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Nigeria: efforts at tackling arms proliferation in West Africa gain momentum

22-05-2009 News Release 09/111

Abuja (ICRC) – On 20 May, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) co-organized a roundtable in Abuja to discuss progress made on ratifying and incorporating into domestic legislation the ECOWAS Convention on Small Arms and Light Weapons.

Ambassadors from the 15 ECOWAS countries and seven Western donor countries took part in the discussions, as did senior officials from key government ministries.

The convention was signed by the heads of all member States in June 2006 and has so far been ratified by Burkina Faso, Mali, Niger, Nigeria, Senegal, Sierra Leone and Togo. " This is extraordinary progress, " said Cyriaque Agnekethom, head of the ECOWAS small arms unit. " We hope that by the end of 2009 the remaining member States will have ratified this important legal instrument. "

" This is a very positive meeting, " said the Spanish ambassador to Nigeria, Ángel Losada Fernández, whose country is a bilateral donor to the ECOWAS small arms programme. " It has brought together many countries to collectively address the real impact of the lack of security in the region and in our own countries as well. " The ICRC's head of delegation in Nigeria, Jacques Villettaz, added that the roundtable discussions provided a good opportunity to " clarify pending questions and to find solutions to expected shortcomings. "

The proliferation of small arms over the past decade has been a scourge for West Africa and has helped fuel many non-international conflicts in the region. In 1998, to tackle the serious harm caused to civilians by the widespread use of small arms, the ECOWAS heads of State, meeting in Bamako, declared a moratorium on the weapons. In 2006, this political declaration was transformed into a legally binding instrument: the ECOWAS Convention on Small Arms and Light Weapons.

For further information, please contact:
  Anahita Kar, ICRC Abuja, tel: +234 9 4619613 or +234 703 595 4168
  Blessing Ejiofor, ICRC Abuja, tel: +234 803 333 5280