By Joseph Erunke
ABUJA – A group of civil rights campaigners, yesterday, protested to the National Assembly to demand the passage of a bill prohibiting illegal possession of arms before the forth coming general elections.
The rights activists, who said they were worried at the security situation in the country, expressed fears that the country could be in great danger if any effective law was not established before the commencement of the polls.
The protesters, under the aegis of National Taskforce on Illegal Importation of Small Arms and Light Weapons, insisted that the National Assembly must hasten the passage of the bill before the forthcoming general elections scheduled for March 28.
Led by the founding National Chairman of African Liberation Party and Director-General of NATFORCE, Mr. Emmanuel Okereke, they arrived the National Assembly premises, after a street walk sensitizing people on violence-free election.
They expressed disappointment over the delay in the passage of bill against illegal possession of arms.
But the protesters were stopped by stern-looking security operatives including the National Assembly Divisional Police Officer, Mr. J.B Idachaba.
Okereke told the National Sergeant-At-Arms, Mr. Dennis Maaji, how NATFORCE members chased some people allegedly carrying arms, adding that “six days after our exit from the road, there was a bomb explosion in Nyanya last year.”
He said, “We have trained over 3,000,000 personnel to monitor this election and ensure that the election remains free, fair, credible and violence-free. We are making this demand for the passage of the Bill because I don’t want people to embarrass our personnel on the ground of illegitimacy.
The aggrieved protesters, who were stopped from entering the National Assembly complex by the stern-looking security personnel, marched round the area, demanding that they be officially addressed by the Senate President, David Mark.
The protesters sang songs of solitary and carried placards bearing inscriptions such as “No to violence”, “Let’s unite and make peace our watchword”, “Never be used for destruction”, refuse to be used”, “violence is destructive”, “Nigerians, eschew violence before, during and after election and “let’s live in unity.”
The bill called National Commission for the Prohibition of Small Arms, Ammunition and Light Weapons in Nigeria, was said to have passed second reading in the House of Representatives.
“We have authority to work including a valid court judgment which certified us as a credible organization and the letter with which NATFORCE was inaugurated by the National Security Adviser and other agencies.
We now want to use the opportunity of the postponement of the election to notify the National Assembly, that they should pass the Bill before the week ends. We are not giving them ultimatum but pleading because it is for everybody’s benefit.
“Shooting is a dangerous dimension in any election and that is why we want to recover all the arms and ammunition. We will checkmate them and ensure that the arms are not used in this election, “he said.