By Naomi Sharang
Abuja, Feb. 16, 2021 A Bill to curtail the proliferation of illegal arms in the country has passed second reading in the Senate.
This followed the presentation of the lead debate on the general principles of the bill by the sponsor, Sen. Uba Sani (APC-Kaduna) during Tuesday’s plenary.
The Bill is titled: “A Bill for an Act to alter the Firearms Act to among other provisions, increase the imposition of fines for offences, provide for the destruction of firearms illegally imported into the country”.
Leading the debate, Sani, the chairman Senate Committee on Banking, Insurance and other Financial Institutions said the bill was first read on the floor of the Senate on Nov. 25, 2020.
He said the bill sought to impose stiffer penalty for offences in the Principal Act and provide for the destruction of firearms in the possession of individuals without valid licences.
“The main aim of the proposed amendments is to curtail the proliferation of illegal arms and bring the existing law in line with global best practices.
“The amendment will also effectively address some of the security challenges currently plaguing Nigeria,” he said.
Sani noted that Nigeria was 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.
He, however, said that the country needed a legislation that would provide for stringent punishments to deter perpetrators of these illegalities.
Supporting the debate, Sen. Biodun Olujimi (PDP-Ekiti) said that with the amendment, the nation would be able to curb the menace of insecurity.
“If amended, the nation will be able to curb the menace of insecurity that is now the bane of the problem in our country.
“Recently, there was a video that went viral, where criminal elements opening boxes after boxes of ammunition and if those ammunition find their way into the system, we will be in serious trouble once again.
“This sort of amendment is what we need at this particular time to ensure that this country is safe again.
“However, as we go through this, we look at the reasons for which this amendment was not assented in the 8th Senate so that we don’t make the same mistakes,’’ he said.
Similarly, Sen. Emmanuel Orker-Jev (PDP-Benue) said: “ the reasons for the amendment have been articulated but some reasons have been thrown up as a result of this bill which we have consistently agitated on the floor in the past here.
“One of them first, our duty as a legislature is to provide the enabling environment, a legal framework for the Executive so that we have a better society.
“As long as we have porous borders, I doubt whether no matter how effective we have a legal framework, we will continue to have these issues.
“It is not just the criminal elements that are buying guns, you find some communities finding their ways of buying guns for self-preservation, because they think that the Nigerian state is not protecting them.
“So, as long as we have such grievances, no matter the number of legal framework, we will continue to have issues with such people,” he said.
In his remarks, President of the Senate, Ahmad Lawan commended the sponsor of the bill and all the senators for remaining consistent on discussing the security challenges.
“The security situation would have been far better if we are able to control the proliferation of firearms in the country.
“This bill like the sponsor mentioned, was passed in the 8th Senate and National Assembly but there was no assent.
“Now that we have brought it back, when it will be referred to the committee on Judiciary, Human Rights and Legal Matters, they should engage with the executive arm of government to see where the issue is if that has not been done by the sponsor of the bill.
“So that we will be on the same page. But I believe that there is no compromise for stiffer penalties for anyone caught with an illegal arm.”
He, thereafter, referred the bill to the Senate Committee on Judiciary, Human Rights and Legal Matters to report back within four weeks.