By G9ija

The Senate on Tuesday called for stiffer punishment for anyone found with illegal firearms as a way of checkmating insecurity in the country.

Senate President Ahmad Lawan made this call in his contribution to a debate on a Bill titled: “The Firearms Act CAP F28 LFN 2004 (Amendment) Bill, 2021” sponsored by Senator Uba Sani (Kaduna Central).

Lawan said that the security situation in the country can be made much better if the proliferation of illegal firearms is adequately curtailed.

He said: “Let me commend the sponsor of this Bill and indeed all of us in the Senate for remaining consistent on discussing the security situation in the country.

“The security situation would have been far better if we are able to control the proliferation of firearms in the country.

“This Bill, like the sponsor mentioned, was passed in the 8th Senate and National Assembly but there was no assent.

“Now that we have brought it back when it will be referred to the Committee on Judiciary, Human Rights and Legal Matters, they should engage with the executive arm of government to see where the issue is, if that has not been done by the sponsor of the Bill so that we will be on the same page.

“But I believe that there is no compromise for stiffer penalties for anyone caught with an illegal arm.

“The security situation can still be reversed whilst we continue to remain focused and committed.

“For us in the National Assembly, it has been a very difficult time probably the most difficult because our people face these daily security challenges.

“The question is always what are you people doing and unfortunately the legislature is limited in what it can do.

“It cannot implement but it can talk about it, discuss it, debate it and insist on it.

“I believe that this executive is ready do something to improve the security situation and now that we are seeing a different and improved approach maybe the end to insecurity in the country is at sight.

“Recently we have seen the National Security Adviser working with the Service Chiefs and others in a coordinated manner.

“We pray that this is sustained and that for us we will give them every possible support.”

In his lead debate, Senator Sani said that the Bill seeks to impose a stiffer penalty for offences in the “Principal Act” as well as provide for the destruction of firearms imported illegally into the country or in the possession of individuals without valid licences.

He said that the proposed amendment is meant to curtail the proliferation of illegal arms and bring the existing law in line with global best practices.

“The amendment will also effectively address some of the security challenges currently plaguing Nigeria,” he said.

He noted that in January 2017, the Nigeria Customs Service intercepted and seized 661 Pump Action rifles imported illegally into the country from China.

“Had such weapons escaped the eagle eyes of our custom officers and found their way into our communities that are in the grip of murderous elements, we would have had a clearly unmanageable insecurity situation,” he added.

To him, the objectives of the Bill include: “To proffer an effective, coordinated and sustained legislative strategy to address the underlying factors encouraging the circulation of arms and concurrently block the outlets through which illicit firearms are proliferated.

“To take proactive measures in stopping easy access to and re-circulation of illegal arms in our communities.”

Senators in their contributions supported the Bill.

The Bill was referred to the Senate Committee on Judiciary, Human Rights and Legal Matters for further legislative work by Lawan.