Senator Sani had earlier pointed out that the aim of the proposed amendment is to curtail the proliferation of illegal arms and effectively address some of the security challenges currently plaguing Nigeria. He recalled the recent report of the United Nations Regional Centre for Peace and Disarmament in Africa (UNREC) which indicated that proliferation of illicit small arms and light weapons (SALW) in Nigeria has reached an alarming proportion.
The senator also echoed the submissions of analysts which estimated that out of the 500 million weapons that may be circulating in West Africa, 350 million, which represents 70 per cent of such weapons, can be found in Nigeria.
The objective of the bill is to impose stiffer penalty for offences under the Act to serve as deterrent and strengthen the current effort, geared towards control of illicit firearms influx into the country and in the possession of individuals. It will also establish a 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.
It intends to proffer 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 take proactive measures to stop easy access to and re-circulation of illegal arms in our communities.
The Bill comes on the heels of rising insecurity that poses serious threat to the peace and security of the nation. There have been instances of violence in many parts of the country, manifested in insurgency in the North East, banditry in the North West, farmers-herders clashes in the North Central, kidnapping, militancy and other violent crimes in the South East, South South and the South West.
The latest in the series of large scale criminality was the abduction of over 200 students of Government Science School, Kagara, Niger State by bandits. This was shortly after many students of Government Science School, Kankara, Katsina State, were abducted. Late last year, over 70 rice farmers were killed by insurgents in a community in Borno State by terrorists.
Experts have identified proliferation of small arms and ammunitions as factors behind the increasing rate of violence in the country. This was the submission of a leading geo-political research consultancy outfit, SBM Intelligence, in its October 2020 report.
According to SBM findings, the number of small arms in circulation in Nigeria, in the hands of civilian non-state actors is estimated at 6,145,000, while the armed forces and law enforcement collectively account for 586,600 firearms. The report tagged “Small Arms, Mass Atrocities & Migration in Nigeria,” argued that arms proliferation has enabled the rise of armed groups and also led to the displacement of several Nigerians. The development, undoubtedly, has strong implication for the nation’s internal security.
It is timely that the Senate has come up with the Bill to check proliferation of arms. Possession of illegal weapons is against the provisions of Chapter F.28 LFN 2004 of the Firearms Act. Government should be the only one with monopoly of the instrument of violence. Weapons in wrong hands make life unsafe for all. It is a criminal offence. Those found to be flouting the rule must be apprehended and prosecuted.
Some of the illegal weapons come in through our porous borders put at over 1,000. Government should increase security presence on the borders, while the law enforcement agents are encouraged to do their work. Let the police and other security agents mop up the illegal arms in the country and invoke the full weight of the law on those flouting the rules.