Nigerian lawmakers want new agency to tackle proliferation of small arms

Guns used to illustrate arms in the story. [Photo credit: NPR]
Guns used to illustrate the story. [Photo credit: NPR]

A bill for the establishment of the national commission against the proliferation of small arms and light weapons passed second reading on Wednesday.

The bill seeks to empower the commission to coordinate and implement activities to combat the problems of small arms and light weapons in Nigeria in line with ECOWAS states convention on small arms and light weapons.

The bill was read for the first time in this Senate on December 18, 2019.

Many analysts and observers have identified the proliferation of small arms as one of the main causes of insecurity and killings across Nigeria.

The eight Senate had similar deliberation in May 2018. The lawmakers had even summoned the former Director General of the State Security Service, Lawan Daura; the Comptroller General of Customs, Hameed Ali; and the National Security Adviser, Babagana Monguno over the illegal possession of firearms by non-authorised Nigerians.

On Tuesday, during the lead debate, the sponsor of the bill, Smart Adeyemi (APC, Kogi), highlighted the objectives of the bill which include, “(to) identify sources and main routes of small arms, ammunition and light weapon; identify why illicit trade thrives in Nigeria; liaise with the relevant authorities, agencies and organisations with the aim of tackling the menace.”

The objectives also include, “recommending possible ways to monitor, control, halt, and mitigate the nagging illegal activities of unscrupulous persons, companies and organisations; itemise and identify promoters, users, patrons and reasons for these illegal activities as well as explore all avenues to achieve adequate funding for this campaign; train and build the capacity of the corps and others towards an effective enforcement of this mandate.”

Other objectives, according to the lawmaker, are “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 harmonization 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.”

While noting that proliferation of small arms and light weapons has been a worrying issue, Mr Adeyemi said it is eating into the survival of emerging nations in the international scene, especially in Africa. It is a phenomenon that is destabilizing the peace, development and threatening the national security of sovereign nations, he said.

Although causes of conflicts are numerous and diverse,diffusion of illegal arms from the industrialised nations to the developing world has played a decisive role in the escalation, intensification and resolution of these conflicts, he explained.

Mr Adeyemi further gave a projection of expenditure upon the establishment of the commission in the first year.

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 – N160,000,000.00

Estimated Capital Expenditure (Purchase of vehicles), Total Projected/Estimated Costs for First Year at N4,000,000.00

Commencement of the Board – N521, 920, 123.36.

Both senators and members of the House of Representatives in the present and past assemblies have debated the dangers of proliferation of small arms.

An ex-senator, Shehu Sani, had in 2018, accused Nigerian politicians of being behind the proliferation of illegal firearms around the nation and the violence.

“The motion before us here brings to spotlight the reality of the Nigerian state. It should also touch our conscience that we must move fast. There is a limit to what the security agencies can do in a political atmosphere where the people in power are openly advocating and canvassing for violence.

“Hardly, in this country, will you find a politician who does not have a reserve of arms which he deploys during congresses, primary and general elections,” he said.

All the lawmakers, however, stressed the need to monitor the proliferation of small arms.

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