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‘Firearms Act prohibits gas-defusing projectiles’

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Oluwole Kehinde

Does firearms Act Cap F28, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria 2007 (LFN 2007) classify the use of pepper spray as an offensive weapon? This question has become necessary in the light of the use of the object as an instrument of self-defence by some Nigerians. In this interview with YETUNDE AYOBAMI OJO, a Lagos-based lawyer, Oluwole Kehinde tries to examine the issue following an order by the police to arrest anybody found with pepper spray, among other issues.

On what he thinks following the order by the Commissioner of Police, to arrest anybody found with pepper spray, Kehinde responded thus: “There are laws dealing with firearms control, particularly the Firearm Act. There are two broad categories of firearm, those that are prohibited and those that are allowed by obtaining licence. I want to believe that if the pepper spraying device is in the class of firearm that require license, it should be that people should get licensed for it rather than saying they should be arrested. When that is done, then whoever does not comply may be made to face the law.

“But certainly, I don’t think it is a prohibited firearm. If it is a prohibited, then there will be no excuse for those having it because ignorance of the law is not an excuse. The Commissioner of Police will be justified. The people who have it in that circumstance should be required to drop them and allow the law to prevail. I wouldn’t know whether there is consensus or certainty as to the classification of the pepper. Is it a gas-defusing projectile? Under the Firearms Act, any apparatus for the discharge of any explosive or gas-defusing projectile is completely prohibited. So these are the things that may require scientific or expert examination for proper classification.”

In the preparation for the 2019 general election, Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) boss, Professor Mahmoud Yakubu said there wouldn’t be electronic voting in this age of digitalization. Asked if such will not constitute a set back for the country, Kehinde said INEC was considering the infrastructural capacity of the country.

His words: “Well, the country as a whole has its level of infrastructural capability. INEC cannot be an exception. INEC cannot run faster than the country. The same challenges we are having with health sector are the same challenge with security, where police do not have equipment for detecting or investigating a crime. It is the same thing that INEC is facing. If you decree it that it should be by electronic voting, would there be electricity supply? Would the machine function properly? What of the internet for the purpose of transmitting results? If all these things are not in place, how would the electronic voting function well? To me, it is sheer idealism for people to be clamouring for electronic voting without weighing and giving the level of infrastructure on ground to support the exercise. There is no doubt that it is better, faster and less expenses because there will be no movement carrying ballot paper all around from one polling station to the other.

“But then, it unfortunate that that is the stage we are and we just have to accept it. There is no doubt that the level of litigation will still continue because there will be paper manipulations from collation centres. If the results are electronically collated, most of these will not take place. The advantages are enormous. I will not blame INEC chairman if he refuses to use electronic system, provided it is not being influenced by other considerations. Besides, I don’t think it is captured in the electoral Act. If our infrastructural base will be strong enough to carry it, I will support the idea because it is a better option.”

On the areas, where INEC needs to address in order to conduct free and fair election, the lawyer said: “The major area they need to work on is to make the process friendly for participants. Some times because of processes and procedures, people get disinterested and some people go back to their houses. Maybe when the accreditation is supposed to start by 8.00am and you keep the people waiting, they leave. By the time they leave, some people will want to fill the gap. Another thing is to address the challenges of logistics, particularly in the interior. Those things give room for manipulation. Another thing is the issue of under age voting. It is real. In fact, today there is a joke trending on social media that Zamfara state that registered only 28 pupils for common entrance had registered over 1.5million voters. It is like some people were unduly accommodated to twist the system in their own favour. Professor Olorode said it that, in some parts of the country, his life was threatened; that the locals aided by their traditional rulers wanted to kill him for not allowing under age voters to register, although one will blame him for not voicing out then.

“This kind of thing should have led to some agitation that should bring reforms and who knows the extent to which INEC has gone to accommodate all these excesses before the election period. People have been complaining about results from some parts of the country that you wonder who are the people casting the votes. So, underage voting is a big challenge. Other areas have to do with security. There are presence of policemen in cities and towns, but when you go to interior, there is none. There should be a general standard that should be applied to the whole election process across board. The only way to achieve that is to adequately compensate security agents financially, because by the time you leave them, they become susceptible to whoever wants to assist or help them to take care of themselves.”

Speaking on the proposed bill to detach Nigeria Financial Intelligence Unit from Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) and the Police, he said such separation is aimed at creating autonomy. According to him, the creation of Nigeria Financial Intelligence Unit was not the idea of the National Assembly.

His words: “I think there is international pressure on financial organisations that regulate that. The bill to separate it from EFCC and police is for the purpose of making them autonomous. The bill is to make the operations of the unit to be truly and fully autonomous, so they can enjoy full independence. With that done, I believe there should be no fear either by EFCC or other law enforcement agents. Separating the units would be in compliance and conformity with the requirement and standard of relevant regulatory international authorities. The reason is that there are consequences for countries that fail to comply and the National Assembly was trying to avoid such consequences for the benefit of the entire business sector, banking sector and the country at large.”

On what he thinks about the call by British Prime Minister, Theresa May calling on Nigeria to legalise same-sex marriage, Kehinde described it as unwarranted advice. “It is not welcomed at all. Firstly, our legal system is certain about definition of marriage. It is between a man and woman. Our constitution, which is the highest law in the land recognises the dichotomy between a woman and a man. So, she cannot give unsolicited political counsel or hector us into accepting such. Moreover, we recognise our value systems. It is true that there may be some things that are negative in African culture but that kind of idea is not welcomed and cannot be accommodated by our valued cultural orientation. In America where it had been legalized, it was a product of long time agitation. So they cannot think Nigeria or other African countries will just easily give in to that kind of idea overnight.”

Asked if he will support the idea of Nigeria pulling out of Commonwealth of Nations on account of that, he said: “No, that is not a enough reason for us to pull out. Member states have no legal obligation to one another. The aims and objectives of the Commonwealth are there for Nigeria’s benefit, which is to increase economic cooperation, encourage democracy and to ensure that countries follow human rights. Therefore, I suggest we remain there for the benefit of our country.”


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Oyewole Kehinde
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