By Christiana Ekpa and Umar Muhammad Puma Abuja
The House of Representatives yesterday passed through second reading, the bill which seeks to establish National Commission on Small Arms and Light Weapons charged with responsibility to regulate and prohibit proliferation of ammunitions and light weapons.
This was even as the members revealed that Nigeria has the highest weapons in Africa with 70% against 500 million in the content.
Our correspondents report that, the bill when passed into law, is also expected to sensitize the public on the dangers of small arms and light weapons in order to discourage their production and to combat the problem of the proliferation of small arms and light weapons in Nigeria in line with the economic community of West African States Convention on Small Arms and Light Weapons and for related matters.
The consolidated bill was co-sponsored by Speaker Yakubu Dogara (APC-Bauchi) and Nnenna Elendu Ukeje (PDP-Abia).
Presenting the lead debate, Elendu-Ukeje, explained that the establishment of the Commission became necessary on the heels of unabated communal conflicts, religious crises, insurrection, terrorism, insurgency, militancy, revolt, electoral violence, robbery, cross border smuggling, kidnapping, sexual violence, domestic violence and other life threatening vices.
“In a recent meeting, the United Nations Centre for peace and disarmament held by the National Coordinator, Mrs Okubo Ige, said West Africa had about 500 million small arms in circulation and that 70% of those arms reside in Nigeria, she put the number at about 350 million. Responsible for this she said were obsolete laws and ineffective stockpile management,” she noted.
According to Her, the statistics from the office of the Senate President alone shows that there have been over 80 reported incidences of armed conflict that had claimed over 877 between 1st January – 29th April, 2018.
“A movement (Nigeria Mourns) broke down its national casualty figures from Benue State having the highest number at 534 deaths, Bornu state a close second with with 361 deaths, Kaduna 218 deaths to Akwa Ibom the lowest with 16 deaths recorded in 2018.
“This statistics only represent killings as a result of herdsmen clashes. The numbers for communal clashes, armed robberies, domestic violence, criminal homicides are not included.
“Furthermore, former Head of State, Gen. Abdulsalam Abubakar in October 2016 gave grim figures of killings in four northern states: Plateau, Nasarawa, Kaduna and Benue. He stated that about 2,500 people were killed, 62,000 people displaced, $13.7 billion lost to clashes and 47% in internally generated revenue in the affected states lost.
While noting that Nigeria has been named as country of origin, transit and destination of small arms, the lawmakers recalled that the “Nigerian Army spokes person, Col. Sagir stated that there were well over 250 illegal routes – mostly footpaths from Damaturu/Maiduguri axis that lead directly to Cameroon and Chad which borders Nigeria on the East.
“Libya and Malaysia rebels exchange money for arms along these routes. He also stated that Nigeria’s borders to the West, Idiroko and Seme are also very porous and fuel the transnational black market arms trade.”
She also alleged that the Gulf of Guinea which borders the Niger Delta where crude is also being used for exchange of arms while the South Eastern part is noted for local manufacturing of small arms as over 60% of locally made arms originate from that region.
“The Nigeria Custom Service intercepted a total if 2,671 proliferated arms between January and September 2017. In January (2017), operatives if the Customs Service intercepted 661 pieces of pump action riffles concealed in a 40ft container imported from China, in May, 440 arms and ammunitions imported from Turkey concealed behind POP materials, Contributing to the bill, Femi Gbajabiamila advocated for stringer penalty against the violators.