Security experts have opposed the Senate’s inclusion of what they called unlawful security outfit – the National Taskforce on the Prohibition of Illegal Importation/Smuggling of Arms, Ammunition, Light Weapons, Chemical Weapons and Pipeline Vandalism (NATFORCE) in the new Act establishing the National Commission for the Coordination and Control of the Proliferation of Small Arms and Light Weapons.
The Senate had on Tuesday passed into law the Bill establishing the Commission, while the House of Representatives is to pass its version upon resumption in September 2022.
The security experts implored the lawmakers to remove NATFORCE from the Bill during the harmonization of the two versions.
They debated that removing NATFORCE from the Bill will correct the unusual inadvertently caused by the Senate, which included the unlawful organization.
The National Centre for the Control of Small Arms and Light Weapons (NCCSALW) presently domiciled in the office of the National Security Adviser and headed by Major-General A. M Dikko (rtd) is the Federal Government’s only national coordination mechanism for the control and monitoring of the proliferation of small arms and light weapons in Nigeria.
With the signing of the Bill into law by the Senate and its expected subsequent passage by the House of Representatives, the NCCSALW will transform into a full-fledged Commission any time from now.
But the security experts have stated that the lawmakers have the demanding task of ensuring that unlawful entities like NATFORCE are not included in the final copy of the Bill before passing it into law for the President’s assent.
They said that aside from the announcement of NATFORCE by the High Court and the Court of Appeal as unlawful, the Federal Government had since prohibited the illegal body.
A Kaduna-based security consultant, Commander Yusuf Ibrahim (rtd), questioned why an illegal and harmful body like NATFORCE, which had reportedly been exposed for its involvement in gunrunning and provision of arms and ammunition to some of the militant groups in the SouthEast states should be included in such a sensitive security and firearms regulatory body.
Ibrahim cautioned that if NATFORCE is not prohibited from the membership of the proposed Commission the reported gunrunning activities of some of its members could compound the already volatile security situation in the country.
According to the security expert, “In June 2021, the Federal Government had declared NATFORCE an illegal security outfit and directed it and other similar groups to immediately disband and put an end to their illegal operations nationwide.”
He questioned why the illegal security outfit has continued to operate in spite of its prohibition by the Federal Government, which banned its existence in all parts of the country.
Speaking in the same vein, another security expert and National Coordinator of the Center for Security, Peace and Democracy (CSPD), Dr. Samuel Adesola, recalled that NATFORCE had since been announced illegal by the competent courts of the country, including the High Court and Court of Appeal, in addition to the recent prohibition of its operations in all parts of the nation.
Adesola said it’s, however, questionable that such “an illegal, illegitimate and dangerous body” should now be included by the Senate in its version of the Bill, which seeks to create a legally constituted Commission.
According to him, the Court of Appeal judgment has put an end to NATFORCE’s various lawsuits against the Department of State Service (DSS), expressing surprise that the illegal body had remained recalcitrant and even fortified its deception of the unsuspecting members of the public that it is recognized by law by always being swift to cite a judgment of the Federal High Court, Abuja, which the Court of Appeal has since annulled.
He reminded the Senate that the Executive Bill, which provided the lawful framework for NCCSALW legally, ended NATFORCE’s unlawful activities and should not have included it in the Act establishing the new Commission.
Adesola, therefore, advised the House of Representatives to amend the anomaly in the Bill passed by the Senate on Tuesday by ensuring that NATFORCE is not mentioned in its own version before passing it into law.
The CSPD boss also stated that the issues raised by NATFORCE in its lawsuit at the Federal High Court Abuja to question the powers of the Minister of Finance to break up the illegal group has been put to rest by the Federal High Court in Ilorin, Kwara State.