Nigeria could effectively nip its security challenges in the bud if all security agencies, including the Immigration Service, the Custom Service and the Police Force could work together to effectively police the borders of the country.
This was one of the submissions of Dr. Willie Eselebor who spoke at the November monthly Lecture Series organised by the Nigerian Army Resource Centre (NARC) on Thursday.
Dr. Eselebor in his lecture titled “Cross-Border Threats and the Challenges to Security Architecture in Nigeria” stated that for Nigeria to tackle the myriads of internal threats to lives and properties of its citizens, then, it must take a deep look at the indices that continue to fuel conflicts from a West African regional perspective.
In his opinion, Nigeria continues to bear the brunt of insecurities arising from neighbouring countries. “Nigeria is surrounded by weak states with high poverty prevalence, high unemployment rate and influx of refugees from warring countries,” he said, noting that these indices combined with the free movement protocol of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) could only mean that foreigners would always want to come to Nigeria. According to him, the borderless ECOWAS initiative which allows free movement of persons across the West African region has thus been hijacked by criminal elements who exploit such opportunity to cause havoc.
While reiterating that effective border management is key to effective implementation of counter- terrorism measures, and that borders should be distinctively mapped out, the guest speaker frowned at the porosity of Nigeria’s borders.
“Unfortunately, Nigeria’s borders are porous, unmarked, not well coordinated and difficult to secure. As a result of this, the country suffers greatly, causing proliferation of arms and light weapons, imported contraband items, insurgency, influx of refugees, displaced persons, human trafficking, and lots more,” he lamented.
He noted that Nigeria maintains 4047 km of land border which being largely unprotected are dangerous. He further said that the land borders shared with Niger, Chad, Cameroon, Benin and the Gulf of Guinea are largely not demarcated.
He also identified unmarked territorial borders, conflicting roles of security personnel, as well as poor funding as some of the major factors that have continued to jeopardize the efforts made so far by the Nigerian government to safeguard the country’s land borders.
“The constitutional responsibility of the Nigerian Army is to protect the territorial integrity [of Nigeria]. However, other actors such as the Nigerian Immigration Service, the Nigeria Custom Service and the Nigeria Police Force must work together to curb proliferation of arms, insurgency and banditry among many other security threats facing the country,” he said.
“We should begin to define who are our friends. Most cases of cross border banditry, herders/ farmers conflict emanated from border countries. We must begin to redirect our focus and look at the issues critically.”
He submitted that for Nigeria to have a safe land border, a structured and well mapped out framework must be established. In addition, an agenda must be set for border management, in addition to functional technology as well as trained personnel who must be on ground.
“Nigeria is seen as a haven for criminal elements. Proliferation of small arms and light weapons, child labour and sex trade are rampant in the Southwest; armed banditry, insurgency and cattle rustling in the North, with oil theft in the East.”
Dr. Eselebor suggested that contacts should be initiated with international communities and bodies to curb incessant threats currently posing harm to the country’s territorial space.
“We need to identify our national interest. The red lines must be clearly marked out. There should be continuous synergy between the military and paramilitary agencies.”
In his closing remarks, the Director General of the Nigerian Army Resource Centre, Major General Garba Wahab (rtd) added that for there to be a phenomenal change, the mentality of an average Nigerian must change; and if not, there would be no amount of infrastructure and manpower put in place that would solve the present security threats.
The next edition of the Lecture series has been slated for 16th December 2021.