Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari has warned that some of the weapons Western countries have supplied to Ukraine are beginning to make their way to Africa.
Speaking to heads of neighboring states at the Lake Chad Basin Commission, he cautioned: “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 region.
“A substantial proportion of the arms and ammunitions procured to execute the war in Libya, continues to find its way to the Lake Chad Region and other parts of the Sahel. Weapons being used for the war in Ukraine and Russia are equally beginning to filter to the region,” he added.
He said that this illegal movement of arms into the area is threatening the region’s collective peace and security.
The Lake Chad region is a socially and economically integrated area in Central and West Africa encompassing Nigeria, Niger, Chad and Cameroon. The area has been experiencing rising extremist violence, and access to these weapons will only make the situation worse.
Buhari also took the opportunity to encourage his counterparts to raise their security cooperation to deal with arms smuggling. He said Nigeria would step up its military coordination in the war the countries are waging against ISIS terrorists and Boko Haram – something that will be far more challenging as they receive weapons meant for Ukraine.
Global concerns about possible arms diversion
Last month, police in Finland warned that some of the weapons shipped to Ukraine had already ended up in the wrong hands. The head of organized crime for the Finnish police’s bureau of investigations, Christer Ahlgren, said that weapons that were originally sent to Ukraine, such as pistols, combat drones, grenades and assault rifles, had been found in several European countries. He added that three of the biggest motorcycle gangs in the world reactivated their smuggling routes for weapons bound for Ukraine.
He said: “We have been warning about the growth of organized crime and criminal street gangs for years, but we have not been listened to.”
Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu has also warned that arms given to Ukraine by the West were making their way to the black market and spreading through western Asia. Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said that Stingers and Javelin missiles supplied by Western countries were being sold on the black market and surfacing in places like Kosovo and Albania.
Russian Foreign Ministry Spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said: “The NATO military cargos are ending up in the hands of terrorists, extremists and criminal groups in the Middle East, central Africa and southeast Asia.”
In July, Europol said that it had been working with Ukraine to reduce the threat of arms trafficking, noting that there is a threat in war zones of firearms falling into the wrong hands.
“Regarding the war in Ukraine, Europol has warned that the proliferation of firearms and explosives in Ukraine could lead to an increase in firearms and munitions trafficked into the EU via established smuggling routes or online platforms. This threat might even be higher once the conflict has ended,” they said in a statement.
American officials have said they are confident that arms such as high-tech missiles and launchers donated to Ukraine reached the front lines, but experts say that tracking all light weapons is nearly impossible. Although a U.S. plan has been announced to prevent arms diversion, many lawmakers have been demanding stricter oversight.
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