Insecurity: Senate Seeks Stiffer Penalty For Illegal Possession Of Firearms

– As Lawan Urges Lawmakers To Work With Executive To End Insecurity

The Upper Chamber of the National Assembly on Monday sought stiffer penalty for illegal possession of firearms and banditry in the country.

The Red Chamber also lamented the proliferation of small arms and light weapons, attributing it to rising cases of armed conflicts, banditry and other forms of insecurities across the country.

Lending his voice to the debate for an Act to alter the Firearms Act, CAP F28, LFN 2004, President of the Senate, Ahmad Lawan, told plenary that “the country’s security situation would have been better with the control of the proliferation of fire arm in the country.”

Lawan also identified poor enforcement of existing laws as reasons for the growing insecurity as “there are no enough deterrence to stop perpetrators for engaging in act of criminality.”

“If the existing laws are properly enforced it would have gone a long way to stop criminals from engaging in acts of criminality. It would have also prevented others from going into crimes.”

While calling on the executive to do more to safeguard lives and property in the country, Lawan urged lawmakers to work with the executive to allow it to remedy the ugly security situation in the country.

The Senate President however expressed confidence in the ability of the executive to remedy the country’s insecurity problems, even as President of the Senate, Ahmad Lawan, urged legislatures to work with the executive to end rises cases of banditry, and other forms of break down of law and order.

Leading the debate on a Bill for an Act to alter the Firearms Act, CAP F28, LFN 2004, the Sponsor of the Bill, Senator Sani Uba (Kaduna Central) said the bill seeks to increase the imposition of fines for offences, provide for the destruction of firearms illegally imported into the country or in possession of individuals without valid license in a bid to build confidence in the overall efforts targeted at preventing and curtailing the circulation of illegal firearms in the country.

The legislation also seeks to impose stiffer penalty for offences under the Act in order 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.

The proposed bill which main aims to curtail the proliferation of illegal arms and bring the existing law in line with global best practices, was first read on the floor of the Senate on 25th November 2020.

Senator Sani explained that if passed into law, the Act will 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.

Discussing the elements of the proposed Bill, the Kaduna Central lawmaker argued that the legislation provides 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.

Similarly, the Act would upon assent by the Present 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; even as it seeks proactive measures in stopping easy access to and re-circulation of illegal arms in our communities.

The Bill which is informed by cases of insecurity across the country takes further boost from a recent United Nations Regional Centre for Peace and Disarmament in Africa (UNREC) findings which reported that 350 million of every 500 million weapons representing 70 per cent, circulating in West Africa are found in Nigeria.

The lawmaker further argued that the Nigerian Customs Service had in January 2017 intercepted and seized 661 Pump Action Rifles imported illegally into the country from China.

The Senate referred further legislative action on the Bill to its committee on Judiciary, Human Rights and Legal Matters, which would report to the larger House in four weeks.