The proposed legal framework to establish the National Taskforce on Prohibition of Illegal Importation/Smuggling of Arms, Ammunition, Light Weapons, Chemical Weapons and Pipeline Vandalism (NATFORCE) was on Thursday supported by stakeholders at a public hearing in Abuja.
The support followed the presentation of memoranda at a one day public hearing of the Senate Committee on National Security and Intelligence.
Stakeholders maintained that the proliferation of small arms and light weapons has been the major challenge confronting the nation and triggering insecurity, adding that establishing a Commission to coordinate arms mop-up was ideal now.
Stating its own position on the bill, the Office of the National Security Adviser (NSA) and the Nigeria Customs Service however differed on the proposed legislation.
The NSA argued that the proposed outfit should assume a centre status and be domesticated in the Office of NSA.
The NSA’s stance was opposed to the proposed bill which recommended a full fledged ministry with its administrative structure.
Reacting, the Director, Legal Services of the National Centre for the Control of Small Arms and Light Weapons (NCCSALW), Chioma Onuegbu mounted a staunch defence stating that proliferation of weapons pose a threat to peace and security, a reason she said was strong enough to make it a full Commission with legal backing.
She added that there was no better time to pass the bill than now.
But the Nigeria Customs Service, represented by Usman Dakingari, Assistant Controller General of Customs was of the view that “if you block the land borders you will apprehend the culprits”.
He also called for the establishment of a National Database for Weapons, saying Nigeria Customs is ready to synergize with other security agencies to curb the menace.
Declaring the session open, the Senate President, Senator Ahmad Lawan linked challenges associated with small and light weapons to crises in the Sahel.
Lawan, who spoke through Senate Deputy minority leader, Senator Shuaibu Lau stressed that the proliferation of weapons has triggered dangerous act of terrorism, adding “we are bound to reflect through relevant institutions”.
Consequently, Lawan noted this has precipitated the gathering of stakeholders on National Security and intelligence.
He noted that the essence of the Institutions is to control the menace of terrorism, kidnapping, armed robbery, banditry among others.
Dr. Yakubu Dadu, head of ECOWAS National office at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, said “we are in support of the bill”.
According to him, the bill is linked to ECOWAS convention, pointing out that it is only Nigeria that has not established a centre to curb proliferation of small and light weapons in the sub-region.
“ECOWAS is looking up to Nigeria, we have suffered from consequences of small and light arms proliferation”.
Also speaking, the Director-General of Coalition of Nigeria Youths, Ambassador Ade Emmanuel supported the bill, however, emphasised that politics should be avoided during the consideration of the bill.
A member of the Committee, Senator Francis Fadahunsi, punctured the submission of the Office of the NSA.
“The NSA is yet to do its work, this bill started during President Olusegun Obasanjo when we called forensic into the Army, Police, we discovered 178,000 arms and ammunition lost to the criminals”.
Corroborating, Senator Patrick Ayo Akinyelure (Ondo Central) noted “ECOWAS said we should establish a commission through convention, the office of the NSA cannot audit itself, you are supposed to be the umbrella supervising all security agencies” he emphasised.
In a separate submission, the Director-General of National Taskforce Prohibition of Illegal, Importation/Smuggling of Arms, Ammunition, Light Weapons, Chemical Weapons and Pipeline Vandalism, Dr. Baba Mohammed backed the establishment of the commission.
He cited Liberia, Ghana, Sierra Leone, Cote d’Ivoire, Guinea as countries who have established the Commission to stop killings, kidnappings, banditry.
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