Abuja, NIGERIA — A Nigerian Senator Ned Nwoko has called for legislation that allows citizens own guns for self-defence.
The lawmaker representing Delta North Senatorial District, who urged the country’s national assembly to, as a matter or urgency, expedite the legislation, said the persistent threats and violence killing across the country spurred him to introduce the bill which will amend the existing law on civilian ownership of firearms.
The bill has been listed in the Order Paper, awaiting the senators’ resumption from their New Year recess.
However, Nwoko told journalists that security threats, killings, attacks, and kidnapping have left many feeling vulnerable and defenseless, adding that his bill will empower civilians to own weapons.
The lawmaker said a recent and poignant example is the violent attack that occurred during the last Christmas season, where about 200 people were killed by terrorists across different communities in Plateau State.
“Considering these dire circumstances, there’s a growing call for responsible firearm ownership as a means of self-defence,” Nwoko said of his proposed bill.
According to him, his bill, which will soon be read for the first time on the floor of the Senate, is seeking for an amendment of the current law to allow civilians to own firearms.
“My bill on self-defense and firearms ownership regulation, currently listed in the Senate awaiting its first reading, deals with this pressing issue,” Nwoko said, adding, “I am pleased that the topic has gained national significance, sparking diverse opinions and discussions that predominantly fall into two camps – one in opposition and the other in support.
“It’s evident that the existing security measures have not been sufficient in safeguarding our communities. Allowing law-abiding citizens to possess firearms could potentially provide a sense of security and a means to protect themselves and their families from immediate threats. However, it is crucial to emphasize that the initiative to permit firearm ownership is accompanied by stringent regulations and comprehensive training. This approach ensures that firearms are in the hands of responsible individuals who understand the gravity of such ownership and are equipped to handle these weapons safely.
“The illegal smuggling of arms is a significant concern due to the prohibition on bearing arms. Introducing licensed dealerships for firearms could potentially address this issue by creating a regulated avenue for legal firearm acquisition. This move not only seeks to curtail illegal arms trafficking but also provides an opportunity for generating income through licensing fees and taxes imposed on these dealerships.
“The revenue generated from licensing fees and taxes on firearm dealerships could be allocated towards bolstering law enforcement agencies, improving security infrastructure, and implementing initiatives aimed at addressing the root causes of insecurity.
“The qualifications for firearm ownership must involve obtaining references from four medical doctors affirming mental soundness, endorsement from the local government chairman for community validation, a traditional leader (such as the king) guarantor role emphasizing cultural trust, and confirmation by the Divisional Police Officer to verify the absence of criminal involvement. These requirements aim to ensure a comprehensive vetting process, emphasizing mental fitness, community support, cultural ties, and a clean record for responsible firearm ownership.
“Proposed firearms for civilian ownership include single and double-barrel shotguns, pistols with a maximum capacity of six rounds, pump-action shotguns, and any other types suggested by the Ministry of Defence. This selection offers diverse options suitable for self-defense while emphasizing control, regulation, and expert recommendations to ensure responsible ownership and mitigate potential risks associated with firearm possession.
“Nonetheless, this approach necessitates a meticulous regulatory framework and oversight to prevent any adverse consequences and prioritize public safety above all else,” Nwoko added.
The lawmaker disclosed that the prevailing insecurity in Nigeria has become a pressing concern for all conscientious citizens, leaving many questioning the root causes that led to this dire situation where safety feels elusive.
“Instead of abating, the issue continues to worsen, spiraling out of control,” Nwoko said, adding that the northeast has been entrenched in a humanitarian crisis for almost two decades due to the Boko Haram insurgency.
“The northwest deals with illegal mining, ethno-religious violence, and banditry. In the southwest, there’s a surge of armed robbery, kidnappings, extrajudicial killings, clashes between herders and farmers, ritual killings, and banditry. The southeast grapples with ritual killings, secessionist movements, kidnappings, conflicts between herders and farmers, attacks by unidentified gunmen, and banditry. Meanwhile, the south-south is still troubled by militancy, kidnappings, and environmental unrest.
“In light of the alarming escalation of insecurity in our communities, the safety and protection of citizens have become paramount concerns,” Nwoko said while giving reasons why his colleagues should support his bill.