By Haruna Salami
The Senate has taken steps to impose stiffer penalties for offences under the Fire Arms Act to serve as deterrent and control the influx of illicit firearms into the country.
This was disclosed at a public hearing on Fire Arms Act (Amendment) Bill organised by the Senate Committee on Judiciary, Human Rights and Legal Matters.
The bill which is sponsored by Senator Uba Sani (Kaduna central) seeks to provide for stiffer penalties for offences in the Principal Act and provide for the destruction of firearms imported into the country or in the possession of individual without valid licenses.
According to Senator Sani, the main aim of the proposed amendment is to curtail the proliferation of illegal arms and bring the existing law in line with global best practices.
“Nigeria is one of the countries experiencing some of the most devastating effects of the proliferation of illegal weapons as a result of spill over effects of the crisis in Libya and Mali as well as unresolved internal conflicts in parts of the country such as the North east, Niger Delta and other regions.
“The United Nations Regional Centre for Peace and Disarmament in Africa (UNREC recently reported that the proliferation of illicit small and light weapons (SALW) in Nigeria has reached an alarming proportion. Analysts estimate that part of the 500 million weapons circulating in West Africa, 350 million, which represents about 70 percent can be found in Nigeria.
Sani said on 31st January, 2017, the Nigeria Customs Service, NCS confirmed the interception and seizure of 661 pump action rifles illegally imported from China into our country, and wondered if this had escaped the “eagle eyes” of NCS officers and found their way into our communities that are in grip of murderous elements, with unimaginable security implications.
The Senate President, Ahmad Lawan, tasked the committee to look into all submissions made by all the stakeholders and come up with recommendations that stem the ugly situation. He was represented by the Deputy Senate Leader, Senator Ajayi Borofice.