Senate Kicks against Illicit Arms Trade in Nigeria

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By Deji Elumoye

The Senate has considered a critical bill seeking to tackle the illicit importation and trade of small arms and light weapons in Nigeria.

The upper chamber has also put machinery in motion for the amendment of Tertiary Education Trust Fund Act 2007, thereby making the Nigerian Law Schools beneficiaries of Education Tax Funds.

Entitled: ‘The Nigerian National Commission against the Proliferation of Small Arms and Light Weapons Bill’, which scaled through second reading yesterday at the plenary, was sponsored by the Senate Leader, Yahaya Abdullahi.

According to him, the piece of legislation, among other things, seeks to identify sources and main routes of small arms, ammunition and light weapons; establish links of liaising with relevant authorities, agencies and organisations with the aim of tackling the menace; and train and build the capacity of the corps towards the enforcement of this mandate.

The ranking Senator stressed that the bill. when passed into law, would put in place machineries such as the Nigerian National Commission Against the Proliferation of Small Arms and Light Weapons to combat illegal importation of arms, and enhance the harmonisation of intelligence and information collection, analysis and dissemination among the Intelligence organs and law enforcement agencies.

He recalled that the National Consultation on Physical Security and Stockpile Management (PSSM) organised in 2019 in Abuja by the United Nations Regional Centre for Peace and Disarmament in Africa (UNREC) and the Presidential Committee on Small Arms and Light Weapons (PRESCOM) revealed that Nigeria hosts 350 million or 70 percent of the 500 million illegal arms in West Africa.

Abdullahi further said: “Small arms and light weapons are readily available, easy to use and have been the primary or sole tool of violence in almost all conflicts in every part of our society.

“These weapons of terror are in the hands of irregular troops operating with scant respect for international and humanitarian law; they have taken a heavy toll on human lives, with women and children accounting for nearly 80 percent of the casualties.

“In Nigeria, this has become a serious security challenge. There is general insecurity as most parts of the country experience high level crimes perpetrated using illicit arms.

“The UN estimated that of the most substantial percentage of illegal arms that is in circulation in West Africa are in Nigeria. This has fueled violent conflicts as witnessed in the Niger Delta, kidnapping in the Southeast, armed robbery in the Southwest, ethnic-religious violence on the Plateau, and the Boko Haram terrorist operations in the North-east, a situation which has plunged the country into a serious state of insecurity.”

The bill, after consideration, was referred by the Senate President, Dr. Ahmad Lawan, to the Senate Committee on Defence for further legislative work.

Meanwhile, the Senate has also put machinery in motion for the amendment of Tertiary Education Trust Fund Act 2007, thereby making the Nigerian Law Schools beneficiaries of Education Tax Funds.

Already, a bill for this purpose entitled: ‘A bill for an Act to amend the Tertiary Education Trust Fund Act 2007’, passed through second reading on the floor of the Senate yesterday.

Leading the debate on the bill, the sponsor, Senator Opeyemi Bamidele, said the bill, which was read for the first time on the floor of the Senate on May 28, 2020, seeks to amend sections 4, 7 and 20 of the Tertiary Education Trust Fund (Establishment, Etc.) Act, 2011 (hereinafter referred to as the principal Act)

According to him, the amendment also seeks to add the Nigerian Law School, as one of the benefiting tertiary institutions in Nigeria, for the purpose of disbursement of education tax, under the Act.

“There is no gainsaying that the Nigerian Law School is the only institution responsible for vocational training of lawyers in Nigeria. Undoubtedly, it is saddled with a critical statutory responsibility bearing in mind that lawyers play leading roles in the socio-economic condition of the country,” he added.