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Insecurity: 350 out of 500 million illegal weapons in hand of criminals in Nigeria – United Nations

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The United Nations Regional Centre for Peace and Disarmament in Africa (UNREC), on Tuesday made a shocking revelation at the National Assembly that about 500 million illegal weapons are circulating in West Africa, out which 350 million, which represents 70%, are in hands of criminals in Nigeria.

The international body stated this 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.

Reacting, Senator Uba Sani, APC Kaduna Central, said the country needs to urgently address the worrisome situation.

The Senate Monday cried out that Nigeria is presently under siege from murderous non-state actors, whose activities are threatening continued existence of the country.

Making the frightening submissions at the public hearing, Uba 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 has profound implications for collective survival of Nigerians and Nigeria.

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“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 main aim of the proposed amendments to the Firearms Act, he explained, is to curtail the proliferation of illegal arms and bring the existing law in line with global best practices.

He lamented further by stating that “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.

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“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 Riffles 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”, he said.

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He 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 proposed increase of fine from N1,000 to N1million .

But representative of Chief of Air Staff, Air Vice Marshall Oladayo Amao, in his submission, objected the N1million proposed fine on illegal possession of firearms by arguing for its increase to N2 million .

Earlier in his opening remarks, the Chairman of the joint Commitee, Senator Micheal Opeyemi Bamidele (APC Ekiti Central), said the purpose of the two bills were 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.

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