Insecurity: There should be stiffer penalties for illegal possession of firearms ― Lawan

President of the Senate, Ahmad Lawan, has said stiffer penalties for illegal possession of firearms would go a long way in addressing the security challenges facing the country.

Senator Lawan made this submission as part of his concluding remarks after the Senate considered a bill seeking to amend the Firearms Act, 2004.

The Bill, Firearms Act 2004 (Amendment) bill, sponsored by Senator Uba Sani is to curtail the proliferation of illegal arms and effectively address some of the security challenges.

According to the lawmaker, “Nigeria is one of the countries experiencing some of the most devastating effects of the proliferation of illegal weapons as a result of spillover effects of the crises in Libya and Mali as well as unresolved internal conflicts in parts of the country such as the North East, Niger Delta and other regions.

“We, therefore, need a legislation that will provide for stringent punishments to deter perpetrators of these illegalities.”

Senator Sani further listed the objectives of the bill to include: imposing a stiffer penalty for offences under the Act from to serve as a deterrent and strengthen the current effort, geared towards control of illicit firearms influx into the country and in the possession of individuals; to establish comprehensive and coordinated disarmament and arms destruction ceremony for Nigeria through the Office of the National Security Adviser to ensure that confiscated illegal firearms do not re-enter the society.

Others are: to provide for a stipulated time within which the destruction of unserviceable firearms must be carried out, except where there is a valid court order to the contrary; to proffer an effective, coordinated and sustained legislative strategy to address the underlying factors encouraging the circulation of arms and concurrently block the outlets through which illicit firearms are proliferated; and to take proactive measures in stopping easy access to and re-circulation of illegal arms in our communities.

The President of the Senate who recalled that same Bill was passed in the 8th Senate mandated the Senate Committee on Judiciary, Human Rights and Legal Matters to engage “the executive arm of government to see where the issue is, if that has not been done by the sponsor of the bill.”

He said, “the security situation would have been far better if we were able to control the proliferation of firearms in the country.”

The Senate President, while expressing optimism about the readiness of the Executive in addressing the nation’s security challenges, pledged the willingness of the Legislature to ensure an improved situation for Nigerians.

“The security situation can still be reversed, once we continue to remain focused and committed. And, for us in the a National Assembly, it has been a very difficult time, probably the most difficult time, because our people face this daily security challenges, and, the question is always, what are you people doing?

“Unfortunately, the Legislature is limited in what it can do. It cannot implement, but it can talk about it, debate and insist on it.

“I believe that this Executive is ready to do something to improve the security situation. Now that we are seeing a different or an improved approach, maybe the end to the insecurity in the country is in sight.

“Recently, of course, we have seen the National Security Adviser, working with the Service Chiefs and others in a coordinated manner. We pray that this is sustained and that for us, we will give them every possible support,” Lawan said.

Earlier, sponsor of the Firearms Act 2004 (Amendment) bill, Senator Uba Sani (APC – Kaduna Central) said the aim of the proposed amendments is to curtail the proliferation of illegal arms and effectively address some of the security challenges currently plaguing Nigeria.

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