By Temitope Ponle
Abuja – The Federal Government has called on ECOWAS member states to enact laws that will make “gun possession difficult”.
Speaker of the House of Assembly, Mr Yakubu Dogara made the call at the “Parliamentary Conference on Containment of Small Arms and Terrorists Financing” in Abuja on Thursday.
The conference was organised by the ECOWAS Parliament, the National Institute for Legislative Studies (NILS) and the African Capacity Building Foundation (ACBF).
Dogara said it was observed that member states liberalised laws on gun possession in order to allow possession of guns by civilians and paramilitary groups during conflicts to fight rebel forces.
The speaker added that the liberalisation of gun laws promoted the use of such arms in subsequent crises and prolonged ongoing conflicts.
He said according to the March 2017 Report from Global Financial Integrity tagged “Transnational Crime and the Developing World”, global transnational crime was valued at an average of 1.6 trillion dollars to 2.2 trillion dollars annually.
Dogara said that 1.7 billion dollars to 3.5 billion dollars annually accounted for small arms and light weapons.
He urged member states to ensure the ratification and implementation of legal texts aimed at curbing the proliferation of small arms, terrorism and related crimes in the sub-region.
“In principle, small arms and light weapons are not supposed to flow into or circulate within West Africa, however, 11 years after the adoption of the ECOWAS Convention on Small Arms and Light Weapons, the issue of containment of small arms proliferation remains a challenge.
“As members of parliament, we need to ensure that our national parliaments ratify all the provisions of the ECOWAS Convention on Small Arms and Light Weapons, their Ammunition and other Related Materials.”
In her remarks, Director-General of NILS, Prof. Ladi Hamalai reiterated the call on member states to strengthen and harmonise necessary frameworks aimed at tackling the menace of terrorist acts and related crimes in the sub-region.
Hamalai said that a study carried out by the institute showed some relevant frameworks and institutes put in place by member states were weak and in some others, absent.
She called on the parliament to set up an Ad hoc committee to look at relevant frameworks and proffer ways to strengthen and harmonise such texts to combat terrorism and its vices.
The Speaker of the ECOWAS Parliament, Mr Moustapha Cissé Lo, thus, assured of the parliament’s implementation of laws to fight acts of terrorism, terrorist financing and the proliferation of small arms and light weapons.
The speaker said that the ECOWAS as well as its development partners had resorted to ensuring the implementation of laws within the sub-region that would combat security challenges.
“Insecurity remains one of the greatest concerns and priorities of our sub-region; terrorism still continues to wreak havoc and to claim victims in Nigeria and in the entire Sahel-Sahara Strip.
“Despite being hunted down from all angles, terrorists continue to resist and cause havoc.
“The illicit circulation and illegal possession of small arms and light weapons have contributed to nurturing hotbeds of tensions and conflicts in Africa.
“Our decision to focus discussions of this workshop on the theme is a valuable step because, at this time when our people are terrorised on daily basis, parliaments have an important role to play.”
He further emphasised that members of parliaments had the obligation to ensure peace and security in the ECOWAS sub-region.
“We have an essential role to play in helping to expedite the integration process of an ECOWAS of Peoples, which is the key to building a true, stronger and sustainable union based on fraternity, peace and solidarity in our sub-region.
“Our regional space has a robust legal arsenal to combat the proliferation of small arms as well as a mechanism to ensure security which, I hope, will serve to swiftly ensure our security in order to keep our countries,” he said. (NAN)