Speaker of the House of Representatives, Hon Yakubu Dogara, has explained that as part of efforts to ensure that democracy in Nigeria is not threatened by violence, he sponsored a bill that seeks to eliminate the proliferation of small arms and light weapons.
He also expressed deep concern that in the build-up to the 2019 elections, violence is beginning to take root, adding that the influx of small arms and light weapons poses a great threat.
Speaking on Tuesday when he received a delegation from Security Sector Reform of Civil Society Organisations in Nigeria and Policy and Legal Advocacy Centre at his office, he noted that arms fuel conflicts, which in turn impale the society and truncate development.
He said: “Elections happen in virtually all governments, but not all elections are democratic. We are talking about promoting democratic elections; these democratic elections have some criteria: they are supposed to be fair and free, they are supposed to be inclusive, and they are supposed to be periodic. Where you hold elections in an environment of intimidation and violence; it cannot be free and fair.
“Once it is not free and fair, it therefore means it doesn’t pass the criteria of a democratic election. So that’s the challenge, and the truth is that there is no corruption that is more than truncating the will of the people through elections into government positions. This is because that is the essence of representative governance, as the people have elected their representatives and it is those representatives that they have elected and having taken positions in government that can deliver the goods.
“We are aware of the fact that if this Bill is quickly translated into Law, as we are running into the 2019 general elections, if we are able to set up this Commission, we will combat this illicit dealing in weapons of war. We will be able to provide a very conducive environment for the 2019 elections to take place.”
The speaker affirmed the commitment of the House to ensure that the Bill is quickly transmitted into law before the annual recess in July.
“Because you may wake up one day and discover that you can’t even think or write what you want to write, you can’t even go on advocacy, except you get a Commission from some quarters, and that is why we really have to wake up and work for the preservation of our democracy and freedom. As it is written and said: a free man when he fails blames no one.
“So at least if you are alive and free; you have the right to invest your freedom in the pursuit of happiness regardless of the conditions. When you are not free however, you don’t have the tools, you don’t have the means to pursue happiness, you are cut-off completely from the proceeds of democracy,” he added.
Earlier, leader of the delegation, Mr Clem Nwankwo, informed the speaker that the country is undergoing serious threats to its security, hence the urgent need for setting up a commission on small arms and light weapons in Nigeria to check its influx.