By Ikechukwu Okaforadi
The Chairman of Presidential Taskforce against Proliferation of Small Arms, Osita Okereke, has called on the Senate to pass the Small Arms Proliferation (Prohibition) Bill before the 2019 general elections, saying this has become necessary to ensure nonviolent elections next year.
Speaking to journalists in Abuja, Okereke, who was chairman of the Inter Party Advisory Council, raised alarm over the rate of illicit flow of small arms across the country, saying there is no justification for the Senate to continue to hold down the Bill.
He said the law has become operational in about fourteen out of the fifteen countries of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), hence he pointed out that the Senate does not need to pass the Bill but to ratify it as soon as it reconvenes.
“This bill is the best bill that the senate can pass. They acknowledged that it is bill of interest and that Nigeria has to be free from illegal arms. But you know in Nigeria, we have been working on it. It is bill that all the ECOWAS country except Nigeria and Gambia, have passed, it is now beyond Nigeria.
“Of the sixteen countries of ECOWAS, fourteen have passed it. For this reason, ECOWAS gave Nigeria ultimatum to pass the bill, which was 8th February; they gave Nigeria thirty days to pass the bill, which they have not done.
“Last three weeks before these problems of National Assembly started, that very Thursday is the day they would have worked on the bill. They had problem and the House closed, but this bill, you don’t even need to subject it to the processes of passing a bill, but it is ratification.
“They have to ratify the bill, and make the announcement. Even the President has the powers to do so, only that it is something that the senate has to deliberate on. So the bill has no case again to discuss this matter, but just to ratify it because, it is an existing bill in fourteen countries, and Nigeria is the President of ECOWAS and it is a dent on the nation.
“So, if we are the President of ECOWAS community and we have not done what we are supposed to do, it is not healthy. But I believe that Nigeria, the National Assembly, the senate, will ratify the bill as soon as they come back. I have made so many moves, I know that it is a course I said I must carry to a logical conclusion no matter what happens, people are threatening me here and there, but I don’t care”, he said.