By Christiana Ekpa
The House of Representatives moved to establish an agency charged with the duty of mopping up small arms and light weapons, as the bill to that passed for second reading
The bill titled, “a bill for an Act to establish the National Commission against the Proliferation of Small Arms and Light Weapons to Coordinate and Implement activities 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” was sponsored by the chief Whip of the House, Hon. Mohammed Tahir Monguno (APC, Borno),
Presenting the lead debate on the bill, Monguno said “It’s a well known fact beyond the shores of Nigeria that the primary responsibility of any government is the security and welfare of the citizens and any government that fails to exercise this responsibility is not worthy of the name government”.
“But as we have it today, there’s proliferation of small arms and light weapons to the effect that some people have occupied certain areas in Nigeria and declared their caliphate just because they are in possession of small arms and light weapons.
He further said, “and for government to be seen discharging it’s responsibilities, to not only be seen to bark but also bite, it must device means of mopping up these small arms and light weapons from non state actors.
“And that’s why the establishment of a commission that will be tasked with the duty of mopping up these small arms and light weapons has become very important”, Monguno said.
He said that there’s need to institute a commission that would be charged with the mandate to check the proliferation of these weapons by non state actors not only in Nigeria but in collaboration with other West African countries.
Supporting the bill, the Deputy chief Whip, Nkeiruka Onyejeocha (APC,Abia), said that everyone agrees to the menace of small arms and light weapons in the hands of non state actors, adding that the perennial insecurity being suffered by countries in the subregion was ocxassioned by such proliferation.
“Even in the 8th assembly, we had motions regarding this matter and everyday we are burdened with reoccurrence and my colleague, the chief Whip is proffering solutions by way of a commission to take charge of taking these arms from non state actors”.
“We’re here today talking about this because the problem refused to go away. I moved a motion here two years ago about a container of arms brought into the country and the customs saying that they didn’t know who was responsible, and now we are saying that a commission be set up to mop up these arms, and I think it needs to be supported”, Onyejeocha added.
Hon. Mohammed Umaru Bago (APC, Niger), begged to differ and instead moved for the empowerment of the police force to handle the job of mopping up small arms and light weapons, saying that as the parliament of the people, they should strive towards reducing the cost of governance.
Hon. Aminu Suleiman (APC, Kano), also agreed with Bago, saying that “in addressing the proliferation of small arms, we may be encouraging the proliferation of more commissions. So I think as members of parliament, we owe Nigerians the duty of enhancing efficiency and effectiveness of existing agencies such as addressing the issue of manpower and inadequate funding, so that they can perform optimally”.
Segun Odebunmi, (APC, Oyo), noted that “in the 8th assembly, a motion was moved by Hon. Chinda and we resolved that the police should go out and collect these arms and curb proliferation”.
“So I tend therefore to agree with those who are against a new commission because even then, the former IGP began the process of confiscating these weapons”, he said.
But Abdulrazak Namdas (APC, Adamawa) disagreed with them, saying that “if the police has been very effective,I don’t think the need for a commission would have been stated by this bill”.
“According to Monguno, the commission is to strictly identify the existence if illegal arms and light weapons and seize same”, Namdas said.
“some of these weapons are so sophisticated and you’d discover that even some of the security agencies don’t have them in the armory. And in order to keep Nigerians safe and secured, there’s need to sanitize the use of fire arms by ensuring that they are only in the hands of authorized persons.
The bill scaled second reading by voice vote despite contrary argument.