Shola Oyeyipo in Abuja
The House of Representatives Thursday demanded a reversal of the Executive Order signed by President Muhammadu Buhari revoking firearms or short gun licences in the interest of Nigerians who will be left vulnerable and be at the mercy of criminals, terrorists, bandits and kidnappers.
The demand followed the passage of a motion of urgent national importance on the need for the president to rescind the executive order to remove, revoke and banish all firearms certificates and licences throughout the country moved by Hon. Nnenna Ukeje representing Bende Federal Constituency, Abia State.
The president had on May 22 signed into law the Executive Order revoking all firearm or shotgun certificates or licences in Nigeria.
By the provisions of the Executive Order, which becomes effective from June 1, 2019, nobody in the country is allowed or authorised to own or carry prohibited weapons or gun.
Contributors to debate on the motion for the revocation of the Executive Order said the president’s order would strip the people of their rights to life and self-defence.
The lawmakers also urged Buhari to sign into law, the bill on the establishment of a national commission against the proliferation of small arms and light weapons, which is not only a domestic law but also a treaty obligation.
They added that doing so would help us to curb the inflow of illegal weapons.
Ukeje had expressed concern over the rising spate of insecurity, leading to increased number of deaths resulting from terrorism, kidnapping and banditry and other violent crimes.
The lawmaker’s concern was “that this omnibus order targets legal gun owners and their guns while there doesn’t seem to be either institutional actionable policy or plan to mop up small arms and light weapons that are at the centre of these crimes.”
She blamed illegal guns at the disposal of criminals for the increase in crime.
A lawyer and member of the House, Hon. Simon Arabo, representing Kauru Federal Constituency, Kaduna State, who supported the motion, said there is an act that allows Nigerians to own licensed guns and that the executive order cannot override the act.
“I think the reason why the president is taking the action is in the context of the overwhelming security challenges but those with licences do not contravene any law. The president cannot use executive order to override an act,” he said, adding: “It has been shown that most of the weapons used by bandits are illegal weapons. So, security operatives should retrieve them.”
He said his people had suffered in the hands of terrorists and advised security operatives to think out of the box to retrieve weapons in the possession of criminals.
Also urging the president to rethink his decision, Hon. Uzoma Abonta representing Ukwa East/Ukwa West, Abia State, said rather than suspend legitimate gun licences, efforts should be directed at getting illegal guns out of circulation.
“They should recover all illegal guns first. If you withdraw licences, it means encouraging arms struggling. Tell Mr. President to concentrate on withdrawing illegal guns that are giving us problems,” Abonta said.
However, Hon. Alabi Mojeed, representing Ede North, South/Egbedero/Ejigbo Federal Constituency, Osun State, regretted that the procedure for gun licensing had been shoddy.
While he agreed that there is the need to arrest those using guns illegally, he challenged the police to put in foolproof regulations and procedures for gun licensing.
The House also called for an investigation into alleged summary execution of two men in Ogoniland by the Nigerian Army.
This followed the adoption of a report of the House Committee on Army, chaired by Hon. Rimande Shawulu, on the investigation of the crisis in Ogoniland, Rivers State.
The committee said: “The summary execution of two Ibo men, namely, Linus Nwafor and Kelechi Nwafor, who were not part of the Ogoni factions and were executed far away from the scene of the conflict should be further investigated and the officers and men responsible should be prosecuted.
“Adequate compensation should be paid by the federal government to the families of the deceased and to those who lost their properties after a proper assessment of the losses and deaths.
“There is an urgent need to start withdrawing soldiers from the streets across the country and to replace them with internal security operators.
“The federal government should encourage the Rivers State Government to embark on reconciliation and peace building measures in Ogoniland and that the federal government and the Rivers State Government should grant amnesty to Chief Solomon Nigbara and others, with an undertaken to maintain peace.”