As UN says 70% of illegal weapons in West Africa domicile in the country
By Henry Umoru
THE Senate has again raised the alarm that Nigeria is under siege following the continued security challenges in the country with attendant armed banditry and Kidnapping.
According to the Senate, Nigeria is presently under siege from what it described as murderous non – state actors, whose activities are threatening continued existence of the country.
Speaking Monday in Abuja at a public hearing organised by the Senator Opeyemi Bamidele, All Progressives Congress, APC, Ekiti Central led
Joint Committee on Judiciary, Human Rights and Legal Matters, Navy and Marine Transport on Firearms Act 2004 (Amendment) Bill 2021 and Exclusive Economic Zones Act 2010 ( Repeal and Re – Enactment ) Bill 2021, Senator Uba Sani, APC Kaduna Central stressed that there was the urgent need for the country address the worrisome situation.
Meanwhile, records from the United Nations Regional Centre for Peace and Disarmament in Africa ( UNREC) have showed that out of 500 million Illegal weapons circulating in West Africa, 350 million, which represents 70% are domiciled in Nigeria for nefarious activities of criminally minded people .
Speaking further, Senator Uba Sani who is the sponsor of the Firearms ( Amendment ) Bill,h however lamented that proliferation of illegal arms and ammunition in the country with little or no control by relevant authorities has profound implications for collective survival of Nigerians and Nigeria.
Sani said: “We are gathered here to deal with a matter that has profound implications for our collective survival.
“We are under siege from murderous non – state actors. They have been acquiring arms illegally, maiming our people and threatening the continued existence of our dear nation.
“We either take measures to deny them of the oxygen that sustains their nefarious activities, or we watch helplessly as they overrun us and our country.”
According to him, the aim of the proposed amendments to the Firearms Act is to curtail the proliferation of illegal arms and bring the existing law in line with global best practices, adding that ” the United Nations Regional Centre for Peace and Disarmament in Africa (UNREC), recently reported that the proliferation of illicit small arms and light weapons (SALW) in Nigeria, has reached an alarming proportion.
“Analysts estimate that out of the 500 million weapons circulating in West Africa, 350 million, which represents 70 per cent of such weapons, can be found in Nigeria.
“A pointer to this effect can be cited with the incidence of January 31st, 2017, when the Nigeria Customs Service confirmed the interception and seizure of 661 Pump Action Riffles imported from China into our country.
“More recently in Benue State, a local militia had the temerity to kill an Army Captain and 11 Soldiers not to talk of reign of terror in Owerri, Imo State by Gunmen who launched coordinated attacks on the Police headquarters and Correctional Centre.
“Something must be done urgently to curtail arms proliferation, the very reason for the proposed amendment bill on the existing Firearms Act.”
Senator Sani who listed the five major objectives of the amendment bill to include imposition of stiffer penalties for offences under the Act, said that one of such penalties is the one under section 27 ( sub section 1c), which proposed increase of fine from N1,000 to N1million.
On his part, the representative of Chief of Air Staff, Air Vice Marshall Oladayo Amao, objected the N1million proposed fine on illegal possession of firearms by arguing for its increase to N2million.
Earlier in his opening remarks, the Chairman of the joint Commitee, Senator Micheal Opeyemi Bamidele explained that the purpose of the two bills were to further strengthen our extant laws against illegal firearms possession and proliferation as well as making provisions of the Act on Exclusive Economic Zone to be in line with global practices as far as protection of the Nation’s territorial sea or waters are concerned.