CONCERNS about Nigeria’s porous borders have turned into regular complaints and occasional triumphant announcements of supposed conquest of the challenges. Neither is acceptable in the contexts of the importance of secured borders to Nigeria’s interests.
In the midst of its most recent untidy recruitment of personnel, which cost its Comptroller-General her job, the Nigeria Immigration Service, NIS, has announced its discovery of about 1,487 illegal routes to Nigeria. The Service was either not counting well, or it does not know Nigerian borders. The truth lies in-between.
Probably worse than these is the tendency to accept that talking about these challenges takes care of them. It has long been established that Nigerian borders are porous so the Minister of Interior, Abba Moro, was saying nothing new, when he majestically so stated.
His claim that NIS was patrolling the borders did not admit that NIS did not have adequate facilities to effectively patrol the borders hence the Air Force was asked to take over air patrol since last August.
The maritime sides of the border are to be handled by the Navy. The NIS works with the Customs, police and other security agencies in policing the borders whose sheer breadth can challenge even the best security plans. Nigeria’s borders with Benin Republic (773km) and Chad (87km) are relatively short when compared with her borders with Niger (1,049km) and Cameroon (1, 690km).
No one agency can handle them. There was a time the NIS engaged in inter-service training with other security agencies aimed at co-ordinated patrol of the borders which are the routes for illegal arms, illegal immigrants, criminals and contrabands. The economic and security implications of poorly policed borders are lost on the authorities who pay lip service to effective coverage of the borders, while investing millions of Dollars in overseas security interventions.
Without internal co-ordination of border security management, Nigeria would keep lamenting the porosity of her borders. Inadequate co-ordination of security agencies and frequent farcical rivalry among them are bigger threats to managing the borders than the number of illegal routes.
Even with the best facilities in the world, illegal border activities persist in places like the United States of America, where sophisticated technology has merely reduced, not prevented breaches of its border, especially from Mexico, where engineering ingenuity has resulted in tunnels stretching kilometres into America to beat its border patrols.
The Ministry of Interior should work harder at deeper collaboration among the various border agencies. Information and resource sharing, as well as the standardisation of policy, are crucial to securing the borders. Cooperation with the security agencies of Nigeria’s neighbours is equally important.
These would be more productive than counting illegal border routes.