From Judex Okoro, Calabar

Cross River Governor Ben Ayade has pointed to the conflict in neighbouring Cameroon and the end of the Gadafi regime in Libya are fuelling crime in the state.

Governor Ayade made the remark during the symbolic destruction of light arms held in Calabar on Monday and organised by the European Union/ECOWAS, LITE Africa in collaboration with the Presidential Committee on Small Arms and Light Weapons (PRESCOM).

‘As this persisted, the choice/option of the use of weapons to secure a means of livelihood became imperative to them.

‘Different religions/ethnic colourations of these young men who became radicalised and militarised too different forms, names from Boko Haram to bandits to kidnappers and so social habits and people changed psychologically.

‘This became accelerated with increased levels of poverty and a lot of them migrated to the riverine areas.’

The governor commended the OP AKPAKWU for their drive to secure the state and expressed optimism that with the recovery and destruction of these arms residents can now sleep in peace.

Speaking on behalf of the ECOWAS-EU, Joel Bisina of LITE-AFRICA said the proliferation of arms has a devastating effect in Nigeria and the West Africa region.

Explaining that the programme is aimed at addressing the peace and security challenges of West Africa, Bisina said it would be wrong for anyone to underestimate the dangers of illicit proliferation of small arms, light weapons, and its negative impacts on the peace and stability of any nation.

She disclosed that Nigeria has recorded an increase in the commercial transaction in small arms and light weapons since the end of the civil war, adding that ‘LITE-AFRICA, PRESCOM with the support of EU/ECOWAS is working to strengthen efforts at preventing proliferation and trafficking of small arms and light Weapons in Nigeria.”

While seven states including Kaduna, Katsina, Kebbi, Sokoto, and Zamfara in the North West region, the South-South has Cross River and Akwa Ibom states are in the current pilot phase of the Nigerian component of ECOWAS-EU.

So far, about 260 arms and 5510 ammunition were recovered and scheduled to be destroyed as part of the programme.

As part of the programme, about 150 repentant militants from the state will benefit from the Alternative Livelihood Project of the programme.