The recent partial closure of all manned land borders across Nigeria in a joint Nigeria Customs, immigration, the armed forces and Police operation, code-named “Exercise Swift Response”, coordinated by the Office of the National Security Adviser (ONSA) is to checkmate the smuggling into Nigeria of illegal arms and ammunition, unwholesome drugs, food stuffs and the cross-border movement of undocumented/illegal aliens.
Since its commencement, the physical closure of the international land boundaries has accentuated the dislocation of businesses, lives and movements of persons across borders from the communities around especially in the approximately seventy-regulated/manned borders.
This time round, the closure, just like those done during the administration of President Olusegun Obasanjo, despite involving all the security agencies in Nigeria, no doubt, has brought untold hardship on importers, traders, travelers as thousands were stranded right from the first day of the closure of the borders. The exercise affected clearing agents as they could not near the borders to transact business especially the members of the Association of Nigerian licensed Customs Agents (ANLCA) operating in those border commands, and the contiguous communities.
Also, all the neighboring countries’ communities interacting within these borders have also taken a hit as Exercise Swift Response, sets sail in four zones; incorporating at least 25 states across the country.
But as much as the exercise is desirable, to check the activities of smugglers and its damaging effects on Nigeria’s economy and well-being of the population, stakeholders have called for an urgent need to review of the strategy of physically shutting the nation’s borders, even though, this time round it is just a partial closure , which is between 6am and 6pm.
The fact that smuggling of unwholesome drugs into Nigeria has continuously endangered the lives of young populace, while the infiltration of small arms and ammunition has aided terrorism, escalated communal clashes, emboldened perpetrators of banditry, armed robbery, kidnappings and acts of crime and criminalities, there is need to strengthen the strategies to achieve better results.
Indeed, the effects of all of these acts on Nigeria’s economy and its population cannot be overemphasised in specific terms.
However in order for the nation’s security administration to tackle smuggling, security challenges, secure borders effectively to guarantee socio-economic sustainable growth, some observers believe there is an urgent need to review current strategies and tactics, by encouraging a mix of modern technologies, deployed to check acts of crime and criminalities across the length and breadth of Nigeria.
Speaking on how the modern technology should be deployed, the National Publicity Secretary of ANLCA, Adumaza Joe Sanni , said Nigeria does not need to literally shut its borders but should rather deploy CCTV cameras and drones to monitor smuggling/criminal activities, engage borders communities and continuously gather data for analysis in effectively designing processes that would ultimately help it to curb smuggling activities. He said that there is also the need for the gathering of data on activities across the nation’s borders, in order to drastically change the narratives.
Sanni, argued that with daily data collection, collated and analysed over a period of time and seasons, new systems would be evolved to incrementally reduce smuggling to its barest minimum, stressing that as that is ongoing, government would need to install CCTV cameras at least, “at our approved borders, posts and stations, to monitor the movements of goods and persons across these borders.”
He explained: “These robust, tropical cameras will be powered 24/7 by solar, and monitored via a control room manned by shifting, well trained officers, who are expected to raise alarm on noticing anything funny. With the study/surveying of the estimated one thousand two hundred illegal/unmanned routes, it will be expedient to introduce the use of drones to gather movements of persons and, possibly goods information, through these detected illegal routes.
“A regular engagement of the communities around these manned and unmanned border areas, in a regulated stakeholders’ meeting is desirable, with a view to partnering with them in the campaign against smuggling and smugglers, even though this might be a bit dicey, because communities’ leaders are usually complicit in the scheme.
“This kind of engagement should also be used to send a subtle threat to the community leaders that any smuggler caught, and reveals the duration and base of their activities, traced to the communities, and leaders/heads of such communities will be held as accomplices, he explained.
According to him, the onus lies on all communities’ leaders to help in policing and checking of smuggling activities in and around their communities. At the same time, he said the office of ONSA may consider a corps of informants, planted in all manned and unmanned routes’ communities to give information on smuggling related activities or threats-to-security on a regular basis, while such documented/appointed informants operating undercover, and are also monitored daily through their devices or some other form of tracking devices, would be made accountable for their actions or inactions.
Over and above all, he noted, “without the conviction that all Nigerians collectively face the same security challenges at different times, and authorities require all the political will to carry through some, or all of the propositions made here, we will all have to wake up again and again, to the gnashing of teeth, lamentations ad infinitum, loss of jobs and opportunities, etc all over again.”
“Some ways to go is the PPP approach. That is, a well-structured process to ensure that the maximum security of citizens of Nigeria, guarantee economic growth and totally keep away unwholesome drugs that are used to negatively influence majority of the unemployed population into acts of crime and criminalities.”
Said he: “The massive unemployment rate (at almost 23 per cent as at the last count) is a veritable basis or a bigger market for desperate smugglers, politically discontented individuals and groups, arming drugged youths to engage in kidnappings, banditry and other criminalities, while the sponsors make loads of money, while staying away from the theatre of conflicts in Nigeria. We as Nigerians must also rise up in patriotic fervor to assist the law enforcement agencies, by volunteering information on suspicious persons, movements and developing criminalities within our communities.”
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