.Accuses security operatives of conniving with criminals
.Bill passes second reading
The Senate on Wednesday blamed incessant killings by insurgents in the Northeast, banditry and cattle rustling in the Northwest, kidnapping in North central and other forms of security breaches in the country on proliferation of small arms and light weapons.
This is as the legislators also accused personnel of the nation’s security agencies of connivance by supplying criminals with weapons, even as the lawmakers indicted the Nigeria Customs Services and Immigration Service of conniving with criminals, who illegally smuggled arms and ammunition into the country.
These followed the debate on a bill titled, “a Bill for an Act to provide for the establishment of the Nigeria National Commission against the Proliferation of small arms and light weapons and for related matters,” sponsored by Senator Smart Adeyemi (Kogi West).
The Bill, which passed second reading on the floor of the Senate, was referred to Senate Committee on National Security and Intelligence, to report back in two weeks for further legislative actions.
Senator Adamu Aliero (Kebbi Central) while supporting the passage of the bill, said about 70 percent of illegal arms and weapons in circulation are from Nigerian security agents.
He accused men of the Nigerian Customs Service of conniving with arms dealers to smuggle in small arms into the country through the many porous borders.
He added that if the bill is not passed into law by the National Assembly, “violence will continue” unabated.
Also, Sen. Ibrahim Gobir, blamed personnel of Immigration and Customs services of conniving with criminals to proliferate illegal arms and ammunition in the country, adding, “We have local manufacturers on illegal arms and ammunition supplying criminals with their products.”
Another lawmaker, Emmanuel Bwacha (Taraba North), cited the United States as a country without strong gun control laws, adding that “they are paying dearly for it today”.
“It is better to have a control of arms, than allow every Dick and Harry to possess arms. In doing this, we must do it with genuine intention”.
He said most of the illicit weapons found their ways through unmanned borders from North African country of Libya.
Contributing to the debate, Senator Abdullahi Adamu (Nasarawa West), lamented that the proliferation of small arms has become a thriving business because those involved in the illicit trade are not apprehended by the relevant security agencies.
Senator Francis Fadahunsi (Osun East), on his part, painted a picture of military and police personnel stealing weapons from armouries to assist criminals.
Senator Amos Bulus (Gombe South) lamented that the government does not have the will to prosecute those involved in gun running in the country.
He said: “We know those that are involved. We don’t have the will power to take action where the need arises. For instance, so many people have been arrested at Tin Can Island but till day nothing has been done.”
Showing indifference to the bill, Senator Ahmed Baba Kaita (Katsina North), said establishing another Commission will be counter – productive.
He suggested that since the illicit arms trade cut across other countries in the West African sub – region, the bill should be referred to the Economic Commission of West African States (ECOWAS).
Also, Senator Stella Oduah suggested that further deliberation on the bill should be put on hold pending the outcome of the Senate ad – hoc Committee on Security.
She said the committee has already being sitting and having interface with security officials on how to change the current security architecture.
In his lead debate, Senator Adeyemi said that the Bill, which was read for the first time in the Senate on Wednesday, 18th December, 2020, sought to provide for the establishment of the national commission against the proliferation of small arms and light weapons to coordinate and implement activities to combat the problems of small arms and light weapon in Nigeria in line with ECOWAS states on small arms and light weapons.
The lawmaker said that the objectives of the Bill includes: “To identify sources and main routes of these Small Arms, Ammunitions and Light Weapon; To identify why this illicit trade thrives in Nigeria; To liaise with the relevant Authorities, Agencies and Organisations with the aim of tackling these manace;
“To recommend possible ways to monitor, control, halt, and mitigate these nagging illegal activities of unscrupulous persons, companies and organisations; To itemise and identify promoters, users, patrons and reasons for these illegal activities; To explore all avenues to achieve adequate funding for this campaign;
“To train and build the capacity of the corps and others towards an effective enforcement of this mandate;
“To put in place all other machinery needed for successful prosecution of this campaign to combat illegal importation small arms, ammunition and light weapons;
“Enhance coordination and where possible harmonisation of intelligence and information collection, analysis and dissemination among the intelligence organ and law enforcement agencies involved;
“Ensure prosecution of all smugglers of illegal weapons and goods caught; Help to disrupt and dismantle these organisations; and enhance counter intelligence by sniffing out illegal routes of smuggling.”
Adeyemi pointed out that proliferation of small arms and light weapons is not only eating into the survival of emerging nations in the international scene especially in Africa, but also a phenomenon that is destabilising the peace, development and threatening the national security of sovereign nations.
“Small Arms and Light Weapons are readily available, easy to use and have been the primary or sole tool of violence in almost all conflicts in every part of the globe. These weapons of terror are in the hand of irregular troops operating with scant respect for international and humanitarian law, they have taken a heavy toll on human lives, with women and children accounting for nearly 80 percent of the causalities.
“The proliferation of these weapons affects the intensity and duration of violence and encourages militancy rather than a peaceful resolution of unsettled differences.
“In Nigeria, this has become a serious security challenge. There is general insecurity as most parts of the country experience high level crimes perpetrated using illicit arms. The UN estimated a substantial percentage of illegal arms that is in circulation in West Africa are in Nigeria.
“This has fuelled violent conflicts as witnessed in the Niger Delta, Kidnapping in the South East, Armed robbery pandemic in the South West, Ethnic/Religious Violence on the Plateau, and the Boko Haram operations in the North-East, a situation which has plunged the nation into a serious state of insecurity.
“Uncontrolled arms have also impacted on the country’s democracy and deveIopment negatively. Electoral violence by gun-wielding thugs and assassinations of several political leaders since 1999, have jeopardised free and fair elections in many states of the federation,” he said.
Explaining the ways and methods light weapons entered into the country, the lawmaker said: “There are numerous ways by which Small arms can be smuggled into the country because of their light-weight and concealable nature. Trucks have been used to smuggle arms into the country, while a number of them are brought in on donkeys, camels and on foot.
“Similarly, SALW are transported through water ways, Boats load of arms from the great lake’s conflict areas have been reported to have been discharged at Warri and Bonny towns of Niger Delta. Also Small Arms Survey (SAS) had reported on Malian arms smugglers packing small arms in water proof sacks. Attaching them into bottom of boats for transfer to countries along the River Niger.
“The use of aircraft to transport weapons internationally and regionally is also common in the West African sub region. Here Military planes play active roles in large intercontinental illicit arms transfer arranged by international brokers.”
The lawmaker estimated the cost of establishing the Nigeria National Commission in the first twelve months as follows: “Projected Recurrent Expenditure (Salaries and Allowances of personnel), N230, 176,123.36.
“Projected Recurrent Expenditure (Maintenance of vehicles, management costs of offices and Other contingency) N64, 744, 000.00.
“Estimated Capital Expenditure (Office accommodation, furniture, etc N160, 000,000.000
“Estimated Capital Expenditure (Purchase of vehicles) Total Projected/Estimated Costs for First Year N4, 000, 000.00 and Commencement of the Board, N521, 920, 123.36.”