Nigeria’s Porous Borders and Issue of Insecurity
By Abdulsalam Mahmud
One of the easiest ways foreigners access Nigeria is through the country’s territorial borders, that are mostly porous.
It is no brainer that the challenges of safeguarding Nigeria’s borders, however, is one that seems to be in defiance of the efforts of authorities charged with the task.
No wonder that illegal migration into and even out of the country persists; something experts believe is the major cause of insecurity issues such as farmers-herders conflict and Boko Haram insurgency bedeviling the country.
To safeguard the nation’s borders and ensure proper documentation on the movement of people into and out of the country, the Nigeria Immigration Service (NIS), not too long ago released some guidelines for international passengers arriving or leaving the country through any of its international airports or borders to ensure that they are in possession of valid documents at the point of entry or exit to their destination country.
According to the immediate-past Comptroller-General of Immigration, Muhammad Babandede, the NIS noticed that some international passengers arriving or departing Nigeria, by air, land or sea now avoided the normal immigration clearance procedures especially at the international airports. He said that was why the NIS issued the guidelines.
The guidelines prescribe that all intending international travelers including citizens of Nigeria arriving or leaving the country must pass through a recognised point of entry or exit and must submit themselves to immigration officers for clearance. The move is also expected to curb the challenge of documentation of both legal and illegal migrants in the country.
The guidelines also state that all passengers are expected to be in possession of valid travel passport or Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) travel certificate if they are members of ECOWAS and should equally be in possession of a valid visa for Nigeria or for their destination country.
As part of efforts to secure the nation’s borders and monitor movements on the borderlines, the Federal Government and the ECOWAS, also joined forces in the area of trans-border security to tackle the problems of border insecurity, terrorist threat and free movement.
However, policing and securing the country’s vast and numerous borders is far from being a done deal, especially for security agencies.
According to Gen. Leo Irabor, Chief of Defence Staff, CDS, 137 out of about 261 borders in the north-east and north-west regions of the country are unguarded.
He said this while delivering a lecture on “security, defence & development in Nigeria” at the Nigerian Institute of International Affairs (NIIA) in Lagos.
Irabor said the porous borders accounted for the easy access of terrorists from neighbouring countries into Nigeria to wreak mayhem.
“Our borders are largely unmanned. The penetrability of our vast unmanned land areas – the north-east and north-west zones, particularly Borno, Yobe, Sokoto, Zamfara, Katsina states – with neigbouring countries such as Niger Republic and Chad among others has continued to be a key source of criminality and violent crimes in those parts of the country,” he said.
“The porous nature of the borders has made it easily accessible for terrorists and bandits to enter the country to commit mayhem. For instance, there are about 364 approved international border points in Nigeria with about 261 in the north-east and north-west regions.
“Out of this 261 only 124 are manned leaving the remaining 137 unmanned by security agencies. Intelligence suggests that violence actors are using some of these normal border points to move freely from countries into Nigeria to cause mayhem.”
The Defence Chief called for the use of technology as a tool in strengthening the Nigerian borders, in addition to the erection of physical structures and an effective management.
He said there is a need to have a broad based integrated border management system to be established.
“So I am looking ahead, when we bring technology to bear in the management of our borders, in addition of course, to physical, structures that need to be established across the length of our borders, then we can contribute to the overall security of our land,” he said.
He added that there are actions that are being taken to see that “we move to correct this but the point remains that a good number of borders remain unmanned.”
Meanwhile, there is an urgent need for Nigeria to properly demarcate the nation’s borders through the setting up of a special agency within the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS).
When the boundaries are clearly identified and delineated it would be a lot easier to monitor them. It is unacceptable that Nigeria’s borders remain the easiest crossing points in the world today. The authorities must do something about it. And it should be without further delay.
*Mahmud is the Deputy Editor of PRNigeria, and wrote in via, firstname.lastname@example.org*
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