The decision of the Federal Government to open 30 new border posts mainly in the crisis-torn North-East region is a commendable step in the effort to tackle the growing insecurity in the country. With the increasing attacks of the insurgent Boko Haram sect from that part of the country, the involvement of non-Nigerians in its nefarious activities, and the ease with which the sect members move in and out of the country, this plan to reduce the movement of undocumented persons and arms into the country with more border posts, is welcome. It is even a step that is long overdue, so we expect the border posts to be made operational as quickly as possible.
There is no debating the fact that having an adequate number of properly manned border outposts will go a long way in keeping criminal elements out of the country. Therefore, increasing the number of these borders and improvement of their management should be a continuous activity. The 30 new posts should, expectedly, beef up the 83 existing ones and enhance the nation’s overall security.
Disclosing the government’s plan to the National Conference Committee on Immigration, last Wednesday, the Comptroller General of Nigeria Immigration Service (NIS), Mr. David Parradang, bemoaned the existence of over 1,400 illegal entry points into Nigeria. He rightly identified this problem as a contributory factor to the spate of insurgencies in the country.
Parradang also explained that the 22,300 staff strength of the NIS nationwide is inadequate for the agency to effectively discharge its responsibilities, especially in the face of mounting hostilities from the insurgents in the North-East geo-political zone. To be on top of the situation, Parradang said the NIS would need to recruit an average of 5,000 officers annually, for the next five years. He disclosed that there are currently only five legal control posts in the North-East region, and 80 illegal routes through which Boko Haram members find their way into the zone.
There is no doubt that the issues raised by Parradang are critical to the efforts to secure Nigeria’s borders, especially in the North-East, where Boko Haram is holding the country by the jugular.
The existence of many illegal entry points into the country is public knowledge. What is not widely known is, probably, what the government has been doing to reduce the porosity of the country.
The need to properly man our borders cannot be overemphasized. It is very important to secure these borders now to curb the influx of unwanted aliens in our midst. It has been reported that some of the Boko Haram recruits are nationals of countries having borders with Nigeria. The insurgents are also said to have bases in some of the neigbouring countries. This should worry our government and the agencies in charge of the nation’s security.
The war on terror cannot be won if we allow illegal borders to continue flourishing in the country. One way to improve border vigilance is to ensure adequacy of the outposts and the availability of well-trained personnel to man them. Unfortunately the para-military agency in charge of our borders is seriously handicapped. Its staff strength of 22,300 officers and men can hardly man the borders effectively. That there are also only five legal border posts in the entire North-East region, which is the major theatre of the Boko Haram insurgency, is a pointer to the magnitude of this problem. The attempt by the organisation to recruit more personnel earlier in the year ran into a hitch, as about 16 applicants perished during stampedes at test centres. The Federal Government has since set up a committee to determine a better way to go about the massive recruitment into the federal agency.
We urge that the recruitment exercise into the NIS be speeded up, not only to improve the policing of our borders, but also to provide employment to some of our teeming applicants. The Immigration Service and the committee should find error-free methods to recruit the needed 5000 officials every year, for the next five years.
Beyond the manpower requirements of the organisation, however, is the need for the use of appropriate electronic surveillance gadgets. It is not possible to cover every inch of our border areas with human beings. No country ever does that. The vastness and porosity of our borders call for the deployment of necessary technology for their monitoring and control.
The NIS personnel also need to change their mindset, especially with regard to illegal aliens in our midst. They need to understand and appreciate the need not to look the other way, while undocumented aliens flood the country.
Government should, in addition, erect perimeter fences and other strong barriers at parts of our borders that require them. There also ought to be aerial surveillance of borders points, especially those in the North-East region. Illegal and undocumented foreigners in Nigeria should also be deported immediately because of the hazard they pose to our security.