The Nigerian Law Reform Commission has sought for a law to criminalise the illegal possession of homemade firearms.
Its Chairman. Prof. Jummai Audi made the call in Abuja on Monday at a public hearing on amendment of Firearms Act Amendment Bill 2021 and Bill for a repeal and re-enactment of Exclusive Economic Zones Act 2021.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the public hearing was organised by the Senate Committees on Judiciary, Human Rights and Legal Matters, Navy and Marine Transport.
Audi said the amendment of the Bill on firearms was expedient considering the proliferation of firearms in the country.
She observed, however, that the penalty contained in the extant Act was not punitive enough to deter illegal importation and sale of firearms in Nigeria.
“Section 39 (1) is not comprehensive enough to tighten the regulation; the law only addresses weapons manufactured and imported; it did not take into account homemade firearms.
“It provides only for licenced firearms and did not take into account homemade firearms which many in Nigeria claim they do not import as they make the arms themselves.
“This homemade firearms do not have serial numbers that you can use to trace the arms, and so you cannot find who the manufacturers are.
“So the Law Reform Commission feels that section 39 (1) should cover homemade firearms,’’ she said.
Audi added that the bearing of locally-made pistols and short-barrel guns without serial numbers by some law enforcement agents should require the granting of a Federal licence.
“The police should be required to carry a Federal licence for their pistols so as to trace any officer involved in extra-judicial killing.
“There should be a section to criminalise homemade firearms without Federal Government’s permit or licence,’’ she said.
Chairman of the Committee, Sen. Bamidele Opeyemi (APC Ekiti) said the Bills were designed to address two very critical areas of national life.
He said the Bill on exclusive economic zone amendment 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 and the 1999 Constitution as amended can be made to work together.
“We are trying to amend the Act in a way that it will have one-stop shop with respect to our maritime law.’’
He said the Bill on firearms aimed at addressing the issue of gun control.
“Arms control is a global issue. It has been addressed in different parts of the world and as it relates to Nigeria, we are at a point now that no one can pretend that we have too many guns, arms and ammunitions in wrong hands in Nigeria.
“Other than the armed forces, which are excluded from the provisions of this Act, it is important that the amendment Bill addresses the Arms Act in such a way that it will be illegal for anyone to be in possession of arms and ammunition without the required licence.
Earlier, Sponsor of the Bill on firearms Sen. Uba Sani (APC- Kaduna) said Nigeria was one of the countries experiencing devastating effects of proliferation of illegal weapons.
He said records from the United Nations Regional Centre for Peace and Disarmament in Africa indicated that arms proliferation had reached an alarming rate in Nigeria.
He said the proposed amendments to the Firearms Act, was to curtail proliferation of illegal arms and bring the existing law in line with global best practices.
Sani listed one of the five major objectives of the amendment Bill to include imposition of stiffer penalties for offences under the Act.
One of such penalties is the one under Section 27 (sub-section 1c), which proposed increase of fine from N1,000 to N1million
The Nigerian Army, Nigerian Air Force, Nigerian Navy, the Nigerian Immigration Services and the Ministry of Justice were among stakeholders that presented memoranda at the sitting. (NAN)