By Osae Brown
As Nigerians were on the street protesting over fuel subsidy removal, a British based man was being arraigned in UK over the shipping of 80,000 rifles and pistols and 32 million rounds of ammunition to Nigeria. The shipment included 40,000 AK47 assault rifles, 30,000 rifles and 10,000 9mm pistols.
According to a report by the BBC, the man whose name is Gary Hyde, shipped these huge arm cache without receiving permission from the relevant government department in the UK.
Gary Hyde was not alone in this deal. It was carried out with his business partner Karl Kleber, a German national based in Germany, the court was told.
The pair acted as middle men between two Polish companies acting for the Nigerian buyers and Chinese companies, the court heard, according to the BBC report. Both men received commission payments for the deals totaling around $1.3m (£840,000) or N351 million.The story apparently left several questions unanswered. Who were the Nigerian buyers? Were these guns really delivered to Nigeria eventually?
It is also interesting that since this story broke out in the British media, the Nigerian government has not come out with any specific statement on it. Were these weapons imported by the Nigerian government? If they were not imported by the Nigerian government, have they made any efforts to trace the importers of these large numbers of weapons into the country? Thirty two million rounds of ammunition are enough to kill thirty two million Nigerians, assuming each bullet will kill a Nigerian? This may be an exaggeration, but there is no doubt that if there is this amount of guns and ammunition out there outside the control of the government, then every Nigerian has a serious course to be worried at this time.
The reputation of Gary Hyde, the man at the centre of the storm shows that Nigerians have to be concerned that he has set his eyes on supplying arms to the country. A report in February 2011, in The Observer in UK shows that Hyde is also facing charges in the US for smuggling arms into the country. The Observer describes him as “Britain’s very own lord of war; an international arms dealer, whose chief currency is the AK-47 assault rifle”
The Observer reports that US officials arrested Hyde in connection with the alleged illegal import into the US of almost 6,000 Chinese-produced AK-47 magazines, each capable of holding up to 75 rounds of ammunition.
The Observer also quotes a Wiki leaks release of confidential US embassy cables which shows that in 2008 York Guns, where Gary Hyde is a director, tried to ship 130,000 of the assault rifles to Libya. The WikiLeaks revelation shows that Gary Hyde through his company acted as an intermediary between an unidentified Ukrainian arms manufacturer and Libyan officials. “The size of the deal raised eyebrows in diplomatic circles, as Libya has only 70,000 ground-force troops and these would be unlikely to use a weapon as dated as the AK-47. The cable noted that the export licence was rejected because the “UK is concerned that the intention may be to re-export the weapons, particularly to armed rebel factions backed by Khartoum and/or Ndjamena in the Chad/Sudan conflict”.
Kleber, Gary Hyde’s German partner also has a reputation that does not sit well with the authorities. The Observer reports that “in 2008 the German federal police agency, the BKA, launched an investigation into Kleber to determine whether he had been involved in “the illegal sale of machine guns via Croatia to Iraq”. This was in response to allegations that companies linked to Hyde had sold tens of thousands of guns to Ziad Cattan, the former head of military procurement at the Iraq Defence Ministry, without an appropriate arms brokering licence. Cattan fled Iraq after a warrant was issued for his arrest amid allegations that he had siphoned off millions of dollars in corrupt deals.”
What emerges from these reports is that the two men now being named in connection with supply of arms to Nigeria should raise serious concerns in Nigeria. Have they supplied some other arms into the country, that the authorities are not aware?
The concern becomes even more real considering the fact that at the same time Gary Hyde was being arraigned in UK, the Ghanaian authorities intercepted a truck loaded with arms and ammunitions heading to Nigeria. The ammunitions included pump action rifles and live rounds. These arrests are coming at time the Boko Haram insurgence is getting worse in Northern Nigeria as bombs explode on almost on daily basis and masked men go on killing spree with sophisticated weapons. The activities of Boko Haram, the continuous crisis in Jos is no doubt raising serious concerns and fears of retaliation from other ethnic groups. Could this inflow of arms be linked to ethnic groups arming themselves? Are they arming themselves to defend themselves or to go on the offensive?
This is a critical period in Nigeria’s history and all people of goodwill must stand up and douse the rising intention. As I said in my earlier post, the Rwanda trip will be a dangerous place for Nigeria to go. The government must also act and act fast.
This is also the time the international community must come to the aid of Nigeria. It is clear that the Nigeria intelligence agencies do not have the capacity to deal with the emerging challenge. They must offer their help at this time. They cannot wait for a Rwandan type crisis to develop before they intervene. China, especially, should caution its business community. This is not the time to fuel the crisis in Nigeria for monetary gains. Nigeria is China’s biggest market in Africa. An unstable Nigeria will not be good for China’s long term economic interest.
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