The Presidential Committee on Small Arms and Light Weapon has proposed the repeal of the Firearms Act of 2004 to make provisions for more stringent laws that will control the movement and use of arms and weapons in Nigeria.
Addressing a group of experts at an event on the amendment of the Act, the chairman of the committee, Ambassador Emmanuel Imohe, said that although there had been two amendments to the law since it was enacted in 1959, the law remained weak.
“The law is inadequate for dealing with modern trends and sophisticated trends in weapon trafficking and allied offences,’ he said.
Measures earlier proposed for resolving the menace include improved border security, aggressive public awareness and strengthening of security agencies capacity to deal with the problems.
But the committee is further proposing that the laws on the punishment for such offences need to be more stringent and must be treated as an urgent matter of national importance by the national assembly.
The proposal is coming at a period where illicit movement and trade of arms within Nigeria have continued to fuel terrorists’ activities in the north-east that have left thousands dead.
A lawyer, Jiti Ogunye, on Wednesday ruled out the argument that the Federal Government’s failed second attempt to purchase arms was a legitimate effort, insisting that an official seal on the deal did not rule out a case of money laundering.
Speaking on Sunrise Daily, Ogunye noted that the “South African authorities have every right and power to carry out investigations and they are doing so. When they conclude the investigations, we’ll have the benefit of the outcome”.
He argued that the two cases of botched arms deal involving Nigeria and South Africa would be investigated, noting that”“there’s a sequence”.
Although the first $9.3 million, which was seized aboard a private jet, was alleged to be a black operation, and the $5.7 million transferred legally via a bank, Ogunje insisted that both transactions were illegal.
“When you’re committing money laundering, what do you do it through? You do it through the banks,” he said, adding that “the fact that this money was paid through the bank allegedly, and that the NSA signed off on it, do not mean it doesn’t have the taint of money laundering.
“Doesn’t a governor sign-off a budget before stealing the money?” he asked, implying that the official signature was a means to launder state funds.
“The fact that you sign-off on something does not mean that you’re not committing a crime,” he argued, adding that the country’s seal had been used severally to commit monstrosities.
He countered arguments that the South African government did not wish Nigeria, recalling the incarceration on Henry Okah, a case he said Nigeria was the chief beneficiary. “Nigeria did not complain at the time,” he said.
“It’s shameful enough for this kind of thing to be happening but it’s doubly shameful for us to be rationalising by offering implausibilities,” he concluded.
The Minority Leader in the House of Representatives, Rep. Femi Gbajabiamila, on Wednesday called on President Goodluck Jonathan to address the nation, over the second botched arms deal, noting that something was fundamentally wrong.
Gbajabiamila, a member of the All Progressives Congress, who said the details of the deal are sketchy, noted that a second arms deal scandal, shortly after the first, did not bode well for the image of the nation.
“If barely just a week ago, we had a case of $9.3 (million) and then a week after another $5.7 (million). Isn’t this about $15 million? It doesn’t really speak well of Nigeria as a country, as an entity. It projects Nigeria as a banana republic; Where you can just do arms deal off the shelve, like you’re going into a grocery store to buy groceries.”
“The way I look at it, without actually apportioning blames as such but sometimes they say – if it talks like a dog, walks like a dog, by God it’s a dog.
“There’s something wrong fundamentally; Where a whole country boxes millions of dollars into several suitcases, charters a jet and takes that money out of the country. It raises more questions than answers”.
He further asked why one of the planes in the Presidential Fleet was not used for the purchase, if it was legal.
“We have over 10 planes in the Presidential Fleet that we pay hard earned money for in this country. If this was perfectly above board, if this was legit, if there was nothing untoward about this, if it was official, why wouldn’t you use one of the planes in the Presidential Fleet”.
“Where is the Nigerian official that was on that flight”, he asked, highlighting the absence of a Ministry of Defence official and the National Security Adviser.
Making reference to an analysis by a former Aviation Minister and a card-carrying member of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) Femi Fani-Kayode, Rep. Gbajabiamila noted that the former Aviation minister had blamed everybody except the Nigerian government.
“He blamed everybody (including) the American government, South African government, the opposition. He blamed everybody but government. These are the problems we have in Nigeria. If you cannot say it as it is, then we are in trouble”.
The Representative argued that President Goodluck Jonathan owed the citizens an explanation as the issue borders on money laundering and criminality.
He supported the National Assembly’s investigation into the matter, noting that “the concept of checks and balances is very essential in any democracy”.
“I feel sorry for Nigeria. There’s no way and no how in an advanced matured democracy where issues count and people are held accountable that the legislative arm of government with a major scandal like this, would determine not to investigate.
“At least investigate, ask questions. That’s all the APC members were asking”.