On Trans-Border Crimes and Nigeria’s Security Challenges
By Ya’u Mukhtar
Threats to national and regional security in West Africa from the activities of illegal migrants, smugglers, drug and human traffickers, and most recently the activities of jihadists’ movements have provoked serious concerns, across nations in the sub-region, including Nigeria.
Cross border crimes encompasses a number of illegal and notorious activities carried out by individuals and groups across national and international borders, either for financial, socio-political or religious considerations.
These include human, money and drug trafficking, together with arms smuggling, also known as proliferation of Small Arms and Light Weapons (SALWs), as well as the proliferation of Chemical, Biological, Radiological, Nuclear and Explosives (CBRNE).
There is also the menace of illegal oil bunkering, illicit trafficking of mineral resources, and business fraud, to mention but a few.
The North-Eastern part of Nigeria, which has the highest concentration of border communities can be regarded as the most backward due to low literacy level, grinding poverty, and a worrisome unemployment rate. The combination of these factors could explain why the region has the highest number of border-related crimes, including the Boko-Haram Terrorists (BHT) activities.
With mass circulation of CBRNE to other insurgents by ISIS militia, who share strong tie with Nigeria’s BHTs, there is a possibility that Boko Haram fighters may soon be launching attacks using these dangerous weapons. Thus, raising concerns for the need to evolve more potent counter-insurgency strategies.
According to the latest version of National Security Strategy 2019, a document released by the Office of the National Security Adviser (ONSA), currently there are about 857 million SALWs in circulation globally, of which 10 million are in Africa. Meanwhile, 1 million are believed to be in Nigeria.
Nigeria’s porous borders allow for the proliferation of small arms and light weapons into the country from the Maghreb, following uprisings in Liberia, Sierra Leone, Ivory Coast, Mali and Libya. The ECOWAS Protocol on free movement of persons, goods and services, has also created a space that criminals exploit to facilitate cross-border trafficking.
The major factor advanced for this crime in Nigeria is poverty. In an environment where there is high poverty rate, illiteracy, poor governance, and corruption, among others, drug trafficking and drug addiction will become rampant.
The commonly trafficked drugs include heroin, cannabis, cocaine and synthetic drugs. In some parts of the North-east, movement of people and arms across borders has created severe security problems in recent years. Swathes of gunmen, and remnants of rebel wars in Niger and Chad in the last decade, have migrated into Nigeria, where they have become bandits, making our highways and isolated villages unsafe.
Similarly, nationals of Guinea, Libya, Niger, Mali and Senegal have been found to engage in illegal businesses in parts of the country such as Plateau, Nasarawa and Taraba States, where illegal mining of solid minerals thrives alongside outlawed foreign currency exchange deals.
Cattle rustling, land infringement by nomadic herdsmen from neighbouring countries and violent crimes such as armed robbery, kidnapping, car theft and smuggling are a daily occurrence around our northeast border. The South-eastern border with Cameroon is being deployed for women and child traffickers, over the years. The victims are transported by sea to Gabon, Cameroon and Equatorial Guinea, where they are shipped to European countries to work as prostitutes or slaves.
Some victims end up having some of their vital organs like kidney forcefully ‘harvested’. Money laundering is concealing money obtained illegally by passing it through a complex sequence of banking transfers or commercial transactions. It is a derivative crime which is driven by proceeds from other crimes such as drug trafficking, oil bunkering, advance fee fraud and cyber-crime.
Despite the presence of various security operatives around border areas with checkpoints mounted by the Nigerian Customs, Immigration, NDLEA and the Police, smuggling is still rife at the country’s borders. Most of the border security agents in Nigeria and environ are highly corrupt, thus, have been severally accused of aiding criminals in exchange of juicy rewards.
To curb transnational-organized crimes, effective border management which is the job of the Nigerian Immigration and Customs Services, together with the armed forces, and police, must be prioritized. Government’s failure to manage its borders affects domestic and international economic activities, just as it pose a threat to national sovereignty and security of the nation.
Alleviating poverty and curbing corruption are the first step to be taken by concerned authorities if border crimes in Nigeria must become history.
Mukhtar writes from Madobi in Kano state. [email protected]