The Senate on Monday painted a gloomy picture of the security situation in the country, saying the nation is under serious siege from non-state actors whose activities are threatening the continued existence of Nigeria.
This is just as the United Nations Regional Centre for Peace and Disarmament in Africa (UNREC) disclosed 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 at the public hearing on the Firearms Act 2004 (Amendment) Bill 2021 and Exclusive Economic Zones Act 2010 (Repeal and Re-Enactment) Bill 2021, Senator Uba Sani said the current worrisome security situation in the country needs to be urgently addressed.
Sani, who is the sponsor of the Firearms (Amendment) Bill, expressed concern that the 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.
He 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 main 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.
He said: “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.
“UNREC estimates that out of the 500 million weapons circulating in West Africa, 350 million, which represents 70% 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 lolice 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.”
He listed the five major objectives of the amendment bill to include imposition of stiffer penalties for offences under the Act.
One of such penalties is the one under section 27 (sub section 1c) which proposed increase of fine from N1,000 to N1 million.
The representative of the Chief of Air Staff (CAS), Air Vice Marshall Oladayo Amao, in his submission, objected to the N1 million proposed fine on illegal possession of firearms, saying it should be increased to N2 million.
Earlier in his remarks, the Chairman of the Senate Committee on Judiciary, Human Rights and Legal Matters, Senator Opeyemi Bamidele, said the purpose of the proposed amendments to the two bills is 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”.