The borders need adequate policing as they undermine the security of the nation
The Minister of Interior, Lieutenant-General Abdulrahman Dambazau (rtd), announced last week that the federal government plans to deploy hundreds of specially trained sniffer dogs to the border areas of the country to assist the Nigeria Immigration Service (NIS) tackle cross border crimes such as arms smuggling and the influx of illegal immigrants into the country. While we endorse the move, we believe there is need to go beyond the deployment of dogs given the nature of the threats posed by the nation’s porous and poorly policed borders.
Today, there is hardly any criminal act or form of violence in Nigeria that cannot be remotely traced to the relative ease with which armed gangs enter and exit through many of our 149 border points. Smuggling of contraband goods, arms and human trafficking, as well as mercenary activities directly linked to religious violence, are some of the vices attributed to these porous borders.
Some of notorious borders include those with Niger, Chad and Cameroun in the north and the boundaries with Benin Republic in the Southwest. Without exception, all these borders are loosely patrolled, if at all, while illegal movement of people and goods flow almost freely on a daily basis. In the northern border towns, the matter is made worse by the close cultural and religious affinity between Nigerians and those across the border. In some of these areas, the contiguous nature of the border sometimes presents its own challenges.
It is also a well-known fact that the Boko Haram sect, just like its Maitatsine cousin of the 1980s, finds ready adherents from within the territories of our neighbours. Most of these mercenaries, because they have no stake in our country, quite naturally seem to be more violent and ready to exert maximum collateral damage whenever they strike. But the problem is not restricted to the North. In the South western border areas, especially the Seme-Badagry-Idiroko axis, smuggling activities have continued unabated, thereby posing a serious threat to the nation’s economy.
The textile industry for instance is a major casualty as virtually all the leading local textile mills have been shut down since their products could not compete with imported but cheaply priced wax and print materials brought through the borders. This, according to officials of the National Union of Textiles, Garment and Tailoring Workers, has led to the loss of some 100,000 jobs. Apart from textiles, assorted contraband and substandard goods also flood the nation’s markets from across the borders.
While we are not oblivious of the existence of the Immigration and Customs Services at the border posts, it is also clear that these agencies have proved to be either incompetent or seriously compromised in the discharge of their duties. There is therefore the need for a thorough probe of the present border security outfits, namely the Immigration and Customs Service, with a view to establishing the extent of their collusion and collaboration with criminal elements at the border towns.
Meanwhile, Nigeria should initiate a cause of action to properly demarcate the nation’s borders through the setting up of an ECOWAS Special Commission. There should also be regular joint-border patrols with neighbouring countries. When the boundaries are clearly identified and delineated it would be a lot easier to monitor them. Nigeria’s borders remain the easiest crossing points in the world today.
With the increasing proliferation in small and light weapons, we enjoin all the relevant authorities to recognise the danger posed by our porous borders and act very quickly to tackle the menace. Nigeria cannot afford to take the issue lightly and that explains the concerns we have repeatedly expressed why our porous borders require urgent and much more serious attention by the relevant authorities.