By Henry Umoru—ABUJA
The Senate Leader, Senator Yahaya Abdullahi(APC-Kebbi North), has said 350 million (or 70%) of the 500 million illegal arms in West Africa were in Nigeria.
Senator Abdullahi said this while recalling the report of the National Consultation on Physical Security and Stockpile Management (PSSM) organised in 2019 in Abuja by the United Nations Regional Centre for Peace and Disarmament in Africa (UNREC) and the Presidential Committee on Small Arms and Light Weapons (PRESCOM).
This is just as the Senate blamed the high level of violence, insecurity with consistent cases of armed banditry and kidnapping across the country, on the proliferation of weapons.
According to the Senate, small arms and light weapons are readily available and quite easy to use, just as it said that against this backdrop they had become the primary or sole tool of violence in almost all conflicts in every part of our society.
The Senate said that these weapons were in the hands of irregular troops operating with lack of respect for international and humanitarian law, and they have taken a heavy toll on human lives, with women and children accounting for nearly 80 percent of the casualties.
Consequently, the Upper Chamber has considered a critical bill seeking to tackle the illicit importation and trade of small arms and light weapons in Nigeria, even as the Nigerian National Commission Against the Proliferation of Small Arms and Light Weapons bill, on Wednesday, scaled second reading in the Senate.
The bill was sponsored by the Senate Leader, Senator Yahaya Abdullahi(APC-Kebbi North).
The bill, after consideration, was referred by the Senate President, Ahmad Lawan, to the Senate Committee on Defence for further legislative work.
In his lead debate, the Senate leader said that the piece of legislation, among other things, seeks to: identify sources and main routes of small arms, ammunition and light weapons; establish links of liaising with relevant authorities, agencies and organisations with the aim of tackling the menace; and train and build the capacity of the corps towards and enforcement of this mandate.
According to him, when passed into law, the bill would put in place machineries such as the Nigerian National Commission Against the Proliferation of Small Arms and Light Weapons to combat illegal importation of arms; and enhance harmonisation of intelligence and information collection, analysis and dissemination among the Intelligence organs and law enforcement agencies.
Senator Abdullahi said: “Small Arms and Light Weapons are readily available, easy to use and have been the primary or sole tool of violence in almost all conflicts in every part of our society.
“These weapons of terror are in the hands of irregular troops operating with scant respect for international and humanitarian law. They have taken a heavy toll on human lives, with women and children accounting for nearly 80 percent of the casualties.
“In Nigeria, this has become a serious security challenge. There is general insecurity as most parts of the country experience high-level crimes perpetrated using illicit arms.
“The UN estimated that of the most substantial percentage of illegal arms that is in circulation in West Africa are in Nigeria.
“This has fueled violent conflicts as witnessed in the Niger Delta, kidnapping in the South-East, armed robbery pandemic in the South-West, ethnic-religious violence on the Plateau, and the Boko Haram terrorist operations in the North-East, a situation which has plunged the nation into a serious state of insecurity.”