Senate Passes Chemical Weapons Prohibition Bill Into Second Reading

Senator David Mark
Senator David Mark

Teddy Oscar, Abuja

Determined to check the continued growth of terrorism in the country, the Senate on Wednesday passed into second reading a bill that seeks to prohibit the development, production, transfer and use of chemical weapons in Nigeria through the establishment of a native authority that would guarantee effective implementation of chemical weapons convention.

The bill, which is entitled ‘Chemical Weapons Prohibition Bill 2013’, is sponsored by the leader of the Senate, Senator Victor Ndoma-Egba.

Leading the debate on the floor of the Senate, Ndoma-Egba disclosed that the bill seeks to provide a legal framework that would stem and control the use of chemical weapons in Nigeria.

He further hinted that the main thrust of the bill is to establish a body that would effective liaise  with the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) with a view to satisfying Nigeria’s obligation under the convention.

He described chemical weapon as toxic chemical contained in a delivery system such as shell or bomb, including any toxic chemical or its precursor that could lead to death, injury, temporary or sensory irritation through its chemical action.

He observed that victims of chemical weapons usually suffer painful and traumatic death or debilitating effects throughout their lifetime.

According to him, the weapons have, over the years, been evolved through the development of chemical products such as artillery shells, mortar projectiles, aerial bombs, spray tanks and landlines.

Ndoma-Egba further hinted that the effect of such development is the frightening capacity of the weapons to destroy and maim humanity, with other concomitant socio-economic consequences in the polity.

He recalled that the use of chemical weapons has resulted in the destruction of 90,000 lives and over a million casualties  during the the First World War.

He also noted that large scale chemical weapons used during the first and second world wars resulted in a large scale abandonment of chemical weapons, which he observed pose serious threats to peace in many countries.

He also pointed out that the world declared a stockpile of chemical weapons by parties to the convention to the tune of 13,024 tons, including 71,315 tons of agents; 8.67 million munitions and containers, as well as production facilities declared to OPCW before destruction activities began.

The politician further said that available data show that the volume of chemical weapons held by the United States and Soviet Union during the cold war was capable of destroying a large number of human beings and animals on earth.

He also drew the attention of the Senate to the fact that Egypt, Israel, North Korea and Iran had been accused of failing to disclose their stockpiles of chemical weapons.

Ndoma-Egba expressed hope that the bill, if passed into law, would enable Nigeria to meet its commitment to the convention, as well as bring its provisions within the constitutional requirements of Section 12 of the 1999 Constitution that a treaty is not justifiable in the domestic courts unless it had been domesticated or enacted into law by an Act of the National Assembly.

Enumerating the advantages of the bill, Ndoma-Egba stated that it would facilitate the destruction of all chemical weapons (including chemical weapons that might have been abandoned in the country), if passed into law.

“As of September  2013, around 82 percent of the declared stockpile of chemical weapons has been destroyed; an indication that the convention is already yielding results. It will facilitate the systematic evaluation of chemical and military plants, as well as investigations of allegations of use and production of chemical weapons based on intelligence of other state parties,” he added.

He mentioned other benefits of the legislation to include the following:

* it will facilitate the enforcement of the prohibition in respect of persons (natural or legal) within the territory of Nigeria;

* it will prevent, eliminate or reduce drastically the production and use of chemical weapons in the country and across the globe, as well as facilitate the destruction of chemical weapons production facilities and monitor the conversion of such facilities to other uses;

* it will further facilitate the cooperation and assistance between Nigeria and other state parties of the OPCW to eradicate and stem the proliferation of chemical weapons globally, and also prevent untold suffering and annihilation of populations by preventing such weapons from getting into wrong hands like insurgents and terrorist groups or lunatic dictators.

He said that the bill would enhance international cooperation in the peaceful use of chemistry in relevant areas    of national and global development.

Lending his support to the bill, Senator Smart Adeyemi observed that it came at the right time as the nation is faced with the challenges of insurgency/terrorism.

“All efforts must be put in place to ensure that we make this world a better, safe place for all. The bill is necessary because, if not controlled, the insurgent might get access to the chemical weapons and use it for their dastard acts of terror and annihilation of human race,” he added.

In his contribution, Senator Umaru Dahiru noted that the bill ought to have been passed before now.

“The sooner it was passed the better for the country,” he said.

The bill, which enjoyed the support of other senators, was committed to the committees on judiciary and science and technology for further legislative action.



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