Critical Conversations

Bill for Nigerians to Carry Gun; Recipe for Disaster

The House of Representatives is presently considering a bill, if passed into law, would permit Nigerians from the age of eighteen, to bear firearms. The bill titled “Firearms Amendment Bill” was sponsored by House of Representatives member, Adejoro Adeogun, representing Akoko Southeast/Southwest, Ondo State.

According to the bill, “Notwithstanding the provisions of subsection (1), a person shall be entitled to the grant of a license or permit under this Act if, at the time of application, the person: is at least eighteen years of age; has a psychological evaluation certificate from a government hospital not more than six months; has a vision quality certificate from a government hospital not more than six months; has a police clearance certificate not more than twelve months; has a rifle club membership of at least six months, and a firearms proficiency certificate issued by the club.

The bill requires that the bearer must have “a National Identification Number (NIN) issued by the National Identity Management Commission (NIMC). It added that “The Inspector General of Police, shall maintain a manual and an e-register of such permits in force”.

It also states that “The Inspector General of Police, may, with the consent of the Governor of the State, grant a permit to any person to carry on the business of manufacturing and repairs of the firearms referred to in Part III of the Schedule to this Act”.

As regard offences to the law, the bill stipulates a jail sentence for at least two years: “Section 35 (2) of the Principal Act, is amended by substituting the words, one thousand naira or imprisonment for two years”, with the words, “seventy-five thousand or imprisonment of not less than two years”.

To the consternation of the public, members of Nigeria’s federal legislative chambers have once again shown Nigerians that they lack what it takes to lay quality parliamentary frameworks for the efficiency and enhancement of any critical sector of the country, including national security. It is indeed mind-boggling when those who are given the mandate to make cerebral decisions and policies that should enhance national development and growth are doing the opposite.

In recent times, legislative bodies both at Federal and State level have consistently failed to come up with legal frameworks that can accelerate diverse forms of development in the country. They are rather more pre-occupied with frivolities and inanities. Or how could any lawmaker not realize that introducing a bill that will allow all Nigerians from the age of eighteen to carry guns is a recipe for death and disintegration?

The proponents of the bill tie it to the current security situation. It is a fact that insecurity looms everywhere. Banditry and kidnapping have become the order of the day. With state governments negotiating with bandits and indulging the apex authority to follow suit in a cloaked amnesty, it certainly leaves our security under a dome of helplessness. The logic is let Nigerians protect themselves and everyone should be licensed to wield those firearms they desire. If this becomes the case, perhaps the tide of banditry and kidnapping would be stemmed.

It may sound like the perfect idea, but what does it hold for our country and her citizens when the scales are weighed? Considering the current temperament of Nigeria, it would result in nothing but sheer disaster, cataclysmic chaos, and sure route to imminent anarchy.

Many of these proponents of open firearms ownership etch their viewpoints from the so-called global best practices without applying it in the context of the Nigerian situation. Even if this was a global practice, must we continue to follow the Western world, neglecting the peculiarities of our own structure.

In first-world countries like America for instance, bearing firearm is legal. But if the rate of gun violence in the country is anything to go by, then one would know that the case for all Nigerians to carry firearms is simply playing with fire. Gun violence has become a grim reality of life in the United States. 2020 was a record-breaking year for gun-related deaths in the US.

According to the Gun Violence Archive, at least 19,223 persons lost their lives due to gun violence in 2020. That is nearly a 25% increase from that of the previous year: all of these in the middle of a pandemic.

No doubt, it is a way of self-defense they argue. But what are the odds? Does it solve the problem or worsen it? Some who have defended the bill insists that it will abet kidnapping in schools. But the bitter pill is, if a shootout occurred between bandits who invaded a school and some teachers armed to protect the students, the possibility that more students will die is almost certain, because the attacker will take on the vulnerable as human shields to make the invulnerable surrender or back down.

It seems obvious that our legislators are not making laws looking at the roots of any crises to see how it can be tackled. They simply indulge in window-dressing; to the disadvantage of the general population.

More so, all manners of killing will be done under the pretext of self- defense. The term self-defense is pliable. It can be inverted to suit any aggressor and this will become a major problem.

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Many Nigerians are equally frustrated given the hardships of the present day –hike in the price of fuel, rising inflation, and other tough economic realities. Nothing impedes sound reasoning more than hardship. So it wouldn’t come as a surprise when people will vent their anger with a click of the gun at the slightest provocation. One can only imagine cases of husbands killing their wives and vice versa, or adolescents above 18 shooting their parents and peers, among other ominous instances. The normal thing for a Nigerian who becomes remorseful afterwards would be to blame it on the devil.

The best option is for the House to discard this dangerous bill at the next reading. It is not projecting the National Assembly in any good light. This bill clearly fails to acknowledge the peculiarities of the overall situation. Some things are better left the way they are, else faulty deliberations will further worsen things.

Nelson Okoh

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