The Senate, yesterday, raised the alarm that Nigeria was under siege from murderous nonstate actors, whose activities posed a serious threat to the continued existence of the country.
The apex legislative assembly noted that the alarming scenario was further aggravated with records from the United Nations Regional Centre for Peace and Disarmament in Africa (UNREC), which hinted that out of 500 million Illegal weapons circulating in West Africa, 350 million, representing 70%, were domiciled in Nigeria for nefarious activities of criminals.
This frightening submission was made at the public hearing organised by the Senate 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), who made the submission, said that the country needed to urgently address the worrisome situation before it consumed the country.
Uba Sani, who sponsored the Firearms (Amendment) Bill, lamented that proliferation of illegal arms and ammunition in the country with little or no control by relevant authorities had 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.”
He explained that the main aim of the proposed amendments to the Firearms Act was to curtail the proliferation of illegal arms and bring the existing law in line with global best practices.
He lamented further by stating 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% of such weapons, can be found in Nigeria,” he said. 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 an increase of the fine from N1,000 to N1 million.
However, representative of Chief of Air Staff, Air Vice Marshall Oladayo Amao, in his submission, objected to the N1 million proposed fine on illegal possession of firearms by arguing for its increase to N2 million.
Earlier in his opening remarks, the Chairman of the Joint Committee, Senator Opeyemi Bamidele (APC, Ekiti Central), said that the purpose of the two bills was to further strengthen the 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 were concerned.