The Senate on Wednesday passed a bill that seeks to increase the fine and punishment for illegal importation and sales of firearms in Nigeria.

The bill titled ‘Firearms Act (Amendment) Bill, 2021’ was read for the third time and passed after the lawmakers considered the report of the Senate Committee on Judiciary, Human Rights and Legal Matters.

The legislation contains amendments to some sections of the main Act ranging from imposition of fine to the destruction of firearms illegally imported into the country by an individual or group.

Amendments

In Section 27 of the Act which deals with fines and penalties for offences, the Senate increased the penalty from N1,000 to N5 million or imprisonment for three years, or both.

The lawmakers agreed that the upward review of the penalty is necessary so as to deter illegal importation and sales of firearms in Nigeria.

Section 38 of the principal Act authorises only officers of the Nigerian Police Force and the Armed Forces to be given licence to carry firearms or ammunition. This was amended to include other law enforcement agencies as well.

A new Clause 39 was introduced in the bill. It gives power to officers of the Nigerian Police, Armed Forces and 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 organisations, without a valid licence.

Sub-clauses (4) and (5) of the same clause was amended to ensure that firearms that are not of military serviceable grades but are serviceable, can be deployed for use by Civilian Joint Task Force and other Registered Vigilantes, under the approval and supervision of the Office of the National Security Adviser.

The lawmakers said the amendment was necessary because the joint efforts are also funded by the government.

A new sub-clause (8) was also to clearly define the nature and types of firearms to be destroyed, for ease of understanding and clarity.

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According to the bill, “the firearms subject to seizure and destruction includes small arms and light weapons, ghost guns or homemade firearms – relinquished during amnesty programme, operations by security agencies and/or collection programme by security agencies or recovered in crime or identified as surplus requirements of the Armed Forces.”

Chairman of the committee, Bamidele Opeyemi, who presented the report, said in view of proliferations of firearms across the country and the security challenges, the legislation was necessary.

The new law, he said, will serve as a deterrent and strengthen current efforts geared towards the control of illicit and illegal firearms influx into the country and in the possession of individuals.

The bill will be sent to the House of Representatives for concurrence and thereafter transmitted to the president for assent.

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