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By Tordue Salem

The House of Representatives is in the process of making a law to ban the influx of small arms into the country. 

The House Committee on Treaties, Protocols and Agreements, headed by Rep. Nicholas Ossai(PDP/Delta), conducted a public hearing of stakeholders on the matter on Monday. 

In a welcome address by the Chairman, Dr Ossai Nicholas Ossai, the committee presented the proposed law entitled, ‘ECOWAS CONVENTION ON SMALL ARMS AND LIGHT WEAPONS, THEIR AMMUNITION BILL”

According to him, “You are pleasantly here today on a national duty to generate valuable ideas and specialized contributions towards our legislative process of giving legal effect in Nigeria to the ECOWAS convention on small Arms and Light Weapons. It is therefore my pleasure to welcome you all to this interactive session. 

“You will recall that the Bill in issue passed second reading at the plenary on Wednesday, 14th July, 2021 and was referred to my Committee on Treaties, Protocols and Agreements for further legislative action. 

“It is, for this purpose that we now hold this interactive session with you as good representatives of your respective Ministries, Departments and Agencies of government, including the Civil Society Organizations as development partners, the press and the general public. 

“In doing justice to the business of the day, it is necessary that I briefly bring to the fore the historical perspective of the Bill. 

“1. The United Nations (UN) in 2001 adopted the ”Programme of Action” to Prevent, Combat and Eradicate the illicit Trade in Small Arms and Light Weapons in all its Aspects.

“This programme of Action ensured that government commits to improve national small arms regulations, strengthen the management of stockpiles, ensure the proper and reliable cooperation in tracing of weapons, and engagement in regional and international cooperation and assistance. 

“Several UN Security Council Resolutions such as 2117 of 2013, 2220 of 2015 among others centred on various aspects of the control of small arms and light weapons. Of particular interest is Resolution 2457 of 2019 on ”Silencing the Guns in Africa” which illustrates the criticality of tackling illicit arms and weapons in order to achieve a conflict free Africa. 

“2. The African Union (AU) in pursuance of its commitment to implement the United Nations Programme of Action of July, 2001, adopted the 2013 “African Union Strategy on the Control of Illicit Proliferation, circulation and Trafficking of Small Arms and Light Weapons” to strengthen coordination and cooperation between and among all implementing bodies.

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“The overall objective of the strategy is to prevent, combat, and eradicate the illicit proliferation, circulation and trafficking of small arms and light weapons in an integrated and holistic manner across all regions of Africa.

“3. The ECOWAS in Abuja, 2006 adopted the convention on Small Arms and light Weapons with the following objectives as substantially enunciated in the UN Programme of Action on Small Arms and Light Weapons. These 

“objectives are: (a)To prevent, combat and eradicate the excessive and destabilizing accumulation of small arms and light weapons; (b) To continue efforts for the control of small arms and light weapons; (c) To consolidate the gains resulting from the declared moratorium on the importation, exportation and manufacture of small arms; (d) To promote trust between member states through a concerted and transparent action on the control of small arms and light weapons within ECOWAS; (e)To build institutional and operational capacities of the ECOWAS Executive Secretariat and that of the member states in their effort to curb the proliferation of small arms and light weapons, their ammunition and other related materials; 

“(1’) To promote the exchange of information and cooperation among member states. 
Honorable colleagues, ladies and gentlemen, the foregoing historical account has substantially been the scope of the Bill. 

“Therefore, in proceeding with a cursory examination of the Bill, we would notice that the Bill has 7 clauses or sections, beginning with the enforcement clause to the citation clause. Clauses 2 to 5 dwell on the body that is charged with the implementation of this all important Convention in Nigeria. You are therefore invited to probe these relevant provisions to ascertain if they comply with the standard requirement of the ECOWAS Convention on small arms and light weapons. 

“Clause I of the bill which seeks to give legal effects in Nigeria to the Convention, has incorporated the full text of the Convention as an integral part of the bill by way of schedule. You are again invited to explore the provisions of the Convention with a view to identifying Articles that are offensive or inimical to our corpus juris, particularly our Constitution. 

“It has therefore become necessary, Hon Colleagues, Ladies and Gentlemen that today’s engagement would further encourage the seamless domestication of the several international instruments to which Nigeria as a state party is yet to effectively and legally internalize”.

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