Nigeria’s silent success in regulating use of explosives

explosives

By Kayode Adebiyi

AT the height of terrorist attacks in Nigeria, Boko Haram and other insurgency groups increased the use of improvised explosive devices (IEDs).

Most of the IEDs deployed by those terrorist groups were made from Ammonium Nitrate and Carbamide, which are also used for controlled explosions (mining, for example) and as fertilizers.

The continued risk of chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear and explosives (CBRNE) related materials by non-state actors for terrorism or other criminal purposes became one of the gravest concerns of the Nigerian government.

According to Action On Armed Violence (AOAV), a security think tank that specifically focuses on the impact of explosive weapons in populated areas, from 2011-2020, 11,649 deaths and injuries from explosive violence were recorded in Nigeria.

AOAV also reported that IEDs caused the most harm in the period under review, with 92 per cent of civilian deaths and injuries resulting from this type of violence.

The use of CBRNE materials for IEDs peaked in 2015, with 2,920 civilian deaths and injuries recorded from explosive violence.

In response, the Office of the National Security Adviser (ONSA) was mandated to develop a policy and strategic framework to counter the threat.

In both the National Security Strategy (NSS) and the National Counter Terrorism Strategy (NACTEST), the illegal and unauthorised use of CBRNE by non-state actors was clearly identified as a threat to national security.

Those documents call for increased awareness of the importance and benefits of adhering to and fully implementing the international legal instruments against CBRNE terrorism; providing assistance to national policymakers and law enforcement agencies in drafting and reviewing relevant legislation.

It also called for conducting capacity building for criminal justice officials to ensure effective investigation, prosecution, and adjudication of CBRNE-related terrorism offences; developing and disseminating training tools; and enhancing national, regional and international cooperation in criminal matters related to CBRNE terrorism.

Stricter measures have, therefore, been put in place to regulate the sale of fertilizers and explosives for controlled use.

For instance, all fertilizer producers and suppliers must be registered with the Fertilizer Producers and Suppliers Association of Nigeria (FEPSAN), while all fertilizer distributors and farmers in Nigeria must be registered under the Federal Ministry of Agriculture’s Growth Enhancement Scheme (GES).

These and other measures implemented over the past few years have led to a substantial reduction in the ability of terrorist groups to have access to CBRNE materials used in making IEDs.

In Sept. 2021, President Muhammadu Buhari transmitted an executive bill to the National Assembly seeking to control the proliferation of arms and to regulate the importation of explosives into the country.

It is said to be part of efforts to drastically reduce illegal access to CBRNE materials.

This stemmed from the fact that, apart from the use of these materials by terrorists, the indiscriminate and uncertified use of explosives at illegal mining sites constitutes a violation of Nigeria’s law on arms and explosives control.

The bill sought to repel the 1964 Explosive Act and enact a new law that would regulate the manufacture, storage, possession, use, distribution, purchase, sale, transportation, importation and exportation of explosives and other related matters.

The Ministry of Mines and Steel Development is responsible for issuing licenses for explosives meant for mining and construction uses, with additional security checks carried out by ONSA through End User Certification.

A person who wishes to deal in explosives is required by the provisions of the bill, to make an application for a licence, permit or certificate to the Minister of Mines and Steel Development.

Where granted, such approval shall be valid for a period of one year from the date of issuance.

Where the minister refuses the application, an applicant who is unsatisfied with the decision can approach the courts to challenge the Minister’s decision.

Also, an applicant shall be screened by the appropriate security agency upon the request of the minister, to determine his or her suitability to be granted a license.

Also, according to the bill, a licence can be varied, revoked or suspended by the minister in certain circumstances stipulated in the bill.

It is important to note that at the heart of Nigeria’s success in controlling access to CBRNE materials is the effective collaboration among relevant stakeholders within Nigeria.

It also involves the cooperation among regional and international partners, especially in the areas of capacity building and provision of training tools.

Experts identify capacity building of personnel in line with global best practices and standards in the detection of illicit trafficking of CBRNE materials as crucial.

So in 2022, the Nigeria Police, in conjunction with ONSA and the US Department of Energy, Office of Nuclear Smuggling, Detection, and Deterrence (NSDD), approved the continual training of personnel of the Nigeria Police Force Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD-CBRN) Command on the operation and maintenance of Mobile Detection System (MDS).

The practical training is a continuous effort aimed at re-evaluating and re-strategising performance levels in meeting the goal of safeguarding the nation against internal security threats.

Indeed, there has been tremendous success in the federal government’s efforts to regulate the use of CBRNE, which has led to the near-elimination of access to their illegal and unauthorised use by terrorists and illegal miners.

While such efforts deserve commendation, there is the need to avoid complacency and the hope that the various interventions put in place are sustained long-term for the interest of national security.(NAN)

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