on
the growth rates applied (that is a high growth rate: 3.1%: or a low growth rate is using a
declining rate of between: 2.9 % -2.5%).
1.3.1 Emergence of armed groups in Niger Delta
The ethnic unrest and conflicts of the late 1990s (such as those between the Ijaw, Urhobo and
Itsekiri), coupled with a peak in the availability of small arms and other weapons, led
increasingly to the militarization of the Delta. By this time, local and state officials had offered
financial support to those paramilitary groups they believed would attempt to enforce their own
political agenda. Conflagrations have been concentrated primarily in Delta and Rivers States.
Prior to 2003, the epicenter of regional violence was Warri. However, after the violent
convergence of the largest military groups in the region, the Niger Delta People’s Volunteer
Force (NDPVF) led by Mujahid Dokubo-Asari and the Niger Delta Vigilante(NDV) led by
Ateke Tom (both of which are primarily made up of Ijaws), conflict became focused on Port
Harcourt and outlying towns. The two groups dwarf a plethora of smaller militias supposedly
numbering more than one hundred. The Nigerian government classifies these groups as “cults”,
many of which began as local university fraternities. The groups have adopted names largely
based on Western culture, some of which include Icelanders, Greenlanders, KKK, and Vultures.
All of the groups are constituted mostly by disaffected young men from Warri, Port Harcourt,
and their sub-urban areas. Although the smaller groups are autonomous from within, they have
formed alliances with and are largely controlled from above by either Asari and his NDPDF or
Tom’s NDV who provided military support and instruction.
The NDPVF which was founded by Asari, a former president of the Ijaw Youth Council, in 2003
after he “retreated into the bush” to form the group with the explicit goal of acquiring control of
regional petroleum resources. The NDPFV attempted to control such resources primarily
through oil “bunkering”, a process in which an oil pipeline is tapped and the oil extracted onto a
barge. Oil corporations and the Nigerian state point out that bunkering is illegal; militants justify
bunkering, saying they are being exploited and have not received adequate profits from the
profitable but ecologically destructive oil industry. Bunkered oil can be sold for profit, usually to
destinations in West Africa, but also abroad. Bunkering is a fairly common practice in the Delta
but in this case the militia groups are the primary perpetrators.
The intense confrontation between the NDPVF and NDV seems to have been brought about by
Asari‟s political falling out with the NDPVF‟s financial supporter Peter Odili, governor of Rivers
State following the April 2003 local and state elections. After Asari publicly criticized the
election process as fraudulent, the Odili government withdrew its financial support from the
NDPVF and began to support Tom‟s NDV, effectively launching a paramilitary campaign
against the NDPVF.
Subsequent violence occurred chiefly in riverine villages southeast and southwest of Port
Harcourt, with the two groups fighting for control of bunkering routes. The conflagrations
spurred violent acts against the local population, resulting in numerous deaths and widespread
displacement. Daily civilian life was disrupted, forcing schools and economic activity to shut
down and resulting in widespread property destruction.
The state campaign against the NDPVF emboldened Asari who began publicly articulating
populist, anti-government views and attempted to frame the conflict in terms of Pan-Ijaw
nationalism and “self-determination.” Consequently the state government felt the escalated the
campaign against him by bringing in police, army, and navy forces that began occupation of Port
Harcourt in June 2004.
The government forces collaborated with the NDV during the period, and were seen protecting
NDV militiamen from attacks by the NDPVF. The state forces failed to protect the civilian
population from the violence and actually increased the destruction of citizens’ livelihood. The
Nigerian state forces were widely reported to have used the conflict as an excuse to raid homes,
claiming that innocent civilians were cahoots with the NDPVF. Government soldiers and police
obtained and destroyed civilian property by force. The NDPVF also accused the military of
conducting air bombing campaigns against several villages, effectively reducing them to rubble,
because it was believed to be housing NDPVF soldiers. The military denies this, claiming they
engaged in aerial warfare only once in a genuine effort to wipe out an NDPVF stronghold.
Innocent civilians were also killed by NDPVF forces firing indiscriminately in order to engage
their opponents. At the end of August 2004 there were several particularly brutal battles over the
Port Harcourt waterfront; some residential slums were completely destroyed after the NDPVF
deliberately burning down buildings. By September 2004, the situation was rapidly approaching
a violent climax which caught the attention of the international community
Recently the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND) issued a fresh set of
warnings to companies in the Niger Delta, promising to blow up at least 20 facilities and abduct
expatriate oil workers if they do not vacate the area within 72 hours.
These problems have continuously threatened the peaceful co-existence of the Niger Delta
Region in particular and the nation at large. The 2015 electioneering campaigns have begun to
witness the escalation of the use of small arms and light weapons by politicians and their agents
in the region. This problem is therefore a serious one that needs serious attention.
There are around forty wars raging in countries around the world today. These wars are being
fought primarily with small arms and light weapons carried by individual soldiers or on light
vehicles. Few combatants involved (whether state or non-state actors) produce any, let alone the
bulk, of these munitions. Most light arms being used in these conflicts are imported either
through legal international channels, or through the black market. Statistics on light weapons
trafficking are hard to come by (none of the standard sources of information on the arms trade,
such as the SIPRI Yearbook, provide such data), but the available evidence suggests that this
trade is flourishing in the post-Cold War era. The Norwegian Initiative on Small Arms Transfers
has begun to develop a comprehensive database of world-wide military small arms production
and transfers.
The widespread availability of small arms and light weapons compounds the difficulty of
alleviating civil crisis, and it may actually encourage the resort to warfare (as opposed to nonmilitary means of conflict resolution and state formation). The spread of light weapons is also
increasing the duration of civil conflicts, which have tremendous costs in terms of human
suffering, economic development deferred, and political development stunted. Small arms are
also the weapons of choice for abusive forces within both governments.
In Nigeria, the present security challenges especially the recent insurgencies in the Northern
Nigeria have been fuelled by the easy access to small arms and light weapons. These terrorist
groups, herdsmen, militants, area boys, kidnappers, armed robbers and inter-community
attackers have in their possession large quantities of small arms and light weapon. Arms
proliferation can be linked to most of the security issues in Nigeria. How can Nigeria stop the
violence and proliferation of small arms in the Niger Delta which have led to the death of many
including Nigerians and foreigners? This paper, by the Small Arms Survey, looks at the causes
of armed violence in Nigeria, surveying the different armed groups and types of weapons
involved. It argues that a key element of addressing insecurity and armed violence is
comprehensive security sector reform. This has led to threat to national security with cases of
kidnapping, piracy, bunkering, sectoral clashes to mention a few; in the Niger Delta which forms
the focal point of this study and the climax is to find a solution.
 To identify the sources of arms proliferation in the region.
 To discuss the effects of small arms and light weapon proliferation.
 To understand the implication of arms proliferation to Nigeria national security.
 To proffer possible solutions at the end of the research.
 Add to the existing literature or knowledge as well as a reference material on the subject.
Some questions have been framed to guide the research and enable the researcher to elicit
appropriate answers.
They include:
What are the sources of small arms and light weapons in the Niger Delta?
What are the implications of arms proliferation to national security?
How can the violence be eradicated?
These tentative guesses are formed from the research questions in a bid to getting answers to the
questions put forward.
They include:
Ho-That Political thuggery is not the source of arms proliferation.
Ho-That the implication of arms proliferation to national security are not armed robbery,
Kidnapping, cultism, sectoral clashes, piracy, bunkering and low foreign revenue.
Hi- The implication of arms proliferation to national security are armed robbery, Kidnapping,
cultism, sectoral clashes, piracy, bunkering and low foreign revenue.
Ho-The violence cannot be eradicated through sincere dialogue.
Hi-The violence can be eradicated to sincere dialogue between both parties.
– That arms proliferation in Nigeria does not have possible solution.
The significance of this work will be appreciated most by the expatriates, oil workers, security
agencies, victims and Nigeria at large due to the problem it tends to solve.
1. The research draws attention to the implication of arms proliferation to Nigeria‟s
National security.
2. The research will expose the ills and dangers in arms proliferation.
3. It is worthy of note that this research will add to existing knowledge on the topic in the
area of knowing the sources of proliferation from a different perspective.
4. The research provides knowledge to victims of kidnapping, armed robbery/piracy,
sectoral clashes, bunkering in a bid to finding a lasting solution for them.
5. The research will definitely serve as a reference material to government, students,
researchers, the academia, workers in the oil industry, Nigerians, as well as expatriates.
The scope of the study only covers the Niger Delta precisely Rivers which is the case study. The
period of coverage may include 1999 – 2011 as this is the period when the activities of the
militant was at its peak
At this juncture, it crucial to note that there is no research without one form of problem,
challenge, limitation or whatever you call. I envisage the following problem but also proffer
possible solutions to surmount the problems.
1. Time constraints: The time to conduct this research is short considering the fact that one will
need to travel to affected state to elicit data. The researcher has decided to start the research early
to beat time although this is subject to the permission of the supervisor.
2. Finance: This research is capital intensive. The researcher may wish to travel down to the
region to have a first class experience and information to make the research rich and credible. I
intend to solicit for financial assistance from my parents and relatives.
3. Stakeholders which may include militants, elder statesmen and government officials to get a
balanced report may be unavailable or unwilling to participate in an interview. I intend to write
to several individuals to grant me interview, this is so because it‟s not possible for all of them to
decline interview with me at the same time.
4. Some persons might be unwilling to respond to the questionnaires. Questionnaires that would
be responded to would be utilized.
For the purpose of clear understanding, it is crucial to know the meaning of some of the
terminologies and key words used in this research and they include:
1. Arms – This refers to weapon using for fighting or terrorizing people.
2. Proliferation – This means to increase greatly in number
3. Security – The state or feeling of being safe or protected
4. Small Arms- firearms that can be held in one or both hands while firing, e.g. pistols
and rifles
5. Weapon – a device designed to inflict injury or death on an opponent


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