‘’Border Closure With The Neighbouring Countries Of Benin, Niger And Cameroon Was Good For The Country’’- Babandede
By Lateef Adegbite
In spite of the fact that President Muhammadu Buhari had reopened the 84 official borders across the country with the neighbouring countries of Benin Republic, Niger and the Central African country of Camerron, after about 18 months, if Mohammed Babandede, Comptroller General, Nigerian Immigration Service, NIS, have his way he would have extended it by another one year.
He has his reason.’’It is good Nigeria muzzles up Benin and the other two neighbouring countries a little bit to show that we are a country that care about its security and economy’’, he had said. He noted that the 18-month border closure was a clear indication that the country has spoken with one voice through action that had forced the neighbouring countries into greater Cooperation with Nigeria in the implementation of the Conomic Community of West African States, ECOWAS, Trade Liberalisation Scheme, ETLS, Protocols.
He was said to have given a matching order to the NIS and Border Patrol personnel to team up with the Nigerian Customs Service, NCS, and other security agencies personnel, to tighten up security at the land border areas. He was said to have emphasized the need ‘’ for better Cooperation with Benin Republic and Niger, the two neighbouring West African countries and Cameroon to tackle illegal entry and Criminal activities’’ in thee country.
According to him, the 18-month border closure had made the three neghbouring countries to Nigeria which were hard hit by the border closure to understand ‘’the political will of the Katsina state born Nigerian President’’ to bark and bite. Recall that prior to the border closure, for instance, the Cuba route , which is behind the First Bank and other banks at the Seme /Krake Joint border , was only patrolled by the NIS , personnel, which opened the gate way for illegal immigrants to troop into the country.
The Cupa Border route may not have been efficiently and effectively manned by the NIS personnel, which may have informed why Chedi Wada, a Deputy Comptroller and the then acting Comptroller of Seme Command, had embarked on the embarkation of the of the waterside behind the Customs premises and the fencing of the Cupa route to stop the illegal movement of immigrants into the country.
Mohammed Bello Jibo, who was deployed from Bauchi/Gombe Command , to the Seme Command, had inherited the security projects and continued from where his predecessor had stopped. Instead of only the NIS, policing the Cupa border route, he was said to have brought in all the other security agencies personnel at the border Community to participate in the policing of the Border route, with the Customs as the lead agency.
This may have informed why the Seme Command Customs Comptroller, and Heads of other security agencies, at the Joint border Community, took a decision to have their officers at the Cupa border route. Jibo, the Seme Command , Comptroller was said to drawn the roasters and allocated the number of officers each agency would deploy to the illegal border route and it is working out perfectly well going by the number of arrest that had been within the border closure.
. Informed sources told The Value News that the Seme Command has the highest number of personnel deployed to the Cupa the route , closely followed by NIS , while the Force, had the least number , only one officer.
Given the tightened up security at the Cupa route by Comptroller Jibo, ever since he assumed duties at the Seme Command, the usual movement of illegal immigrants into the country through the route has stopped. Investigations by The Magazine shows that given the large number of security personnel at the illegal border route had made it difficult for illegal immigrants, who may have considered it necessary to pass the illegal route to enter into the country without proper documentations or defined purpose of coming into the country by tipping oly the NIS , personnel, to do so were forced to do a rethink of bribing all the security agencies personnel, which runs into hundreds of thousands of naira. This may have informed why they have opted to pass through the official entry gate into the country.
Note that there are over 1,499, illegal border routes, both land and the Creeks, across the south west states of Lagos, Ogun, Oyo, Osun, Ekititi, and Benin, the north west states of Katsina, Jigawa, Sokoto, Kebbi, Zamfara, north east state, Adamawa and Cameroon, o, Borno , and Chad, Yobe and Niger as well as the north central states of Kwara, Kogi, Benue and Niger, home state of Ibrahim Babangida, retired Army Generals and former military President and AbdulSalami Abubakar, a former Head of State and Niger. Some of the border routes are also found between the Cross river state area of Ikom , Bakasi and Cameroon.
The NIS Comptroller General had alluded to the positive sides of the border closure , across the country, when he said that within the period, the NIS, Authorities had received reports that a lot of people who had entered the country illegaly had left ‘’the country through the unlawful path’’, to avoid playing into the hand of the security agencies personnel at the land border routes.
The NIS boss had said that those who had fallen into the waiting hands of the NIS and other security agencies personnel, at the unlawful routes, have been dragged to Court and prosecuted as a deterrence to other illegal immigrants who might want to enter into the country without proper ECOWAS, documentation. The Nigerian government had said that more than 1,400 illegal immigrants were arrested across the country in the Border Drills operation to secure the country’s maritime domain.
There are indications that the Border Drills Operation has since been transformed into Nigeria’s Joint Border Patrol Team , JBPT, , being part of the tripartite Operation involving the two West African countries, Benin and Niger. Prior to the border closure, with the neighbouring countries, to curb smuggling of foreign rice, Small and Light arms , into the country, Nigeria, going by Godwin Emefiele, led Central of Nigeria, CBN, records, was importing close to $4 billion worth of rice and maize annually due to the underdeveloped manufacturing industry.
The three countries, West African countries, were said to have reaffirmed their Commitment to enhancing economic integration following the ‘’tensions that arose from the border closure’’.