Of Nigeria’s porous borders

Comptroller-General of the Nigeria Immigration Service, Martin Abeshi recently alerted the nation to the existence of 1,400 unmanned illegal entry points into the country.

Abeshi, who spoke at the 2016 Comptroller General of Immigration’s annual conference and stakeholders’ interactive forum held in Lafia, Nasarawa State, said only 114 control posts were approved across the country’s land borders,

The NIS boss merely reiterated what had been disclosed by then Minister of Interior, Abba Moro, in February 2013.

Moro had stated at the time that there were at least 1,487 illegal routes into Nigeria while the regular approved entry points were only 84. While exhibiting rare candour not commonly found among Nigeria’s ruling elite, Moro admitted that even the approved entry routes were porous thereby posing serious security challenges to the country.

When Moro paid an unscheduled visit to Seme Border in February 2013, he was alarmed by what he saw.

A reporter who accompanied the Minister on the visit captured his experience this way: “Abba Moro simply stood there, ramrod, hands akimbo, mouth opened wide. Mind you, he is Nigeria’s Internal Affairs Minister. The sight was shocking; even to him. Welcome to Seme, Nigeria’s notorious border point to the West. The same thing replicates itself at the Idi’roko Border post. The scenario simply reinforces the claim that Nigeria’s borders are porous.”

The scenario witnessed by the Minister at Seme is representative of what takes place at other land border posts. Our land borders have become free entry and exit points for terrorists and smugglers of all manners of contraband goods who carry out their illicit activities with little or no qualms.

Former Controller, Ogun State Command of the Nigeria Customs Service, Ade Dosunmu, once stated that perpetrators of violence could easily infiltrate the country through the international borders in the South-Western states. He told journalists how his men seized 3, 000 shotgun cartridges allegedly smuggled into the country through the border town of Agosasa, Ogun State.

It is also worrisome that several trade-related policies instituted by the Federal Government are frustrated by poor border control.

Unbridled corruption fuelled by greed and lack of patriotism is at the heart of the problem buffeting Nigeria’s border. Security operatives and users of the land borders must share the blame for this.

The nation’s porous borders arise as a result of poor law enforcement. The unbridled influx of goods and persons through the numerous land borders has constituted major threats to local manufacturing, the national economy and security of the citizenry.

Those entrusted with the responsibilities of securing the borders are not properly equipped to do so.

The security operatives at the borders lack effective communications equipment, operational vehicles, patrol boats and helicopters. Most of them also lack decent office accommodation and carry out their tasks in makeshift tents and structures unbefitting of Nigeria’s status as the giant of Africa.

Corruption is also pervasive among security operatives who see their postings to such places as opportunity to make quick money. Many lobby and spend huge sums of money to be posted to the border areas.

It has therefore become imperative for government to rise up to the challenge of instituting effective measures for the control of the nation’s borders. The priority of the nation’s border patrol should be the prevention of illegal entry of goods and persons into the country.

There is the need therefore to ensure that border patrol officials are well trained and well remunerated so that they will not fall to the allures of corruption in the discharge of their duties. It is also important to provide conducive work environment and tools for them.

Deployment of modern technology including CCTV cameras, laser technology and satellite-based system in controlling the borders as is done in developed nations of the world has become imperative.

It will be difficult if not impossible to effectively patrol the nation’s borderlines of over 4,000 kilometres using only manual methods.

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