By Sunday Isuwa, Abuja
The Nigerian Air Force (NAF) has asked the Senate to increase fine for illegal possession of firearm from N1,000 to N2million as a deterrence.
LEADERSHIP reports that the fine for illegal possession of firearm is currently N1,000 but the Senate in a proposed law, is seeking for a N1million fine instead.
The NAF’s position was made public at a public hearing on Firearms Act, 2004 (Amendment) Bill, 2021 and Exclusive Economic Zones Act, 2010 (Repeal and Re-Enactment) Bill, 2021, organised by the Senate Joint Committee on Judiciary, Human Rights and Legal Matters, Navy and Marine Transport in Abuja on Monday.
At the hearing, the 2016 United Nations (UN) report came up when Senators were told that out of 500 million Illegal weapons circulating in West Africa, 350 million, which represents 70%, are domiciled in Nigeria.
The UN report is not unconnected with the nefarious activities taking place in Nigeria, ranging from banditry, kidnapping, ethnic crisis, Boko Haram insurgency and gansterism.
Making a presentation at the public hearing, the Nigeria Air Force said the fine for anyone with illegal weapon should be put at N2million.
The major penalty for offence under the Bill is the one under section 27 (sub-section 1c) which proposes increase of fine for illegal possession of firearm from N1,000 to N1million.
But objecting the N1million fine for illegal possession of firearms, the representative of the Chief of the Air Staff, Air Marshal Isiaka Oladayo Amao, said the fine should be increased to N2 million.
The sponsor of the Bill, Senator Uba Sani (APC, Kaduna Central) said the country needs to urgently address the worrisome situation of illegal possession of firearm, lamenting that proliferation of illegal arms and ammunition in the country with little or no control by relevant authorities has profound implications for collective survival of Nigerians and Nigeria.
The lawmaker explained that the aim of the proposed amendments to the principal Firearms Act was to curtail the proliferation of illegal arms and bring the existing law in line with global best practices.
Speaking further on the frightening development, the lawmaker 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,” Sani added.
Also, the Nigerian Law Reform Commission (NLRC) said Nigeria needed a law to criminalise illegal possession of home-made fire arms in the country.
NLRC’s chairman, Prof Jummai Audi, said the amendment to the Act was a welcome development, given issues of proliferation of firearms in Nigeria.
Chairman of the Senate joint committee, Senator Bamidele Opeyemi (APC, Ekiti Central) said the two Bills were designed to address two very critical areas of national life.
He said the amendment Bill on exclusive economic zone Act was meant to reconcile the various aspects of the nation’s maritime laws.
“It is important that we have all of these together in one piece in a way that the existing Act of parliament in this respect and the provisions of the 1999 constitution of Nigeria as altered can be made to work together,” Bamidele added.