The Arms Control Bill

The letter by President Muhammadu Buhari last week, requesting the Senate to consider two executive bills to tackle insecurity in the country is an ample demonstration by the Buhari administration to tackle the seemingly intractable hydra-headed insecurity which has been bedeviling the Nigeria for over 10 years, prior to his government that assumed power in 2015. This is, indeed, a welcome development that is expected to, a large extent, curb the frightening rate and magnitude of insecurity across the country.

The proposed laws are meant to control the proliferation of arms and regulate the importation and exportation of explosives in the country. They are the Control of Small Arms and Light Weapons Bill, 2021; and the Explosives Bill, 2021. The transmission of both bills was accompanied by two separate letters dated August 26 and 27, 2021, respectively.

In the letters, which accompanied the Explosives Bill, 2021, and read during plenary by Senate President, Ahmad Lawan, penultimate Tuesday, President Buhari explained that request for the consideration and eventual passage of the bill was made pursuant to Section 58(2) of the 1999 Constitution (as amended).

He said, “The Explosives Bill, 2021 seeks to repeal the Explosives Act, 1964 and enact the Explosives Act to regulate the manufacture, storage, possession, use, distribution, purchase, sale, transportation, importation and exportation of explosives and for related matters.”

In the second letter, the president requested the upper chamber to consider the Control of Small Arms and Light Weapons Bill, 2021 as a means to curb the spate of insecurity across the country.

The letter read in part, “Pursuant to Section 58(2) of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (as amended), I forward herewith, the Control of Small Arms and Light Weapons Bill, 2021 for the kind consideration of the Senate.”

It is instructive that President Buhari had in May this year approved the establishment of the National Centre for the Control of Small Arms and Light Weapons (NCCSALW) to be domiciled at the Office of the National Security Adviser (ONSA). NCCSALW had replaced the defunct Presidential Committee on SALW and would serve as an institutional mechanism for policy guidance, research and monitoring of all aspects of SALW in Nigeria.

The Head, Strategic Communication, ONSA, Mr Zakari Usman, who disclosed this in a statement in Abuja, said the decision was part of the ongoing restructuring of Nigeria’s security architecture to address emerging threats and strengthen the regional mechanism for the control, prevention and regulation of SALW.

He said the impact of the proliferation of SALW across national borders in Africa and the Sahel region has resulted in terrorism, human trafficking, organised crime, and insurrections in West Africa and Nigeria.

“Therefore, as one of the measures in tackling this threat, the new ventre will be fulfilling the requirements of the ECOWAS Moratorium on Import, Export, and Manufacture of Light Weapons as well as the UN Plan of Action to prevent, combat, and eradicate the illicit trade in SALW.

“The NCCSALW will serve as the National Focal Point on SALW in Nigeria and lead a multi-stakeholder process involving government ministries, departments, agencies and the civil societies in implementing all national, UN and ECOWAS Plans of Action on the control of SALW.

“The centre will maintain international cooperation and also operate zonal offices in the six geopolitical zones to ensure quick response and effective mobilisation of resources,” he said. Usman also disclosed that Buhari had appointed retired Maj.Gen. AM Dikko as pioneer coordinator of the centre.

He said that Dikko had served in various capacities in and outside Nigeria. “He was a Course Director at the Kofi Annan International Peacekeeping Centre and Chief `Instructor of the Nigerian Army Peacekeeping Centre.

“He was also a Military Adviser, United Nation Office for West Africa, Director, Peacekeeping Operations Defence Headquarters, Commander Operations LAST HOLD as well as Commander, Operation LAFIYA DOLE, to mention a few.

“The pioneer coordinator has vast experience working with the ECOWAS and the UN system and is expected to operationalise the objectives of the NCCSALW,” he said.

It is quite sad that while the federal government was devising strategies to eradicate Boko Haram insurgents, whose deadly activities in the North-east since 2009 have resulted in the death of over 1,000 people and created thousands of internally displaced persons, insecurity took a new dimension with the emergence of bandits and kidnappers, who target mostly school children whom they kidnap for ransom.

It is on the backdrop of this sordid reality that we commend President Buhari for initiating the bills to control small arms and light weapons. We are optimistic that the bills, when passed into law, will in no small measure complement government’s efforts at combating the multi-dimensional insecurity plaguing the nation, particularly the ongoing military offensive against Boko Haram insurgents, bandits and kidnappers in the North-east and North-west states of Borno, Zamfara and Katsina as well as the separatist agitations in the South-east and South-west and the Niger Delta militancy in the littoral South-south.