There is no respite for Nigerians over the scary security challenge as 70 per cent of the illegal firearms in the subregion are circulating in the country.
Senator representing Kaduna Central, Uba Sani, gave the startling revelation, on Monday, in Abuja at the public hearing organised by the Senate Joint Committee on Judiciary, Human Rights and Legal Matters, Navy and Marine Transport on the Firearms Act 2004 ( Amendment) Bill 2021 and Exclusive Economic Zones Act 2010 ( Repeal and Re-Enactment ) Bill 2021.
The objective of the proposed amendments to Firearms is to curtail the proliferation of illegal arms and bring the existing law in line with global best practices.
Citing statistics from the United Nations Regional Centre for Peace and Disarmament in Africa ( UNREC), Senator Sani who is the sponsor of the Firearms ( Amendment ) Bill disclosed that out of 500 million illegal weapons circulating in West Africa, 350 million, which represents 70 per cent, are domiciled in Nigeria.
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.
“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 the 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.”
He further attributed the frightening influx of illegal arms into the country to loss of control by the relevant authorities.
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.”
Senator Uba who offered various penalties under the proposed Act disclosed that one of such penalties was the one under section 27 ( subsection 1c), which proposed an increase of fine from N1,000 to N1million.
He was however countered by Chief of Air Staff, Air Vice Marshall Oladayo Amao, who insisted that the penalty be increased to N2 million.
Earlier in his opening remarks, the Chairman of the joint Committee and Senator representing Ekiti Central,
Micheal Opeyemi Bamidele said the main aim of the two bills was 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 the protection of the Nation’s territorial sea or waters is concerned.
Insecurity: 70 per cent of illegal weapons in West Africa domiciled in Nigeria ― UNREC