By Stefan J. Bos, Chief International Correspondent Worthy News
ABUJA (Worthy News) – Nigeria’s president has warned that many Western weapons sent to wartorn Ukraine end up in the hands of Islamist terrorists operating in strategic regions of Central and North Africa.
Muhammadu Buhari urged his African counterparts and other government leaders to improve border security to halt the arms influx.
He spoke at a summit in Abuja of the Lake Chad Basin Commission (LCBC) comprising Cameroon, Chad, Niger, Nigeria, Algeria, the Central African Republic, Libya, and Sudan—chosen for their proximity to Lake Chad.
Buhari made clear that the LCBC, which oversees water and other natural resource usages in the basin, should tackle well-armed Islamist groups such as Boko Haram and Islamic State’s West Africa Province.
“Regrettably, the situation in the Sahel and the raging war in Ukraine serve as major sources of weapons and fighters that bolster the ranks of the terrorists in the Lake Chad Region,” he said.
“A substantial proportion of the arms and ammunition procured to execute the war in Libya continues to find its way to the Lake Chad Region and other parts of the Sahel,” Buhari added.
And now, “Weapons being used for the war in Ukraine and Russia are equally beginning to filter to the region,” he stressed.
CHRISTIANS IN DANGER
The arrival of more weapons was due to increase the dangers already faced by Christian communities and other non-radical Muslims in areas where well-armed Islamist terror groups operate.
Buhari’s reference to Ukraine in remarks obtained by Worthy News on Monday underscored global concerns about a lack of control over weapons deliveries from the U.S. and other Western nations.
U.S. military officials said that American military personnel in Ukraine help keep track of the billions of dollars worth of arms and equipment the United States sent since the start of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
Yet, Buhari’s remarks suggested that the inspectors could not prevent all Western weapons from being smuggled out of Ukraine.
While there are also worries about illegal arms shipments from Russia, the West has far outspent Moscow in adding new weapons to Europe’s most significant military conflict since World War Two.
The United States, the most significant contributor, has provided $18.2 billion in “security assistance” to Ukraine since the Russian invasion began on February 24, according to the U.S. Department of Defense.
FLOODING THE MARKETS
Buhari isn’t alone in expressing concerns about these billions of dollars in Western weapons illegally spreading worldwide to terror groups and criminal syndicates.
Earlier this year, the head of the global police organization Interpol warned that weapons sent to Ukraine following Russia’s invasion would end up in “the hidden global economy” and in the hands of criminals.
Jürgen Stock said once the conflict ends, a wave of guns and heavy arms will flood the international market. He urged Interpol’s member states, especially those supplying weapons, to cooperate on arms tracing.
And in October, the Finnish National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) confirmed that weapons provided to Ukraine might have found their way back to Finnish motorcycle gangs.
Finland’s aid included at least 2,500 rifles and an amount of 150,000 cartridges. Weapons sent to Ukraine were also discovered in Sweden, Denmark, and the Netherlands, the NBI said.
Kyiv tried to play down Western worries but admitted that it needed to expand its arms tracking systems. Ukrainian Defense Minister Oleksii Reznikov said: “We need to survive. We have no reason to smuggle arms out of Ukraine.”
ILLEGAL ARMS TRADE
But with even faraway Africa now reporting an increase in these weapons reaching terrorists, Kyiv’s assurances did little to raise confidence about its ability to tackle the illegal arms trade.
After all, even before war broke out, Ukraine ranked among the most corrupt nations on Transparency International’s annual Corruption Perceptions Index.
These facts worry those coping with Islamist terrorism, including Nigeria, where thousands of people have been killed in recent years, many of them Christians.
“This illegal movement of arms into the region has heightened the proliferation of small arms and light weapons, which continues to threaten our collective peace and security in the region,” said Nigerian President Buhari.
“There is, therefore, the urgent need for expedited collaborative actions by our border control agencies and other security services to stop the circulation of all illegal weapons in the region,” he added.
Questions remained Monday whether his comments came too late to halt the ongoing arms traffic toward radical Islamist fighters. “Once the guns fall silent [in Ukraine], the illegal weapons will come,“ predicted Interpol’s Stock recently.
“We know this from many other theatres of conflict. The criminals are even now, as we speak, focusing on them.”
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