The Senate on Wednesday passed the Firearms Act 2004 (Amendment) Bill 2021, increasing the fine for illegal importation and sale of firearms from N1,000 to N1 million.

This follows the consideration of the report of its Committee on Judiciary, Human Rights and Legal Matters which was presented at the plenary session of the upper legislative chamber, according to the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN)

The Publisher Nigeria learnt that the Chairman of the Committee, Senator Michael Bamidele, while presenting the report said that the fine was pegged at N1,000 in the extant Act which was not punitive enough to deter illegal importation and sale of firearms.

Bamidele said, ‘’Section 35 of the Bill was also amended to impose a fine of N3 million or imprisonment for three years or both on anyone who failed to surrender illegal firearms to relevant authorities whenever so directed.

Clause 39 of the Bill, which deals with power to seize and destroy confiscated illegal firearms, was amended to provide for the inclusion of other law enforcement agencies besides the Police and the military.

This is necessary because the power to confiscate or seize illegal firearms should be all-inclusive and not limited to a particular arm of force or law enforcement agency.”

The Bill also amended Sub-clauses (4) and (5) of Clause 39 to allow firearms that are not of military serviceable grades but are serviceable to be deployed for use by Civilian Joint Task Forces and registered vigilance groups.

This section, however, states that it has to be done with the approval and supervision of the Office of the National Security Adviser

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Bamidele noted that this is important because these joint task forces are also funded by the government adding that the Bill had become imperative in view of the proliferation of firearms and the security challenges the country was faced with.

Bottom line

The passage of this bill is coming at the right time when the country is facing serious security challenges that have been exacerbated by the proliferation of arms and ammunition which have found their way into the hands of criminals and terrorists.

This will help reduce the number of firearms in circulation across the country.

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