70% of W’Africa’s illegal weapons in Nigeria, says UN

*Country under insecurity siege, Senate laments

Tunde Opalana, Abuja

An organ of the United Nations has declared that 70 per cent of illegal weapons and illicit arms in the West African sub-region are domiciled in Nigeria.

This is as the Senate lamented that Nigeria is currently under the siege of non – state actors who perpetrate heinous crimes and daily threatens continued existence of the country.

An alarming records from the United Nations Regional Centre for Peace and Disarmament in Africa (UNREC) had it that out of 500 million illegal weapons circulating in West Africa, 350 million, which represents 70%, are domiciled in Nigeria with criminals that engage in terrorism, banditry, cattle rustling, kidnapping, robbery and illegal mining activities among others.

These frightening submissions were made on Monday 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.

Committee chairman, Senator Uba Sani (APC Kaduna Central) who sponsored the Firearms ( Amendment ) Bill lamented that proliferation of illegal arms and ammunition in the country with little or no control by relevant authorities and submitted that the country needs to urgently address the worrisome situation.

Stressing that the worrisome situation has profound implications for collective survival of Nigerians and Nigeria, Sen. Uva 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 ” .

According to the chairman, 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.

Speaking further, he 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 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.

Major objectives of the amendment bill, he said, 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.

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