In a bid to address the proliferation of arms and ammunition in the country, the House of Representatives on Tuesday passed for second reading a bill seeking to amend the Firearms Act.

The bill, which also seeks to provide strict penalties for illegal possession of firearms and to allow the production of arms and ammunition by private entities, was passed for second reading on Tuesday.

The sponsor of the bill, Adejoro Adeogun (APC, Ondo), said in his legislative brief, that the bill, if passed, would help to address the current loopholes in the principal act.

According to the lawmaker, the bill seeks to amend sections 28, 29,30, 31, 32, 35 and 38 of the principal act. In total, the bill is proposing 16 amendments to the Act.

Importers of illegal firearms, if convicted, could get a minimum of 10 years of jail time, according to the proposed bill.

Also, the bill seeks to raise the minimum age to bear firearms to 18years from the current 17 years with additional requirements.

The requirements include psychological evaluation and vision quality certificates from a government hospital, not more than six months, police clearance certificate, not more than twelve months, rifle club membership of at least six months.

Also, a firearms proficiency certificate issued by the club and a National Identification Number issued by the National Identity Management Commission (NIMC).

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“Four days ago, two Nigerians were arrested in Niger State by the Nigeria Customs service while attempting to smuggle two hundred thousand rounds of special-purpose cartridges designed for use in multi loading pump action rifles, into Nigeria,” he stated.

Adding that, “The truckload of ammo would have found its way into our communities with the attendant escalation of the insecurity being faced across the country. Sadly, if these agents of death face charges today, they could be sentenced at the discretion of a trial judge to six months imprisonment or an option of paying one thousand Naira only.”

On the need for all local production, Mr Adeogun said Nigeria could afford to ignore the multibillion-dollar sector.

He noted the bill will amend sections restricting private entities from the sector.

“The existing Firearms Act does not allow for local production of firearms and light weapons by the private sector. In other words, the Nigerian business community is not allowed by law to participate in an industrial sector that grosses over Twenty (20) billion dollars annually.”

He argued that there is no nexus between local production of firearms and illicit use of arms.

“The ease with which people smuggle illicit weapons to our country has shown that criminally-minded people will do everything possible to get the tools of their trade, hence denying our nation the economic benefits of local production as well as the inherent advancement in that sector is not the answer to the control of illicit weapons.

“We will be better off as a nation if (military-backed) local businesses are allowed to meet the needs of our security forces through the local production of light weapons,” Mr Adeogun said.

The bill was passed for second reading unanimously when the speaker, Femi Gbajabiamila, put it to vote. It was then referred to the Committee on National Security and Intelligence for further legislative action.

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