Border Control and Arms Smuggling in Nigeria: Glitches and Diagnoses – Mark, Kingsley Chinonso and Iwebi, Joseph C

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Summary: Nigeria’s border points have long been known for their porous nature, lack of control, and scarcity of security personnel. The lack of border security personnel, facilities, and training, combined with Nigeria’s long-standing reputation for graft and corruption, exacerbates the problem. This study recommendations provide a framework and model for measures to address Nigeria’s recurrent porous border concerns.


Border points in Nigeria have over the years, been characterized by its porous nature, weak control and a dearth of security personnel. Consequently, the development has led to the influx of smuggled arms and ammunitions on daily basis  into the country, resulting in a gruesome phenomenon of violent conflicts, terrorism, war etc, which poses a great challenge to national security. The porous border situation presents  a security problem demanding coordinated and collaborative national efforts of border  security agencies and the inhabitants of borderline communities to address the issue effectively. The deficiencies and shortage of border security personnel, facilities, and training, combined with Nigeria’s prevalent penchant for graft and corruption complicate the problem even further. Thus, in a bid to capture the position of this research, the researcher adopted qualitative design to justify the essence of the study. The study was anchored on a combination of structural functionalism and the theory of relative autonomy of the state as its  framework of analysis. Based on the application of the theories, hypothesis generated were analyzed and evaluated in line with available data, while the study explored some of the factors that influence border control operations. The findings and recommendations offer a framework and model for policies in addressing perennial porous border challenges in Nigeria.


Nigeria is a diverse country covering 923, 768 square kilometers with more than 36, 450 kilometers of land and maritime borders, it shares 770 kilometers of land borders with Benin Republic in the West, 90 kilometers with Chad and 1,500 kilometers with Niger in the North, 1,700 kilometers with Cameroon in the East and shares 853 kilometres of maritime border with the Atlantic Ocean known as the Gulf of Guinea along the southern coast line. On the whole, Nigeria is bounded by a total of 4,910 kilometres outstretch of borders (Yacubu, 2005; Stohl and Tuttle, 2009; Nte, 2011).

Nigeria’s borders have been described as porous allowing all sorts of trans-border criminal activities such as arms smuggling. This is in spite of the effort of cross- border security agencies like the Nigeria Police, Customs Service, Immigration Services and the DSS, etc., in manning the officially designated border routes. Arms smuggling activities constitute threat to global and national security as they affect the political cum socio-economic development of the country and tarnish its image as a corporate and independent entity with the attendant effects of ethnic militias, youth restiveness, terrorism and other related trans-border crimes. The synergy and collaborative efforts by the government, the security personnel and the border-communities remain questionable. Border communities being the domain and hosting the border largely functions as entry, transit-resting point and exit for smuggled arms. They often engage in an illegitimate business of the sale of these arms to unauthorized hands, thereby attracting consortia within and around the border areas, with their varied intents and purposes constituting high security risk for both states. These unlawful activities notwithstanding, the government pays diminutive attention on best ways communities within these areas can be estranged from the activities of arms smuggling (Chuma- Okoro, 2011). For instance, the inhabitants of border communities rather than play vital roles in the co-operative alertness and monitoring of processes within their border areas, most cases, aid and abate smuggling of various  kinds. While the smugglers further take lead of the prevailing chances to realize their objectives of arm smuggling business. This paper is divided into five subsections; following the introductory parts is the Conceptual exposition literature review, Theoretical framework, conclusions and recommendations


Adejumobi (2015), posit border as demarcations found within international divides, covering political entities and affiliates, with legal jurisdiction of states autonomy and sovereignty and a geographical divides that forms the juridical zone between one state and another. Afolayan (2000), added that border is the line of divides that marks the limit of a country land, legal and sovereign coverage from another. Within this delimitated boundary, nations exercise authority and influence, as to what goes in and what comes out of the state. He further noted that it is within this region a country can restrict, accept and ban items, materials and equipment from gaining entry into her territory or otherwise (Afolayan, 2000).

In the international arena and among nations around the world, borders share multiplicity of similarities identified above by Adejumobi (2015); Afolayan, (2000). In addition to their view, Iwebi (2017) added that their area of similarities further encapsulate the allotment of ethno- cultural cleavages and groupings, formal and informal cross-border dealings, relations and transactions, articulated ethics, laws, principles and guidelines governing the operational conducts of the border security agencies.

Asiwaju (1984) captured that border is a precincts zone of a state, with significance and authority, restricts unwanted movement of illegal, human and materials including smugglers and their smuggled items. They are characterized by dual dimensional associations between the host nation and her neighbouring state. James (1989) in Mbaegbu (2018) summarised that borders are defined in terms of latitudes, longitudes, geometric circles and straight lines-split several ethnic and cultural communities. Mears (2003) agrees with Egunjobi and Afolayan (2006) when they say that the observably and even ties associated with the total way of life is the identity of a given group in an area of inhabitation are of prominence. Therefore, the unique style of living and the steady interactions and transactions of people within the border communities are closely related to the ideal transactions and interactions found in the open market. In other words, borders include the geographical areas round nation’s territorial demarcations between another. Thus, in the same line of thought, Spencer (2007) notes that borders play delicate role in the stability of any nation in terms of peace and conflicts, as the arms used during the period of conflict, violence and crisis are usually smuggled into a target country through her borders.

On the other hand, arms smuggling has remained a phenomenal issue at the international, regional and national levels. A common observation emerging from the different positions on arms smuggling summarily posits that it  covers a wide spectrum of weapons and the ways they are unlawfully pushed into a state. For instance, the ECOWAS Convention on Arms Smuggling and other Related Materials of 2006, which is the West African sub-regional benchmark for regulating arms and ammunitions among member countries captures arms as destructive weapons and ammunition of war, which include: firearms and other destructive arms or devices such as an exploding bomb, an incendiary bomb or a gas bomb, a grenade, rocket launcher, a missile, or a mine. Revolvers and pistols with automatic loading, rifles and carbines, machine guns, assault rifles, light machine guns are also examples of arms (Iwebi, 2017, Chuma-Okoro, 2011).

Nigeria is a destination of smuggled arms (Chuma- Okoro, 2011), the causes include criminal  activities, revolts, subversion, sabotage, religious crisis, communal conflicts, social agitations, insurrection, terrorism, insurgency, riots, militancy, electoral violence, political violence, social unrest, ethnic tensions, cross border smuggling, porous borders, black marketeering, privatization of security, insecurity, poverty, economic

crisis, mass unemployment, among others (Chuma-Okoro, 2011). Accordingly, Shagaya in Eke (2000), maintained the “the history of Nigeria may be described as one of the continuous encounters with border problems as she shares borders with five African Countries: Benin, Niger, Chad, Cameroon and Equatorial Guinea. Four of these are Franco- phone countries, of which they have no clearly delineated and well-defined boundary with Nigeria”.

Nigeria has overtime, experienced series of border crimes with the citizens of her immediate neighbours, which resulted in the infiltration of unprecedented levels of problems from the Chad, Benin and Niger-Nigeria borders. Aronowitz (1999) noted that these crimes are set of criminal acts whose perpetrators and repercussions go beyond territorial borders. Adeola (2012) stated that the phenomenon is currently generating a lot of concerns globally, especially in countries like Nigeria, where it is highly prevalent. The underpinnings are reflected in the increasing spread and sophistication of criminal networks coupled with nefarious arms smuggling activities. Mustapha (2004:9) captured this more succinctly: “While the wave of globalization has given rise to increased internationalization of economic activities, it has equally opened the door for “global criminal, and smugglers” to flourish”. Across nations and Nigeria in particular, arms smuggling has steered to a situation this research termed “risky and unhealthy state of inhabitation” resulting to a steady and uncontrollable cases of killings, armed banditry, herdsmen attacks, ethnic and communal rivalries and clashes and many other numerous violent conflicts.

According to Adeola and Oluyemi (2012), Nigeria has been trapped in numerous and multifaceted problems orchestrated by her exposure to the influx of  smuggled arms into the country through her border posts. Eliagwu (2003) noted in July, 2002, there were recorded incidences of over fifty violent clashes and conflicts in Nigeria that left over thousands of persons dead, too many injuries and many rendered homeless. The increasing arms smuggling activity along the nation’s borders portends grate danger with dire consequences on national and regional security as arms are unlawfully being possessed by unauthorized persons. Consequently, illicit possession of arms by individual or groups becomes a formidable means for actualisation of heinous desires, such as armed robberies, kidnapping, cult clashes, terrorist acts, etc. This was evidenced with the attack of the daughter of Nigeria former President Olusegun Obasanjo, in which two kids Akinolu and Akindeko and a police were killed (Odeh, 2003). The Guardian traced the incidence to Hamani Tijani, a 41-year old Niger Republic national who was identified along with members of his gang by the law enforcement agencies as being responsible for the snatching of over two thousands exotic cars and the killing of over one thousand people between 2000 and 2003. Also, in early 2003, there was a report on Republic of Benin Television where cargos of sophisticated weapons intercepted by men of Republic of Benin customs services were displayed. The cargos were allegedly moved into the country by Hamani Tijani (Odeh, 2003). One questions remains paramount, the source and availability of these arms and ammunitions that are smuggled into Nigeria?

Against the growing tide, over eight million new guns are manufactured every year by at least 1,249 companies in 92 countries, while about 10-14 billion units of ammunition are manufactured every year (Nte, 2011, Iwebi, 2017). African countries spent over 300 billion dollars on arms between 2007- 2015, equalling the sum of international aid that was granted to Africa within the same period (Yaw- Kuome, 2016). Thus, an estimated 79% of these arms and ammunitions were smuggled into various countries across the world, while a good number of these arms in Africa are unlawfully pushed into the hands of civilians (Ibrahim, 2003; Stohl and Tuttle, 2009; Nte, 2011; Yaw-Kuome, 2016, Iwebi 2017).

Drawing from the above, these arms are not manufactured in Nigeria, but their existence and influence heat every nook and cranny of the State. As Bundo (2014) rightly observes, arms are flowing into states regularly and illegally through her border posts. Worried by Asiwaju (2015) view, that arms smuggling has been traditionally overlooked, especially during the cold war era, efforts by the international community to curb arms smuggling and proliferation of weapons focused almost entirely on heavy conventional arms and on nuclear, chemical and biological weapons, collectively referred to as weapons of mass destructions. This is quite understandable, considering the fact that the impacts of these weapons in conflict situation have been evidently catastrophic.

The process remained the same as arms have further been assumed to follow the same pattern of trade as heavy weapons. Though, in recent times, since the early 1990s however, there have been a growing realization that most of the killings and injuries, especially of civilians, in the increasing number of inter/intra conflicts that occurred since the end of the Cold War emerged as a result of the availability of arms smuggled into the country. Former President, Olusegun Obasanjo in his 2006 address to the United Nations General Assembly drew global attention to the menace of arms smuggling, which he said is also as important, if not more threatening than any high level catastrophes in a state (U.N Journal of Security Studies, 2006). Hence the conflict ridden West African sub-region and Nigeria in particular is embattled with the menace of un-restrained smuggling of arms. Huge numbers of arms have surged the region in spite of the rambling ill use of such weapons by various actors of the state and non-state actors. The prevalent spread of arms to unmannerly persons within West Africa region and Nigeria in particular significantly contributes to advance mayhems thereby making the attainment of peace very difficult (Anderson & Wilson, 2013).

In this regards, the security agencies entrusted at manning the various Nigerian Border posts like the Nigerian Customs Service, and other Joint border security patrol are constantly running battles with smugglers, especially in making sure that environment free of smuggled arms is maintained. Despite the United Nations declaration to mandatory arms embargoes for years and the pledge of the Economic Community of West African States in 1998 not to import, export or manufacture weapons notwithstanding, have been consistently ignored. This is evidenced with the current wave of crime across the country. For instance, the upsurge of herdsmen/farmers clashes across the country, the dent on the country’s mono- economy by the Niger Delta avengers and other militants with the spate of destruction of crude oil pipelines, the terrorist menace in the North-East by the insurgents groups, the ethnic agitators in the Southeast and the spate of oil bunkering and kidnapping in the West etc, are all motivated by the barrage of arms available in unauthorized hands. The situation has necessitated a deep sense of fear that every person irrespective of status is left with the sense that everyone is dangerous and armed and should not be entrusted with certain privilege especially as pertained to the custody of once life. The implication is that the accumulation of those arms and ammunitions are expected to remain waste. Hence must be committed to something, possibly for bad, considering the modus through which they were acquired.

On the above note, between the periods highlighted, there were over 480 communal clashes, sectarian violence and ethno-religious conflicts with each claiming hundreds of lives and properties, and internal displacement of people including women and children. The use of these arms and ammunitions in ethno-religious clashes and armed robbery has caused death of more than 10,000 Nigerians, an average of 1000 people per year since 2007 -2014 (Nte,  2011, Okah, 2014). The implication is that most of these smuggled arms are negatively affecting the entire system as wrong hands tend to abuse its usage especially where it is not necessary in settling official vendetta. It resulted in numerous problems with little clue on it resolution (Nte, 2011; Okah, 2014). The menace has principally and unhindered continued to support the escalation of kidnaping, ethic militias, communal clashes, herdsmen attacks and youth reactiveness most especially in the rich oil producing Niger Delta region of Nigeria. The problems persist and are worsened daily due to the inability of the  law enforcement agencies like the Nigeria Immigration Service, Customs, and Police to effectively control these borders, as none of these security agencies  currently possess the requisite training, resources or personnel to perform their statutory task effectively (Hazen & Horner, 2007). Nte (2011) further posits that there is a direct link between arms smuggling and escalation of violence and conflicts into a full-blown war. This has received in-depth explanations from the above analysis. With the weak and ineffective border control, arms smuggling across the nation will automatically be the order of the day. Just as the researcher argued abinitio, arms smuggled into the state has ended up in wrong hands leading to so many abuses like criminal activities, settlement of vendetta and regional revolutions like youth restiveness, Boko Haram insurgency, and other forms of ethnic agitations, etc. This  seriously calls for an urgent need for stronger border control operations.

From the foregoing, Larsen (2002) sees border control as any agreement among states to regulate some aspects of their geographical regions serving as entry and exit points. The agreement may apply to the location, amount, readiness, and types of military forces, weapons, and facilities. Whatever is their scope and terms, however, all plans for border control have one common factor: they presuppose some forms of cooperation or joint action among the participants regarding their nations’ programmes. He assesses the role, value, and purpose of border control and cooperative security in the twenty-first century. Sharing in the above view, Pokoo (2013) also states that three global strategies are deployed for active border control against the disastrous effects of arms proliferation; they include disarmament, arms control and border management. He goes on to say that among many other issues, border control programmes tend to focus on curtailing weapons and prohibitions with a view towards reducing the destructive and destabilizing impact on the state and society as well as the environment. Operationally, disarmament programmes have also focused on demobilization of armed groups and also restoration of armed combatants and vulnerable groups associated with conflicts back into society. The latter often occur in post- conflict contexts and are informed by the particular peace operation mandates emanating from specific UN Security Council Resolutions. Furthermore, Pokoo submits that border control tends to focus on policy designed to regulate illegal movements at the border either by limiting their growth or by restricting how arms enter the country by means of international arms control which provokes the exploration of other means of materials control.

Arms control is, therefore, approached by internationally negotiated instruments including international treaties, agreements and also regional and sub- regional agreements and protocols. National commitments to such regional, sub-regional and international norms emanating from the above protocols are as important as the desired impact that such norms and regimes are expected to make. The implication is that the extent of compliance of national arms control policy guidelines, legislation, and institutional measures to particular international  regimes are relevant to the attainment of the goals of international arms control initiatives.

Thus, at the wake of globalization, attention was focused on transnational organized crime with particular emphasis on the illicit movement of firearms, having negative effects especially on the plight of women and children in conflict situations (Ufiem, 2013). One of the three supplementary protocols of the International Convention against Transnational Organized Crime relates to the regulation of the manufacture, distribution and the use of firearms around the world. The prevailing situation in Nigeria has continued to affect the socio-political essence of the state (Pokoo, 2013). Ufot, Peter, Esin & Anetie (2014) observes how these illegal activities across the Nigerian borders have continued to have negative effects and how best Nigeria can curtail instabilities and her capacity to manage crisis in the country. In addition to Ufot, et al. (2014) line of thought, an interview with the Director, Department of State Security Service, Anambra State Command, revealed that at the outskirt of border areas, border security personnel face undoubted challenges ranging from deficiency and shortage in  personnel, shortage in intelligence gathering equipment, facilities, training, and the prevalent quest for graft and corruption. Furthermore, interview with a custom director at the Nigeria’s custom headquarters and some senior custom personnel who maintained anonymity, bared their experience that cultural affinities among border residents, further contribute to the weak enforcement of  border control laws and often times smugglers connive with or capitalise on influence of a certain security personnel/ brotherhood in carrying out their illegal acts, especially arms smuggling at the border posts.

The finding is in line with what Buzan (2006) and Pokoo (2013) identify as some of the observable deficiencies in effective border control in Nigeria, as itemized:

  • Lack of security awareness among Nigerian citizens
  • Bad attitude and perception of Nigerian government officials to security matters and threats
  • Wrong attitude of security personnel in Nigeria towards the citizens
  • Reluctance of Nigerian citizens to give useful security information on time to security agencies
  • Politicization of security departments by political class in Nigeria
  • Corruption among these security personnel and among Nigerian citizens

In addition to the interview on observed deficiencies on border control, this paper posit the above shortcomings as impediments to effective border control which tend to affect the stability of Nigeria. It is the view of this research that if the government of Nigeria can properly fund and motivate the security personnel with adequate remuneration, proper residential and office accommodation, adequate equipment and other incentives/welfare packages, the issue of corruption and attitudinal changes  from security personnel to citizens and vice-versa will help in effective administration of border control in Nigeria particularly in the area of giving information willingly by the border communities to security agencies. Similarly, if the government officials will properly address the border control deficiencies, the nation’s border security agencies will become effective and border stability ensured.

In line with the above, the deficiencies as identified have rendered the protracted struggle by the Nigerian security forces ill-equipped to defeat insurgency, an indication of the combat non-readiness of her defense responsibility as a result of poor funding and inadequate motivation of the security personnel. Therefore, the deficiencies as identified by Buzan (2006) and Pokoo (2013) have been much evident, especially with Nigeria Police Force where poor funding and ill-equipping of the police force by the government have been contributing to the poor performances of the force over the years. From the foregoing, it is adjudged that the role of modern technological gadgets and necessity of operational and administrative equipment for the law enforcement agencies at the borders in the face of the huge security challenges in Nigeria cannot be overemphasized. As observed by Larsen (2002), a look at the average Nigerian security personnel (The Police, Customs Service, Civil Defense and the Department of State Security) shows they are inadequately equipped for modern day crime combat with specific reference to border control in Nigeria. The relevant security agencies are challenged with lack of operational equipment ranging from lack of communication gadgets, patrol vehicles equipped with gadgets, forensic experts, laboratories, facilities to the lack of government concern on the needs of security agencies. Most of these agencies are also faced with lack of official uniforms, kits, limited firepower, obsolete operational equipment and lack of office and residential accommodations (Interview, 2016). These inadequacies make the Nigerian security agencies to depend on assistance from some wealthy politicians who turn around to misuse them solely for their  selfish needs and desires, especially during elections, against their political opponents or force these security personnel to compromise their statutory functions and patriotism to the detriment of national security objectives and core professional duties by facilitating and aiding importation of illicit arms into the country through the borders (Interview, 2016). On that note, if these security personnel are well funded and equipped as is the case during foreign peace- keeping missions, they will invariably perform better and be combat ready against the modern day crime manifestations anytime; any when duty calls in and around Nigeria’s borders (Musa, 2013).

Furthermore, Musa (2013:167) notes “the use of modern day technologies in fighting and proactive monitoring of borders cannot be overemphasized as criminals and smugglers develop their devices to outsmart or counter border operations”. He further maintains that the security forces also, should update their modus operandi, in crime fighting methodologies at the border.

It therefore gives impetus on the fact that utilization of Geospatial Intelligence and satellite technologies in communication and the use of computerized crime monitoring gadgets are indispensable in the present day crime combat strategies. Technological advancement in weapon development is expected to give the Nigerian security forces, firing power advantage over criminals and arms smugglers whose sophisticated weapons seem superior to those of Nigerian border security personnel.

The above shows the major governmental weakness in ensuring effective border control in Nigeria. In other words, everything according to Pokoo (2013) who summed it up depends on three key variables, the human, material equipment and technical products of globalization. At the human level, he notes that Nigeria’s border communities play a central role in the smuggling activities, while virtually all the routes they are located predate present-day artificial boundaries created by the colonialist, the desperation to de-link from a distrusted and disliked system which the Nigeria economy came to symbolize turned such border communities as Jibia in Katsina State, Kiisi in Oyo State, Idiroko in Ogun State, Bakassi in Cross-River State, Badagry in Lagos State, and Bama in Borno State, into informal centres for illegal exchange relations in goods and services (Garuba, 2006). However, despite effort employed by relevant security agents at combating the growing tide of arms smuggling in recent times, the illicit business remains unabated.


The study is based on the combination of Structural Functionalism and the Theory of Relative Autonomy of the state. The major proponents of Structural functionalism include Talcot Parson, Gabriel Almond and Bingham G. Powell. Structural-functionalist Theory explains how political institutional failure has engendered insecurity in Nigeria which is a by-product of arms smuggling emanating from weak border control on the part of the governmental agencies and institutions. Almond and Powell (1966) introduced Structural Functionalist approach in comparing political systems. They argue that to understand a political system, it is necessary to understand not only its institutions (or structures), but also the respective functions of the institutions. They also insist that these institutions must be placed within a meaningful and dynamic historical context to be properly understood. Structural Functionalism holds the view that in a political system, there are institutions or structures that perform specific functions and that when such institutions fail to perform their functions, the political system will be drastically affected and dysfunctional leading to upheavals which sometimes creates feeling of insecurity in the country.

Linking this theory to the problematic in Nigeria, reveals that the Police, Army, Civil Defense, Customs, DSS and other security agencies are institutions or structures that perform designated functions capable of sustaining security or thwarting it. Also, government (legislature, executive and judiciary) on the other hand performs basic functions to support security forces, by way of creating, enforcement and sanctioning of offenders of these policy/laws geared towards effective border control operations aimed at checks on arms smuggling and other illicit smuggling. The implication of the above is that these institutions and structures in Nigeria though, perform their security/statutory functions, much of the attitudes of these border security personnel while carrying out their functions and activities are outright whelmed with selfish and corrupt practices with overwhelming emotional influence, they are engulfed in aiding and abating in arm smuggling activities. This has done no good to the country than a feeling of insecurity unlike in the United States where the security departments upholds and effectively Mann her borders and properties within the state. Some unscrupulous border security personnel are in connivance with syndicate groups who indulge in arms smuggling in the country, thus, making mess of effective border control in Nigeria.

In the same vein, the primary function of government is to protect lives, respect fundamental human rights of the citizens, freedom of the press, and maintain law and order. The study contends that these functions are hardly enforced by the Nigerian Government and that this has been the reason why the country is suffering from weak border control resulting in insecurity of all kinds. That is why the system continues to suffer from different kinds of violence ranging from Islamic fundamentalism, ethnic militias, youth restiveness and regional/sectional violence etc. This shows that the institution or structure (security agencies) charged with the responsibility of border control has not been performing its functions as expected, as its errors and mistakes have marred adequate security resulting in wars, breakdown of law and order, riots and violence in the country.

The Theory of Relative Autonomy of the state is situated within the ambit of the neo-Marxist political economy paradigm. The theory depicts the level or degree of detachment or aloofness of the state in the discharge of its duties such as mediating inter-class and intra-class struggles. Thus, this theory presupposes that in any state or political society, there are two levels of contradiction (groups), namely primary contradiction and secondary contradiction. Primary contradiction is inter-class struggle or depicts class struggle between two antagonistic classes such as the ruling class and the ruled class or the bourgeois class and the proletariat (that is, the rich and the poor).

While, the secondary contradiction is the intra-class struggle, denoting class conflicts within the ruling class or between different segments of the ruling class (conflict of interest among the ruling class), Marx and Engels demonstrate this intractable phenomenon of class struggle when they declare in the preface of their book, The Communist Manifesto that “the history of all the hitherto existing society is the history of class struggles” (Marx and Engels, 1977). The exponents of the theory hold that a state can exhibit either low or high relative autonomy. A state exhibits high autonomy when there is high or excessive penetration of capital into the economy such that the bourgeois class indulges in accumulation of capital through direct exploitation of the working class or appropriation of surplus value when they enter into social relationships of production (that is, private capitalism). Here, the state is not interventionist, in other words, it does not intervene in the domestic economy like participating in the productive activities (that is public/state enterprises) or controlling or nationalizing means of production. The role of state here, therefore, is to regulate. As such, the state is relatively an impartial umpire meditating inter-class and intra-class struggles through harmonization and reconciliation of class interests (Marx and Engels, 1977).

Contrariwise, a state displays low autonomy when there is low push and entry of capital into the economy in a way that antagonist group engages in primitive accumulation of wealth at all cost. This could be by embezzlement of public fund, illegal transactions of funds, arms deals, arms smugglings, drug trafficking etc. The state does not limit itself to regulatory rule and is hence compromised, such that instead of rising above class struggle it is deeply immersed in it (Ake, 1981; 1985).

The Nigerian state like other developing  states exhibits a low level of the autonomy of the state as a result of low inflow of capital. Under the mixed economy,  Nigeria experiences the phenomenon of lack of penetration of capital into the economy creating a parasitic petty bourgeois class whose source of wealth is arms deal and arms smuggling. The state therefore is the only avenue for wealth accumulation and embezzlement among the antagonist classes by dubious, illegal and corrupt means by the governing and the governed class (bourgeoisie and the proletariat) in their strive for dominance. The implication of the low autonomy of the Nigerian state is that it is immersed in the class struggle, as a result of the antagonistic behaviour and the need to get rich quick syndrome, the antagonist class is left with no other option than to engage and indulge in mischievous activities and smuggling in order to make ends meet and have a livelihood as long as wealth is made.

From the above stated logic, the following summarizes the nature of border control and arms smuggling in Nigeria:

  • Arms smuggling is becoming endemic in Nigeria and the rate of accumulation of arms in unauthorized hands is increasing geometrically
  • There is no strong will and capacity for effective and efficient control on arms smuggling with  weak  legal and institutional frameworks to regulate arms smuggling and the phenomenal arms proliferation
  • The prevalence of arms and related violence has  also led to human rights abuses, undermined the rule of law and violate the basic essence of security in the country.

The implication of the above is that going by the rate at which arms are infiltrating the shores of Nigeria, as a result of the operations of the arms smugglers; the state is bordered with both internal and external factors. Internally, it has a major challenge of safeguarding the lives and properties of the citizens who are at the receiving end  on the use of those smuggled arms and ammunitions. The activities of various groups in Niger Delta and the blood bathing operations of Boko Haram for over half a decade have remained an uphill task for the government and its security agencies to manage.

On the other hand, the external factor is one that requires the head of government to have a good bi-lateral or multi-lateral deal with bordering nations. This is because some of the countries bordering Nigeria are seen as safe haven for perpetrators of those illicit acts. They smuggle these arms and ammunitions through the neighbouring states into the country with such ease due to the nature of our porous borders. All these are products of a state that has an inexplicable lacuna on security operation and intelligence.


From the foregoing, the paper was able to capture the major factors responsible for arms smuggling, the level of involvement and performance of governmental institution and security agencies and the implications of the illicit arms smuggling in the state. Though, this has been summarily articulated above, thus the study established the connection and the influencing factors between the variables, with its attendant implications as uniquely captured. It is on this note that the study states in holistic terms that weak and the over negligence of government and its machineries on the roles and duties of border security personnel largely account in her inability to resist internal pressures from the powers that be in dealing decisively with arms smugglers. Hence the state is largely reaping the dangerous outcome orchestrated by laxity, made manifest in the various forms of social vices that are characteristics of the Nigerian state which include; armed robbery, herdsmen, terrorist activities, kidnapping, youth reactiveness, inter communal clashes and numerous conflicts. In addition to the above expositions and the recommendations below on the problematic “Arms Smuggling” most often has socio- cultural, political and economic undertone, hence there are considerably greater clutch of stakeholders and apt responses beyond the whims and caprices of the lawmakers and law enforcers. As earlier noted the issues of border control and arms smuggling are mutually dependent. Therefore, it requires an in-depth synergy of all relevant stakeholders and bodies responsible to produce the desired results.


  1. Nigeria has undergone a shake-up since the advent of globalization, hence the regulation of border control should be clearly defined in the statute books, while penalty for arms smuggling, proliferations and unauthorized possession of it be strictly stated in  the law and enforced.
  • Implementation Strategy

The National Assembly to come up with laws which specifically spell out the modalities for regulating border posts and the penalty for perpetrators cut in the web of arms trafficking and smuggling.

2. Border control operation requires a concerted synergy of the various arms of government, border communities and security agencies to rise up to the challenge of combating the business of arms smuggling.

  • Implementation Strategy

The government at all level should make adequate provision and concerted efforts that encourage the synergy between the government, border communities and the security forces at enforcing border control operations.

Where manpower is lacking, more will be recruited to decongest the raging increase in unemployment in Nigeria.

3. Identifying and recognizing the existing illegal routes use by criminals and smugglers in carrying out their illegal smuggling activities with a view to ensuring effective policing of the strategic borders by Customs personnel.

  • Implementation Strategy

Government to support Nigeria’s joint task force, in emplacing young security personnel in strategic areas suspected to be used for smuggling of small arms.

4. The government at all levels should have alternative source of funding the security agencies across the country.

  • Implementation Strategy

Federal and state assemblies to enact enabling law that makes it compulsory for all stakeholders especially private corporations to contribute to the funding of security. For instance, the Anambra State Security Trust Fund is a case in point where vibrant stakeholders and private corporations have financial commitment to the trust fund which serves for security maintenance in the state.


• The National Assembly must pass laws outlining the procedures for managing border crossings and the penalties for those caught up in the web of arms trafficking and smuggling.
• At all levels of government, suitable provisions and concerted efforts should be made to encourage the government, border communities, and security personnel to work together to enforce border control activities.
• To ensure effective policing of the strategic borders by Customs employees, it is necessary to identify and recognize the current illicit routes utilized by criminals and smugglers in carrying out their smuggling activities.

About the Author(s):

– Mark, Kingsley Chinonso – Department of Political Science, Faculty of Social Sciences Nnamdi Azikiwe University, Awka, Anambra State-Nigeria

– Iwebi, Joseph C – Department of Political Science, Faculty of Social Sciences Nnamdi Azikiwe University, Awka, Anambra State-Nigeria

Source: International Journal of Innovative Science and Research Technology

Keywords: Border, Control, Border Control, Arms, Smuggling, Arms Smuggling

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