The Senate Monday cried out that Nigeria is presently under siege from murderous non-state actors whose activities are threatening the nation’s continued existence.
The alarming scenario was further heightened with records from the United Nations Regional Centre for Peace and Disarmament in Africa (UNREC) that out of 500 million illegal weapons circulating in West Africa, 350 million which represents 70%, were domiciled in Nigeria.
Making the frightening submissions at the public hearing organised by the Senate Joint Committee on Judiciary, Human Rights and Legal Matters, Navy and Marine Transport on Firearms Act 2004 (Amendment) Bill 2021 and Exclusive Economic Zones Act 2010 ( Repeal and Re – Enactment) Bill 2021, Senator Uba Sani (APC Kaduna Central) said the country needed to urgently address the worrisome situation.
Sani, who is the sponsor of the Firearms (Amendment) Bill, lamented that proliferation of illegal arms and ammunition in the country with little or no control by relevant authorities, had profound implications for collective survival of Nigerians and Nigeria.
He said: “We are gathered here to deal with a matter that has profound implications for our collective survival. We are under siege from murderous non-state actors. They have been acquiring arms illegally, maiming our people and threatening the continued existence of our dear Nation.
“We either take measures to deny them of the oxygen that sustains their nefarious activities, or we watch helplessly as they overrun us and our country.”
The lawmaker said main aim of the proposed amendments to the Firearms Act was to curtail the proliferation of illegal arms and bring the existing law in line with global best practices.
Painting a further pathetic situation, the lawmaker said: “The United Nations Regional Centre for Peace and Disarmament in Africa (UNREC), recently reported that the proliferation of illicit small arms and light weapons (SALW) in Nigeria, has reached an alarming proportion.
“Analysts estimate that out of the 500 million weapons circulating in West Africa, 350 million, which represents 70% of such weapons, can be found in Nigeria.
“A pointer to this effect can be cited with the incidence of January 31st, 2017, when the Nigeria Customs Service confirmed the interception and seizure of 661 Pump Action Rifles imported from China into our country.
“More recently in Benue State, a local militia had the temerity to kill an Army Captain and 11 Soldiers not to talk of reign of terror in Owerri, Imo State by Gunmen who launched coordinated attacks on the Police headquarters and Correctional Centre.
“Something must be done urgently to curtail arms proliferation, the very reason for the proposed amendment bill on the existing Firearms Act.”
Sani listed the five major objectives of the amendment bill to include imposition of stiffer penalties for offences under the Act.
One of such penalties is the one under section 27 (sub section 1c) , which proposes an increase of fine from N1,000 to N1million .
But the representative of the Chief of Air Staff, Air Vice Marshall Oladayo Amao , in his submission , objected to the N1million proposed fine on illegal possession of firearms by arguing for its increase to N2million.
Earlier in his opening remarks, chairman of the joint committee, Senator Michael Opeyemi Bamidele (APC Ekiti Central), said “the purpose of the two bills are to further strengthen our extant laws against illegal firearms possession and proliferation as well as making provisions of the Act on Exclusive Economic Zone to be in line with global practices as far as protection of the Nation’s territorial sea or waters are concerned.
Gunmen kill 3, ‘bandits’ doctors’ arrested
Meanwhile, gunmen have killed three people, one each in Rafin Roro village of Kajuru local government area, near Maraba Jos and Garu village both in Igabi local government area all of Kaduna state.
This is just as troops arrested a suspected bandit who rustled cattle in Garu and two people providing bandits with medical assistance in Buruku, Chikun local government area of Kaduna state.
Kaduna state Commissioner for Internal Security and Home Affairs, Samuel Aruwan, who disclosed this to reporters in Kaduna on Monday said, “Several attacks and arrests have been reported by security agencies within the last 48 hours.
“According to the reports, armed bandits invaded Rafin Roro village, Kajuru local government area. One Barnabas Isa, a resident of the village, was shot dead. Eleven expended rounds of AK-47 ammunitions were found at the location. Security patrols are proceeding with investigations in the general area.
“Similarly, one Suleiman Yunusa was killed by armed bandits at a settlement near Maraban Jos, Igabi local government area.
“Armed bandits also killed one Musa Bala at the outskirts of Garu village, Igabi local government area, after rustling an unspecified number of cows belonging to Salmanu Beti, his brother. Security operatives gave pursuit and exchanged gunfire with the bandits. One bandit was found wandering in the forest, as the others escaped with gunshot wounds.
“Furthermore, two suspects, Ibrahim Bala and Salisu Yusuf, were arrested by the Police in Buruku, Chikun LGA, for providing medical services to bandits.
“Receiving the reports, Governor Nasir el-Rufai expressed sadness as he prayed for the repose of the slain citizens, and sent condolences to their families. The Governor commended the Kaduna state Police command for the arrests in Chikun LGA, and urged that thorough investigations be pursued to closure,” Aruwan said.