By Ejiofor Alike
The Alliance for Surviving COVID-19 and Beyond (ASCAB) led by a human rights activist, Mr. Femi Falana (SAN) has called on the federal government to use the ECOWAS protocol to ban the armed foreign herdsmen.
In a statement issued yesterday, Falana recalled that the Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed had alleged that some of the bandits and criminal herdsmen terrorising the country are non-Nigerians.
Falana also recalled that the minister, while blaming the ECOWAS Protocol on Freedom of Movement of Persons and Goods for the influx of AK-47- bearing herders and bandits from neighbouring countries into the country, minister asserted that “ECOWAS Protocol allows trans-human between all the ECOWAS countries. That is why we are thinking of seriously reviewing the ECOWAS Protocols in that respect. What we find out today is that a lot of criminalities have been introduced through the herdsmen and trans-human.”
Falana argued that the ECOWAS Protocol A/P.1/5/79 Relating to Free Movement of Persons, Residence and Establishment (Free Movement Protocol) does not permit any form of trans-border banditry and illegal possession of arms and ammunition.
According to him, instead of seeking a review or an amendment of the Protocol, the federal government should take advantage of Article 4, which states that “Notwithstanding the provisions of Article 3 above, Member States shall reserve (the right to refuse admission into their territory any community citizen who comes within the category of inadmissible immigrant under its laws”.
The senior lawyer noted that it was submitted that such restrictive domestic inadmissibility laws allow Nigeria to invoke her domestic laws to deal with the menace of trans border criminality traced to armed herders and bandits.
“One of such domestic laws is the Animal Diseases (Control) Act (Cap. A17) Laws of the Federation of Nigeria 2004 that provides for the importation and exportation of animals, surveillance of importation, seizure or destruction of animals, control of trade animals, among other things. Specifically, the Act states that the importation of any animal, animal products or biologics into Nigeria from any other country by land, sea or air is prohibited except under a permit granted by the Director who in each case shall state the conditions under which the animal, hatching eggs or poultry may be imported. It is also provided that imported animals may be subjected to such examination, disinfection, inoculation and quarantine at the risk and expense of the owner thereof as the Director may deem necessary and any animal, animal products, biologic or infectious agent which is not imported in accordance with the provisions of this Act shall be seized or caused to be destroyed immediately on arrival by the Director, or by an authorised officer,” he explained.
Falana also cited the Firearms Act (Cap. R11) Laws of the Federation of Nigeria 2004, as another relevant legislation.
According to him, this law provides that no person shall have in his possession or under his control any firearm except in accordance with a licence granted by the President, acting in his discretion or except in accordance with a licence granted in respect thereof by the Inspector-General of Police.
He disclosed that any person who contravenes any of the provisions of the Firearms Act is guilty of an offence and liable on conviction to a minimum sentence of 10 years or five years imprisonment depending on the provision(s) breached.