GOVERNMENTAL EXPERT MEETING FOR THE VALIDATION OF THE STUDY REPORT AND GUIDE ON CIVILIAN POSSESSION AND LICENSING OF ARMS IN ECOWAS REGION.
In the framework of the reduction of illicit trafficking and the fight against the proliferation of Small arms and Light Weapons (SALW), the ECOWAS Commission organized a Governmental Expert Meeting in Lagos, Nigeria from 25th to 27th July 2023.
The main objective was to review and validate the draft study report and guidelines on civilian possession and licensing of arms based on the obligations imposed by article 14 of the ECOWAS Convention on SALW, Their Ammunition and Other Related Materials. A study was commissioned to examine national practices in relation to authorizations, permits and licensing of civilians bearing arms currently in place in each member states. The study generated pertinent evidenced – based data that needed to be verified, reviewed and validated by governmental experts.
This meeting attracted relevant government experts with requisite experiences in law, law enforcement and arms control and it was preceded by independent experts meeting that took place in April 2023 in Abuja. Thus, this meeting was to further expose the documents to additional scrutiny as well as to secure the national ownership of the entire process.
It was in this regard, that the consultants, FABA Consulting, provided presentations of the outcomes of the study as well as the proposed guidelines for civilian possession licensing template. Participants included representatives from the National Commissions of SALW (NATCOMs), security experts from various Police Forces across the region and technical partners
At the opening ceremony, four statements were delivered by representatives of Nigeria Police Force (NPF), European Union Delegation to Nigeria and ECOWAS, ECOWAS Commission, as well as the National Centre for the Control of Small Arms and Light Weapons (NCCSALW). In his opening remarks, Commissioner of Police, Salman Dogo the representative of the NPF extended a warm welcome to all the delegates, expressing his sincere wishes for a successful and fruitful deliberation.
The EU Delegation to Nigeria and ECOWAS, represented by Ms Celine Lhoste reaffirmed the commitment of EU to continually support ECOWAS in its efforts to prevent and manage security threats in the region. The EU acknowledged that the region has been facing conflicts that challenge the legitimacy of its Member States, impeding sustainable development. Concerns were raised about activities of criminal groups, conflicts and other social deprivations arising from misuse of arms in communities. To address these challenges, the EU underscored the OCWAR-T project as portent tool in support of ECOWAS and region at large and hence, the outcome of the study report on civilian possession of arms which aims to operationalize article 14 of the ECOWAS Convention.
In his submission, Ambassador Abdel-Fatau Musah, ECOWAS Commissioner for Political Affairs, Peace and Security represented by Mr. Ahoba Piex Joseph, welcomed delegates to the meeting and stressed the importance of validating the guideline to enhance systematic monitoring of civilians possessing weapons. He pointed out that the draft regional guidelines symbolize the region's collective commitment to combat organized crime and trafficking, fostering peace and security. He urged all delegates to approach the discussions with an open mind, cooperation, and determination to find practical and effective solutions.
Before declaring the meeting opened, the representative of NCCSALW, Commissioner of Police, A.N. Thomas, highlighted on the widespread challenges of SALW proliferation in the region, emphasizing its connections to trans-national organized crime. He noted that the meeting serves as a valuable platform to collaboratively develop frameworks, statutory regulations, and policy directives to combat the issue of SALW effectively. He acknowledged and commended ECOWAS for patronizing indigenous home – grown African resources with the selection of FABA Consulting firm for this very important study
Speaking during the opening ceremony, the Resident Representative of the ECOWAS in the Gambia, Her Excellency Mrs. Miatta Lily French, who was represented by Mr. Claude Kondor, stated that ECOWAS has been at the forefront in the search of sustainable peace and security within its Member States. “Without peace and security, development and economic integration of the entire region will be very difficult to achieve”, he stated.
Mr. Kondor revealed that various protocols have been articulated and adopted to address the numerous security challenges that transformed the ECOWAS region into an epicenter of warlords and conflict entrepreneurs - including the 1999 Mechanism for Conflict Prevention, Management, Resolution, Peacekeeping and Security; the Supplementary Protocol on Democracy and Good Governance of 2001; the 2008 ECOWAS Conflict Prevention Framework and other key documents.
He highlighted that the objectives and expected outcomes of the In-Mission training are appropriate in equipping staff officers to carry out the correct operational procedures relevant to their roles and to ensure that Operating Procedures of both ECOWAS Headquarters and the ECOWAS Standby Force (ESF) Mission Headquarters are harmonized, standardized, and documented to simplify information flow and provide sufficient access for staff officers.
The meeting concluded with closing statements, expressing appreciation to all participants for the quality of their inputs and for adopting the study report and the guidelines/templates.
This training was organized by the ECOWAS Commission through the OCWAR-T project, which is co- funded by the European Union (EU) and by the Germany Federal Foreign Office.