Border Closure Constitutes Human Rights Abuse, Says HURIWA

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A human rights group, Human Rights Writers Association of Nigeria (HURIWA) has accused the federal government of gross insensitivity in the arbitrary closure of the land borders of the country.

The group described the closure of land borders as a political gimmick to economically strangulate the South-east of Nigeria thought to be the place from where the clear majority of the Nigerian businesses located within the West African sub-region come from.

The group also expressed shock that such huge public policy was adopted with little or no consideration for the commercial and economic rights and legitimate business interests of millions of Nigerian cross-border entrepreneurs, insisting implementation of the border closure without sacking inefficient border security managers exposed the naked hypocrisy of the charade.

In a statement by the National Coordinator Comrade Emmanuel Onwubiko, the group accused the government of proceeding with a major public policy with far more devastating economic impacts to Nigerians trading in the neighbouring nations to Nigeria without even the central government putting up reliable, dependable and sustainable fall back positions should the unilateral border closure backfire on Nigerian traders in those neighboring countries.

“It is suspected that the border closure at the same time with the deceitful shut down of the only international gateway to Igbo land which is Akanu Ibiam International Airport is a premeditated but politically motivated policy which must be reviewed immediately.

The central government has not provided alternative superior arguments to defeat these well thought-out groundswell of suspicions in the minds of millions of people of Southern Nigerian origin.

“The unilateral border closure is surely hurting the economic rights of traders of Nigerian descent living in the West African nations of Ghana, Benin, and Cameroon, made up essentially of persons of South East origin. This action is also a violation of the ECOWAS protocol relating to free movement of persons, residence and establishment which Nigeria acceded to.”

“HURIWA believes that by the border shut down the Nigerian administration is also in grave breach of Articles 9, 10 and 11 of the ECOWAS Treaty thus: ARTICLE 9: “Member States undertake to co-operate among themselves by exchanging information on such matters that are likely to affect the effective implementation of this Protocol. Such information shall also be sent to the Executive Secretary for necessary action in accordance with the provisions of the Treaty.” ARTICLE 10:

“The provisions of this Protocol shall not operate to the prejudice of citizens of the Community who are already in residence and establishment in a Member State provided they comply with the laws in general and in particular the immigration laws of that Member State;” And ARTICLE 11: “1. A decision to expel any citizen of the Community from the territory of a Member State shall be notified to the citizen concerned as well as the government of which he is a citizen and the Executive Secretary of ECOWAS. 2. The expenses incurred in the expulsion of a citizen shall be borne by the Member State which expels him. 3. In case of expulsion the security of the citizen concerned as well as that of his family shall be guaranteed and his property protected and returned to him without prejudice to his obligations to third party. 4. In case of repatriation of a citizen of the Community from the territory of a Member State, that Member State shall notify the government of the State of origin of the citizen and the Executive Secretary. 5. The cost of repatriation of a citizen of the Community from the territory of a Member State shall be borne by the citizen himself or in the event that he is unable to do so by the country of which he is a citizen.”

HURIWA said the federal government did not comply with these thresholds unambiguously enshrined as core components of the ECOWAS protocol before rushing to close down the land borders and driving over a million cross border entrepreneurs out of their legitimate line of businesses even as this policy is discriminatory because it affected traders of mostly one section of Nigeria and this violates section 42 of the Constitution. Section 42 of the Nigerian Constitution provides thus: “(1) A citizen of Nigeria of a particular community, ethnic group, place of origin, sex, religion or political opinion shall not, by reason only that he is such a person:- (a) be subjected either expressly by, or in the practical application of, any law in force in Nigeria or any executive or administrative action of the government, to disabilities or restrictions to which citizens of Nigeria of other communities, ethnic groups, places of origin, sex, religions or political opinions are not made subject; or (b) be accorded either expressly by, or in the practical application of, any law in force in Nigeria or any such executive or administrative action, any privilege or advantage that is not accorded to citizens of Nigeria of other communities, ethnic groups, places of origin, sex, religions or political opinions. (2) No citizen of Nigeria shall be subjected to any disability or deprivation merely by reason of the circumstances of his birth,” Onwubiko said.