Stakeholders at a public hearing organised by the Senate have proposed a N2 million fine on persons caught with illegal firearms in the country.
This was tabled on Monday at the hearing organised by the Senate Joint Committee on Judiciary, Human Rights and Legal Matters, Navy and Marine Transport.
The hearing is part of the committee stage of the amendments to the Firearms Act 2004 (Amendment) Bill 2021, sponsored by Senator Uba Sani of the All Progressives Congress (APC), representing Kaduna Central Senatorial District.
The objective of the amendment bill, according to the sponsor, is to impose stiffer penalties for offences under the Act.
One of such penalties is in Section 27 (sub-section1c), which proposed an increment of fine from N1,000 to N1 million.
However, the representative of Air Vice Marshall Oladayo Amao, the Chief of Air Staff, objected to the N1 million proposed fine and proposed an increment to N2 million.
Other stakeholders at the forum welcomed the suggestion and urged the joint Senate committee to consider it in their report.
Senator Sani noted that, according to figures provided by the United Nations Regional Centre for Peace and Disarmament in Africa, there are about 500 million Illegal weapons circulating in West Africa, with 350 million, representing 70 per cent, domiciled in Nigeria.
With this alarming figure, the lawmaker lamented that if relevant authorities do not take drastic measures to control the flow of these illegal firearms from non-state actors, more innocent lives will be thrown into danger.
He said: “We are under siege from murderous non – state actors. They have been acquiring arms illegally, maiming our people and threatening the continued existence of our dear Nation.”
The senator explained that the essence of the amendment is to curb the proliferation of illegal arms and bring the existing law in line with global best practices.
Senator Opeyemi Bamidele, Chairman of the Joint Senate Committee, said the bill was legislative intent of addressing the issue of gun control in Nigeria.
He said “Other than the armed forces which are excluded from the provisions of this act, it is important, that the amendment bill will be able to address the arms act in such a way that it will not only be illegal for anyone to be in possession of arms and ammunition without the required license the penalty will also be made to become stricter and stiffer than it has been.”