NIGERIA’S senate has amended the country’s Firearms Act 2004 increasing the dine for being in possession of an unregistered weapon to N1m ($2,430) from N1,000 as part of new measures to arrest the growing spate of violence and lawlessness across the nation.
Over recent years, Nigeria has practically been a war zone as the country is awash with 6m illegal firearms resulting in criminals having a field day. Terrorists, kidnappers, bandits, rapists, armed robbers and all other types are armed criminals are currently operating with impunity in Nigeria, overwhelming the authorities.
In a desperate bid to combat the menace, senators have passed the Firearms Act 2004 Amendment Bill 2021 after considering a report from its Committee on Judiciary, Human Rights and Legal Matters. Presenting the report, committee chairman Senator Michael Bamidele, said the fine was pegged at N1,000 in the extant act, which was not punitive enough to deter illegal importation and sale of firearms.
Section 35 of the bill was also amended to impose a fine of N3m or imprisonment for three years or both on anyone who failed to surrender illegal firearms to relevant authorities whenever so directed. Furthermore, Clause 39 of the bill, which deals with power to seize and destroy confiscated illegal firearms, was amended to provide for the inclusion of other law enforcement agencies besides the police and the military.
Senator Bamidele said: “This is necessary because the power to confiscate or seize illegal firearms should be all-inclusive and not limited to a particular arm of force or law enforcement agency. This is important because these joint task forces are also funded by the government.”
In addition, the bill also amended Sub-clauses (4) and (5) of Clause 39 to allow firearms that are not of military serviceable grades but are serviceable to be deployed for use by civilian joint task forces and registered vigilance groups. This, however, has to be done with the approval and supervision of the Office of the National Security Adviser.
Senator Bamidele noted that the bill had become imperative in view of the proliferation of firearms and the security challenges the country was faced with. Nigeria currently has the highest number of internally displaced people in the world, with about 3m Nigerians living in temporary accommodation.