350m Illegal Fire Arms in Circulation, Group Cries Out

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Ibrahim Shuaibu in Kano

The Executive Director of a non-governmental organisation, Citizens United for the Rehabilitation of Errant (CURE-Nigeria), Mr. Sylvester Uhaaa, Thursday in Kano raised the alarm that 350 million illegal fire arms which represents over 70 per cent of it are in circulation across the West African region.

Mr. Uhaa spoke during a summit on Justice Reforms and Human Rights organised by CURE-Nigeria in collaboration with the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC), North-West zone and Kano State Ministry of Justice, that out of the 500 million illegal arms and light weapons in West Africa, it is regrettable that a whopping 350 million of the arms, representing 70 per cent are in Nigeria.

According to him, the situation, explains the unprecedented rise in crime, as well as violence and killings across the country.

He pointed out that, ‘’This has led to more arrests, leading to overcrowding, as all the three elements of the criminal Justice system are overwhelmed and unprepared to handle the crisis.’’

Uhaa added that, “this is why we are backing the current efforts of the Nigeria Police Force (NPF), to mop up illegal fire arms and light weapons from the country.”

He also lamented that many of these prison inmates would die in these facilities, without anyone being held accountable, because their families are not even aware that they are held in these facilities.

According to him, our law enforcement agents violate the basic legal provision, which mandates them to assist an arrested person to contact his family or next of kin or a counsel, following the arrest.

Uhaa added that, “reducing the number of pre-trial detainees will resolve prison overcrowding, limit the spread of disease, reduce poverty, save tax payers money, and spur development.

“The present cohort of over 50, 000 pre-trial detainees is a terrible waste of human potential that comes at a considerable cost to a country like Nigeria that is struggling to provide access to education, health, water, housing for its population, pay its work force, and improve basic infrastructure.

“The money used to feed innocent people in prison can be used to renovate our schools, pay pensions and provide electricity and other social and welfare programmes for our citizens.”

“following the unhealthy development, CURE boss, therefore, called on all the arms of the Criminal Justice system to comply, with the provisions of Section 293 of the ACJ Act, 2015, which provides for a detention time of 56 days and Section 35(4.5) of our 1999 Constitution, which provides detention time 24 and 48 hours to eliminate prolonged pre-trial detention in Nigeria and respect human rights and the rule of law.

On a final note, he also regretted that the ancient City of Kano to date, is having the highest number of pre-trial detainees in the country, and called on the appropriate authorities to address the challenge by reducing the level of poverty in the country.

The Controller Nigeria prison, Magaji Ahmad, also decried inability of the prisons to cater for the inmates as a result of over population in the prisons.

According to him, the state prisons lack facilities to cater for persons with mental illnesses as well as women and children.

Magaji called on relevant stakeholders to abide by the provisions of the law as it relates to arrest, persecution and detention which at the end, would ensure that prisons in the state as well as the country at large would be decongested.