2019: Why BRIT Held Border Management Conference In Nigeria

By Stephen Ubanna

More facts have emerged why Border Regions In Transition, BRIT, slated Nigeria and Republic of Benin, two neighboring countries in the West African sub-region for  its sixteenth annual  Conference  to take   a critical look  at issues relating to Border Management across the world. This is because of the  2019  general elections in Nigeria and the need to ensure the  elections are free and Fair by controlling cross border movements.

It is the first time the Conference would be held in Africa because of the importance attached to the Nigeria elections  which is to produce another  Democratically elected President in the country, an indication that the country may be transiting from one Democratically elected government to another.

Perhaps, to ensure  a Free and Fair elections and as a country in Democratic transition, BRIT believes that  organizing the Conference in the two West African countries  will help to extend the frontiers of knowledge and assist the countries’ policy makers in formulating and implementing policy decisions on Border Management”.

Buhari  may have thrown his weight   behind the BRIT-organized  ”North-South Dialogue On Border Management”  in Nigeria, because of his promise to the International Community  to organize a Free and Fair elections in the country. The president  may have seen the Border Management Conference as an opportunity to expose the Nigeria Police Force, NPF, Nigeria Immigration Service, NIS and The Nigeria Customs Service  , NCS, officials to  the push and pull factors for both regular and irregular migration from the South  to the North in the modern world and the global, regional and national border control mechanisms that exits for  dealing with the problems and how adequate they could be.

Perhaps to ensure a  successful hosting of the 3-day  and  two days Border Management Conference in Nigeria and  Republic of Benin respectively, the BRIT officials were said to have maintained regular contacts with government officials from both countries to prepare the ground for it.

As a prelude to the the 3-day Conference, which kick-started at the University of Ibadan on Monday, September 15, 2018, Abdulrahman Dambazau, a retired  Army Lt. General and former Chief of Army Staff and who incidentally is the minister of Interior was said to have inaugurated a National planning  Committee . The Committee was said to have been headed by  Tajudeen Akanji, a Professor at the University of Ibadan to oversee the Conference .

The President was said to have  given matching order to ibrahim Idris, Inspector General of Police, IGP, Hameed Ali,  retired Colonel and, Nigeria Customs Service, NCS  and David Paradang, Comptroller General, Nigeria Immigration Service, NIS and other security agencies Chief Executives involved in Border control services to mobilize  their officials for the  Conference both in Nigeria and Benin republic.  Ali, the Customs Comptroller General was said to have appointed a Comptroller in one of the land Border posts to represent him at the Conference. A source disclosed that about 60  senior Customs officers , mostly from all the Border posts including the Customs Headquarters were at the Conference at University of Ibadan. The NPF and the NIS , were also said to have sent powerful representations to the BRIT  Border Management Conference at University of Ibadan.

Dambazau, confirmed  that this is the” first time  the  government is  making   efforts  to tackle the threats  and  challenges associated with trans-border crimes and criminality in the country”. He thanked BRIT officials for giving the government the opportunity to do so.  He described”the Conference as a dawn in Border Management in Nigeria.”

Prior to the Conference ,  Paradang, the  Comptroller General,  NIS, had disclosed that  here are over 1,400 illegal routes  used by immigrants to enter into the country. Paradang confirmed that there are only 84  approved land border stations, an indication that  the number of illegal routes is about 100 times more than  the approved routes.

The NIS  boss was said to have cited the case of Adamawa  which had   over 80 illegal routes in the state, through which immigrants, particularly from Cameroun, could enter into the  country freely without traveling documents.

The porous nature of the state may have influenced the deployment  of  Orisemire Kayode, a former Comptroller of Federal Operations Unit, FOU, Zone C, Owerri, Imo state, by  Ali, the Customs Comptroller General, to take over the Adamawa/Taraba customs Command.  Kayode who had also served as Comptroller of FOU, Zone D, Bauchi and Kaduna/Katsina Commands respectively  may have had the opportunity of visiting some of  the illegal Border routes in the north to know how to deploy his officers to police it to forestall smuggling of Contraband into the country.  His NIS counterpart was also said to be on ground to control movement of immigrants through the illegal routes into the country despite the limited Staff strength.It is not surprising why why Paradang, the NIS boss is pushing for an additional 30 Border posts in Adamawa/Taraba, alone, to  effectively contain immigrants .

The NIS boss was also  said to have cited Ogun  state where there are confirmed 83 routes, stressing that the development  has a grave  implications to the country, particular during elections . He revealed that in some of the Border Communities, ”there are people who have their bedrooms  in another country and their sitting room in Nigeria.” The Magazine cited one of such buildings at the Ilaro axis of Ogun state.

The  government may have a role to play to strengthen both the NIS and the NCS, to effectively do their job in the Border  areas of controlling cross border movements and anti-smuggling activities by lifting the ban on unemployment into NIS and NCS. The agencies, according to a security expert  should be allowed in the next  five years to recruit at least five thousand  officers  each to effectively carry out their duties at the  Border  areas in the north and the southern part of the country.

The Magazine findings shows that past elections in the country, had witnessed citizens of Republic of  Benin,Niger, Chad, and Cameroun parading themselves as Nigerians and coming to vote in Lagos, Ogun, Oyo and Ekiti states, in the south west, Sokoto, Kebbi and Zamfra states in the north west, Adamawa, Taraba, Borno and Yobe states, north east,  Cross River,  Akwa Ibom  and Rivers state in the south south south and Kwara state in the north Central geo-politcal region.

In most cast cases, they were said to have  entered the country through  the sea.  This is the situation in Cross River, Akwa Ibom and Rivers state. This is why President Buhari  must has to equip the NCS, the two Amphibious  Commands, Western and Eastern Marine Commands, with adequate  functional Crafts to be  able to patrol the nation’s waterways to control movement of immigrants.

Until Buhari  is ready to put down his foot to force the ministry of Finance to release Funds to the Ali led Customs Management  to procure the Crafts to support the   two Customs Amphibious Commands , the voting pattern  in the  states  in the north and the south with porous  borders may not be different from the situation in  past  elections in the country.

Many believe that he has to act fast as the leadership  of the Economic Community of West African States, ECOWAS, have  taken the bold initiative  to hand over the newly built  multi-million dollars ,world class  Border post at Seme, the Border Community between Nigeria and Republic of Benin.

Participants at the one week  BRIT Conference, which kick- started  in Nigeria on Monday September 15, 2018, and which is expected  to end on Friday, September 19, 2018, at Republic of Benin see it, as an eye opener to Customs , Immigration and other security agencies personnel  from Nigeria  Benin and other countries  in Africa on Border  Management  .

Customs and NIS officers who attended the BRIT Conference at University of Ibadan, confirmed that  the Resource persons  succeeded in appraising  the existing  policy frameworks, instruments, institutional arrangements and opportunities for managing  the border routes in other parts of the world showed how the new  methods used in these other countries to control Cross -border movements  could be applied in Nigeria , Republic of Benin and other  Africa countries in general. They confirmed that there was no dull moment at the Conference  as they were fully occupied to learn new methods involved in Border Management.

It is not surprising why NCS and NIS officials  had vowed  to tighten up security at the  country land Border posts, ahead of the 2019 general elections, to forestall  immigrants from coming into the country  to stay in order to participate in the elections.

Although, the first leg of the Border Management Conference will end in Nigeria on Wednesday, October 17, 2018,  Mohammed Uba Garba, the NCS Comptroller at Seme Command,  and his counterpart  at NIS, who were at the BRIT  Conference  were said to have started implementing some of the decisions  reached on the Border Management Conference at the  land Border.

A senior Customs officer confirmed that the Security situation  has been tightened up at the Border  as it is no longer business as usual for immigrants. The immigrants may have  been forced to cry out  for help, pleading with the Customs and NIS personnel to relax some of the stringent policies being implemented  at the land  Border as they could no longer enter the country with ease. Other Customs and NIS,  Comptrollers are expected to follow suit.

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