The Senate on Wednesday moved against illegal possession of firearms by individuals as it passed a bill which provides for three years jail term or N3 million fine or both, as penalties for anyone caught illegally possessing or dealing in firearms in Nigeria.
The bill entitled: Firearms Act (Amendment) Bill, 2021, amended Section 35 (2) of the Principal Act which previously provided a fine of just N1000 as penalty.
The amendment to Section 35(2), which is captured in Clause 4 of the bill, provides for stiffer penalties for the illegal possession of firearms and ammunitions by any individual, organization or corporate entity.
The passage of the amendment bill was sequel to the consideration of a report by the Chairman of the Senate Committee on Judiciary, Human Rights and Legal Matters, Senator Opeyemi Bamidele.
The Senate sequel to receiving the Committee’s report, dissolved into the Committee of the Whole to carry out on a clause-by-clause consideration of the Committee’s recommendations on the bill.
The upper chamber inserted a new Section 39 after Section 38 of the Principal Act, to make it lawful for any officer of the Nigerian Armed Forces, Nigeria Police Force, Nigeria Customs Service, Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps and officers of other law enforcement agencies to seize and confiscate any illicit and illegal firearms imported into the country without any valid import documents or firearms in possession of any individual, corporate bodies and other organizations, without a valid license.
The new section empowers the head of agency responsible for the seizure, to create a place for safe custody of the firearms, as well as designate officers whose responsibility it shall be to record the details of the firearms in a database.
It further provides that the agency responsible for the confiscation or seizure of illegal firearms shall within fourteen days (14) days deposit the confiscated and seized firearms with the Office of the National Security Adviser, who shall act as the Central Coordinating Body for all illicit and illegal firearms seized by any law enforcement agency.
Upon receipt of the confiscated illegal firearms, the new Section provides that the National Security Adviser in collaboration with the Armed Forces shall assess and separate the firearms that are of military serviceable grades to be deployed to the military; and serviceable but not of military grades to be deployed for use by Civilian Joint Task Force (JTF) and Registered Vigilantes under the approval and supervision of the Office of the National Security Adviser.
Also, in accordance with Section 39 subsection (4), same provides that arrangement shall be put in place by the Office of the National Security Adviser for the destruction of the unserviceable firearms during a destruction ceremony.
However, the destruction ceremony referred to in subsection (6) gives the Office of the National Security Adviser a maximum period of two months to carry out same after seizure of illegal firearms.
In addition, the Senate inserted new Section 41 in the Principal Act which provides for the recycling of waste materials from destroyed firearms.
Under the new Section, the Minister of Defence is required to develop a policy for recycling and reusing waste materials such as metal, wood and plastic derived from the destruction of firearms seized pursuant to the provision of the bill in order to generate revenue and produce objects with practical artistic and symbolic value.