The bill seeking to encourage local production of arms and ammunition has been passed for second reading at the Federal House of Representatives.
The house also proposed strict conditions for the issuance of licences to civilians.
The bill is titled, ‘A Bill for an Act to Amend the Firearms Act, Cap. F28, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 2004 to Increase the Fines, Provide for Strict Prison Terms and Licensing Fees; and for Related Matters (HBs.101, 1204, 101).’
The bill was sponsored by Messrs Adejoro Adeogun and Nicholas Ossai.
While leading the discussion on the bill, Adeogun contested that the bill seeks to amend 16 sections of the Firearms Act LFN 2004 “to allow for provision of stricter requirements and legal framework for licensing of firearms ownership proficiency training, storage, sale, assemblage and manufacturing of firearms in Nigeria.”
He also clarified that the Firearms Act, LFN 2004, was an adaptation of the 1959 Firearms Act put in place before Nigeria assumed political independence.
He also noted that as of the time the 2004 Act was conceived, the number of illicit weapons in private hands were still limited and level of insecurity relatively low in Nigeria. “Given prevailing security challenges, the 2004 Act is no longer robust enough to address contemporary weapons control challenges,” he stated.
Adeogun stressed that the amendment bill seeks to insert new clauses intended to strengthen the Act and provide for “proper regulation of licenses, ownership, proficiency training, handling, usage, storage, repairs, manufacture and sale of firearms in Nigeria.”
He also advocates that the bill proposed raising the qualifying age from 17 to 18 years, while introducing “psychological evaluation certificate from a government hospital not more than six months, vision quality certificate from a government hospital not more than six months, police clearance certificate not more than 12 months, rifle club membership of at least six months and a firearms proficiency certificate issued by the club as well as National Identification Number issued by the National Identity Management Commission.”
The bill also proposes stricter penalties for illegal arms importation, sale and possession, with Adeogun citing the example of how the Nigeria Customs Service intercepted weapons smuggled across the borders.
“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 N1,000 only.
It is to address lapses such as the above that this bill seeks to amend Sections 28, 29,30, 31, 32, 35 and 38 to introduce stricter penalties for contravention of the Act,” he said.