President Muhammadu Buhari on Thursday received the outgoing Special Representative of the United Nations Secretary-General and Head of the United Nations Office for West Africa and the Sahel, Mohammed Ibn Chambas, regretting that despite his government’s closure of Nigeria’s land borders, arms and ammunition continues to flow into the country illegally.
Nigeria shut its land borders in August 2019 to crack down on smuggling. They were however reopened in December 2020 ahead of the January 1, 2021 implementation date of the African Continental Free Trade Agreement (ACFTA).
President Buhari attributed the challenge of continuing inflow of arms and ammunition into Nigeria to the situation in Libya, saying that as long as the North African country is unstable, illegal arms and ammunition will continue to flow into the Sahel region of Africa.
In a statement by Presidential Spokesperson, Femi Adesina, titled “An unstable Libya remains a problem for the Sahel region, President Buhari said that “we closed our land borders here for more than a year, but arms and ammunition continued to flow illegally. As far as Libya remains unstable, so will the problem remain. We have to cope with the problems of development, as we can’t play hop, step and jump. But we will eventually overcome those problems.”
Buhari said Muammar Gadaffi held a grip on power in Libya for 42 years by recruiting armed guards from different countries, who then escaped with their arms when the Libyan strongman was killed.
“They didn’t learn any other skill than to shoot and kill. So, they are a problem all over the Sahel countries today,” the President said.
He described Chambas, who spent many years in Nigeria in different capacities, from ECOWAS to UN, as “more of a Nigerian than anything else.” He wished him well in his future endeavours.
The outgoing Special Representative thanked the President “for personal support I received from you, and from Nigeria as a country,” adding that the country would continue to play a leadership role on the continent.
On terrorism and violent extremism in the Sahel and the Lake Chad Basin area, Chambas said Nigeria was playing a yeoman’s role, particularly in giving support to the Multinational Joint Task Force.