Security Experts Oppose Senate’s Inclusion of NATFORCE in New Commission’s Act

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Security experts have kicked against the Senate’s inclusion of an illegal security outfit, 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.

 

Senate on Tuesday passed into law the Bill establishing the Commission, while the House of Representatives is expected to pass its version upon resumption in September 2022.

 

But the security experts have urged the lawmakers to expunge NATFORCE from the Bill during the harmonization of the two versions.

 

They argued that removing NATFORCE from the Bill will correct the anomaly inadvertently caused by the Senate, which included the illegal organisation in the Bill passed this week by the upper Chamber of the National Assembly.

 

The National Centre for the Control of Small Arms and Light Weapons (NCCSALW) currently 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.

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With this week’s passage 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 moment from now.

 

But the security experts have said that the federal lawmakers have the onerous task of ensuring that illegal entities like NATFORCE are not captured in the final copy of the Bill before passing it into law for the President’s assent.

 

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They noted that aside from the declaration of NATFORCE by the High Court and the Court of Appeal as illegal, the Federal Government had since banned the illegal body.

 

A Kaduna-based security consultant, Commander Yusuf Ibrahim (rtd), wondered why an illegal and dangerous body like NATFORCE, which had allegedly been indicted for its involvement in gunrunning and supply of arms and ammunition to some of the militant groups in the South-East states of the country should be included in such a sensitive security and firearms regulatory body.

 

Ibrahim warned that if NATFORCE is not barred from the membership of the proposed Commission the  alleged 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, Federal Government had declared NATFORCE an illegal security outfit and directed it and other similar groups to immediately disband and put end to their illegal operations nationwide.

 

He wondered why the illegal security outfit, NATFORCE, has continued to operate in spite of its ban by the Federal Government, which prohibited its existence in all parts of the country.

 

The security expert lamented that “NATFORCE’s illegal activities have rendered the SALW Committee ineffective, hamstrung and left it with the challenge of extricating itself from dubious conducts of a security outfit already banned by Federal Government through the Office of the National Security Adviser.”

 

The security expert and consultant, therefore, urged the House of Representatives to ensure that NATFORCE is not allowed to be part of its own version of the Bill before passing it into law.

 

Speaking in the same vein, another security expert and National Coordinator of the Centre for Security, Peace and Democracy (CSPD), Dr Samuel Adesola, recalled that NATFORCE had since been declared illegal by the competent courts of the country, including the High Court and Court of Appeal, in addition to the recent banning of its operations in all parts of the country by the Federal Government.

 

 

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Adesola said it’s, however, curious that such “an illegal, illegitimate and dangerous body” should now be included by the Senate in its version of the Bill which seeks to establish a legally constituted Commission.

 

He added that several unsuspecting applicants are lamenting over NATFORCE’s extortionist and illegal operations across the country.

 

The CSPD national coordinator said the aggrieved persons who are mostly those deceived as would-be recruits, have accused NATFORCE of extorting various sums of money ranging from N6000 to N35,000 from each of them.

 

Adesola stressed that the existence of various court judgements declaring NATFORCE an illegal body and nullifying its continued illegal operations should have been enough evidence for the Senate not to fall for the dangerous antics of its promoters by including it in the proposed Act.

 

According to him, the Court of Appeal judgement has put an end to NATFORCE’s numerous suits against the Department of State Service (DSS), expressing surprise that the illegal body had remained recalcitrant and even intensified its deception of the unsuspecting members of the public that it is recognised by law by always being quick to cite a judgement of the Federal High Court, Abuja, which the Court of Appeal has since nullified.

 

He reminded the Senate that the Executive Bill which provided the legal framework for NCCSALW legally ended NATFORCE’s illegal activities and should not have included it in the Act establishing the new Commission.

 

Adesola, therefore, urged the House of Representatives to correct the anomaly in the Bill passed by the Senate on Tuesday by ensuring that NATFORCE is not included in its own version before passing it into law.

 

The CSPD boss further stated that the issues raised by NATFORCE in its suit at the Federal High Court (FHC) Abuja to challenge the powers of the Minister of Finance to disband the illegal group has been put to rest by the Federal High Court in Ilorin, Kwara State.

 

Adesola added, “In NATFORCE’s suit against the DSS, this illegal body had prayed the court to bar the DSS from stopping its activities based on a judgement of the Federal High Court Abuja. But it will interest you to note that Justice A.O Faji, who presided over the Court had since June 3, 2014 dismissed the suit ruling that the judgement of Chukwu (Justice) was based on the letter from the Minister of Finance disbanding NATFORCE. The Court of Appeal also upheld this decision of the High Court.

 

“So, NATFORCE promoters cannot continue to rely on the decision of the Federal High Court, Abuja, when a higher court, the Court of Appeal, has since nullified the lower court’s judgement. So, NATFORCE should stop misrepresenting facts to the Nigerian public about its legality. The National Assembly should, please, do the needful by removing this illegal and dangerous organisation from the proposed Commission’s Bill before passing it into law. They should save Nigeria and the Federal Government from being ridiculed in the international community. NATFORCE’s activities have not only been illegal, they have been disgraceful and abhorrent.”

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