Ndubuisi Orji, Abuja
As part of efforts to check the spate of insecurity in the country, the House of Representatives yesterday passed for second reading a bill seeking to set up a commission on proliferation of illegal arms in the country. The proposed legislation, with the title “National Commission Against the Proliferation of Small Arms and Light Weapons Bill,” was sponsored by the Speaker, Hon.Yakubu Dogara, and chairman, House Committee on Foreign Affairs, Hon. Nnenna Elendu-Ukeje.
The commission, when established, would regulate the local manufacturing of light weapons, registration of arms to be used in peacekeeping operations, and formulate an action plan to prevent, combat and eradicate the illicit trade in small arms in the country. The commission would also be saddled with the responsibility of collation, storage, destruction, management and stockpiling of small arms.
Leading debate on the bill, Elendu-Ukeje said, according to recent report, there are currently 500 million illegal weapons in West Africa, out of which 70 per cent are in Nigeria. She noted that it is commonly believed that light weapons and small arms have killed more people than weapons of mass destruction.
Consequently, she said there was need to come up with a legal framework to check the menace.
Ukeje said: “This bill intends to address not only the security issues but also human rights. There have been allusions to the fact that Nigeria is a country on the brink, some have even stated that Nigeria is a country at war.”
Several lawmakers, who contributed to the debate, attributed the killings in different parts of the country and other violent crimes to criminals’ easy access to light weapons. They argued that existing laws on illegal weapons were not strong enough to act as a deterrent, noting that most of the laws have become obsolete.
Dogara, who presided over yesterday’s plenary, later referred the bill to the House Committee on National Security and Intelligence.