AHEAD of February 16 and March 2, 2019, presidential, governorship and legislative elections, respectively, the director-general, National Task Force on Prohibition of Illegal Importation of Small Arms, Ammunition and Light Weapons (NATFORCE), Dr. Osita Okereke, yesterday raised the alarm over alleged stockpiling of arms and ammunition by some governors and other politicians in the country.
Okereke said the unnamed governors and their collaborators were stockpiling firearms and ammunition to arm their thugs during the general election.
He harped on the need for the Senate to quickly pass the bill on the National Commission on Prohibition of Illegal Importation of Small Arms, Ammunition and Light Weapons and other related matters.
He noted that credible information available to them showed that urgent steps should be taken to prevent those in possession of illegal firearms from unleashing them on Nigerians during and after the elections.
The DG said that, apart from stockpiling arms and ammunition, the governors were also acquiring police and army uniforms to be distributed to uninformed youth to cause mayhem during the polls.
He said: “Information reaching us shows that some politicians, including governors, have already been acquiring arms and ammunition to be given to the youth during the forthcoming general election.
“In addition, they are also acquiring police and army uniforms for these youth for use during the election.”
He insisted that “if the youths that are likely to be recruited are given the opportunity to serve in the proposed commission before the February general election, they will not fall prey to the evil machinations of desperate politicians.
‘This is why we want the bill to be passed by the National Assembly and assented to by Mr. President before the election date.”
Okereke, who said that nobody was born a kidnapper or terrorist, noted that some of those involved in insurgency or kidnapping were driven by desperation and hopelessness.
He prayed the leadership of the Senate to fast-track the passage of the bill on the establishment of the commission ahead of the February 16 presidential and National Assembly elections.
The bill, he said, would charge the commission with the responsibility of regulating and prohibiting proliferation of small arms, ammunition and light weapons, as well as other related matters.
He recalled that, on December 7, 2017, the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) gave Nigeria a mandate to pass the bill into law.
He said: “After that, nothing was done by Nigeria to honour the directive. There was a reminder on February 8, 2018, by the same sub-regional organisation, giving Nigeria an ultimatum to pass the bill into law within three weeks, yet our country did not obey the directive, and now it is one year that Nigeria has not deemed it fit to comply with the order.”
Okereke noted that, “This law has been in existence in 14 countries except in Nigeria and The Gambia. The treaty was signed in Nigeria and I think it is only proper that our country should expedite action on the process of signing the bill into law.”
He said that the initiators of the bill are asking for its rectification and passage into law just like other member nations of the West African sub-region have done, adding that the bill has been delayed for about six years in the National Assembly.
Okereke noted that, when passed into law, the commission would go a long way to checkmate all forms of electoral malpractices and associated violence during the conduct of elections in the country: “This bill, if passed and assented to, will attract foreign investors into the country, guarantee safety of life and property of the citizenry, eradicate all forms of criminality, including kidnapping, rape and killings in parts of the country. It will also provide massive employment to our jobless youths and also generate revenue for the government.”
He said further that part of the bill included the provision of employment to about 350 youths in each of the 774 local government areas in the country.
“This bill will help to restore security to the grassroots, comprising villages, communities, wards and local government areas of the state, like we have never had before now. It will fill the gap created by the advocates of state police.
“As I am talking to you, Boko Haram insurgents are in every village in the country. Arms and ammunition are in all nooks and crannies of this country. Kidnappers have taken over virtually all villages and communities in Nigeria and the only way to fish out all these unwanted elements in our midst is through the establishment of this commission in the country,” he said.