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    INSECURITY CRISIS: Order National Assembly to Amend Firearms Act To Attract Death Penalty, Falana-led Coalition Tells Buhari

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    Alliance on Surviving COVID-19 and Beyond (ASCAB) has said the shoot-on-sight directive given by President Muhammadu Buhari is not enough to tackle insecurity and the proliferation of arms in the country.

    Buhari had in a statement issued through Garba Shehu, his media aide, last week directed “security forces to go into the bushes and shoot whoever they see with sophisticated weapons like AK-47. He ordered that whoever is seen with terrible weapons at all should be shot immediately”.

    But in a statement signed by its Interim Chair, Femi Falana, on Tuesday, ASCAB said such prohibition has to be expressly outlined in a proclamation made by the President himself.

    The group quoted Section 35 of the Firearms Act Cap Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 2004 which stated, “The President, if he thinks fit, may at any time by proclamation prohibit the possession of or dealing in any firearms or ammunition, either throughout the Federation or in any part thereof, and either absolutely or except subject to such restrictions or conditions as may be specified.”

    It stated that the offence of illegal possession of arms and ammunition in Nigeria does not attract the death penalty, hence the President should propose amendments to the Firearms Act and the Robbery and Firearms (Special Provisions) Act to enforce such.

    The statement read, “In August last year, the Inspector-General of Police, Mohammed Adamu ordered commissioners of police across Nigeria to ‘identify, isolate, disarm, arrest and prosecute individuals or groups found in possession of prohibited firearms. For some undisclosed reasons, the directive of the Inspector-General of Police was ignored by respective police commissioners. Hence, the proliferation of prohibited firearms has been on the ascendancy. To compound the crisis of insecurity in the country, some highly placed public officers have stated that herders are entitled to arm themselves with AK rifles without a licence.

    “However, a presidential media aide, Garba Shehu announced last week that President Buhari had directed ‘security forces’ to go into the bushes and shoot whoever they see with sophisticated weapons like AK-47. He ordered that whoever is seen with terrible weapons at all should be shot immediately.’ Since the President has deployed the armed forces in the North-East and North-West regions to wage a war on terror and banditry, it is implied that AK-47 bearing criminal elements in the ‘bushes’ would be killed in view of the violent attacks unleashed by them on unarmed citizens, including children. To that extent, the presidential directive on ‘shoot on sight’ was uncalled for.

    “No doubt, some people have questioned the order prohibiting the illegal possession of arms and ammunition on the ground that it was not made directly by the President. Others have said that the order of the President does not cover other criminally minded people armed with AK 47 rifles and other dangerous weapons operating outside the ‘bushes’. In fact, the members of the Zamfara State House of Assembly have condemned the selective imposition of a ‘No Fly’ Zone on the state alone when arms and ammunition are equally supplied by helicopters to the terrorists and bandits operating in the North-East and North-West regions.

    “It is pertinent to point out that it is the prerogative of the President to prohibit the possession of or dealing in any firearms or ammunition without authorisation. But such prohibition has to be expressly outlined in a proclamation made by the President. For the avoidance of doubt, Section 35 of the Firearms Act Cap Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 2004 provides that ‘The President, if he thinks fit, may at any time by proclamation prohibit the possession of or dealing in any firearms or ammunition, either throughout the Federation or in any part thereof, and either absolutely or except subject to such restrictions or conditions as may be specified.’

    “We are therefore compelled to call on President Buhari to make a proclamation authorising the police and other security forces to disarm, arrest and prosecute criminal elements and gangs who are terrorising unarmed citizens with AK 47 rifles and other dangerous weapons in accordance with the provisions of the Firearms Act and the Robbery and Firearms (Special Provisions) Act.

    “The proclamation should also set out the areas that are covered by the ‘No Fly’ Zone with a view to stopping a further supply of weapons to terrorists, bandits and kidnappers operating in some states in the North-East and North-West regions. However, since the offence of illegal possession of arms and ammunition does not attract the death penalty, the President may wish to propose amendments to the Firearms Act and the Robbery and Firearms (Special Provisions) Act.”

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