By Kolawole Lawal
Recently, in London, United Kingdom, H.E President Mohamadu Buhari reiterated that the Nigerian Land borders will remain closed until he receives and considers the final report (and recommendation) of a committee set up on the matter.
This is an unpleasant news for our constituents and our neighbouring countries who are equally feeling the pangs and strains of the continued closure. The closure is affecting not only our local economy, but it also has a negative impact on the economy of our neighbours as affirmed by President Nana Akufo-Addo of Ghana during a bilateral meeting with H.E President Muhamad Buhari on Monday 20th at the UK-Africa Investment Summit 2020. The Ghanaian President was reported to have appealed to our President to hasten up the process of re-opening the borders. Such is the magnitude of the impact of our border closure on other countries which surround us.
It is pertinent to mention that the real reason(s) for the continued closure of the land borders as proffered by President Buhari were a validation of some of the objectives I had in mind when I moved a motion on the floor of the House on the urgent need for the rehabilitation, refurbishment, reconstruction and supply of modern security equipment to the Idiroko international land border in Ogun State.
The end-goal of this will hopefully result in increased efficiency in border-related socio-economic, security and other related activities by the security Agencies, translating also to the promotion of effectiveness in securing our land borders. It will in tandem promote both internal and external securities of the nation. An analysis of the situation at the borders which warranted the closure shows a direct correlation between the reasons adduced for the closure by the President and the motion which I moved.
I premised the motion on the need for infrastructural rehabilitation, supply of modern equipment required for twenty-first century effective land border control & management and training of security personnel on best land border control practices. I also advocated for the need to retrain the security personnel on good inter-relationship based on dignity and mutual respect for human lives in the host communities. The motion also touched on, and appealed for the improvement on the welfare of the security personnel posted to the border community.
Suffice to remind ourselves (again), that the physical structure at the Idiroko land border was constructed in the early 60s and has been a victim of sheer (if not) total neglect, deprivation and little or no maintenance by the government in spite of its socio-economic, political and security importance to the people, the government and the entire West Africa sub-region.
Needless to remind ourselves of the extreme hardship that the closure has brought upon our people and to other SMEs and established international businesses domiciled in our constituency. Free movement of people and goods within the constituency have been significantly hampered while Cross-border businesses have also suffered huge economic loss. Ironically, the Federal Government is also feeling the impact through a drop in revenue generation from import taxes and duties payable on goods coming through the land borders. Ironically, the closure has adversely, compounded the work of the security personnel who are tasked with border control in many ways than one; pitching the personnel against constituents, which in most instances degenerate into skirmishes with resultant but needless loss of lives.
It is glaring that the inefficiency of border control are due largely to obsolete security monitoring equipment, unreliable means & dysfunctional modes of intelligence gathering by security personnel and the need to continuously retrain our security personnel at the border posts. These lead to porous borders with attendant consequences such as the influx of cheap hard drugs which are destroying our youths before our own eyes, and the compromised internal security due to unbridled influx of small arms as affirmed by our President are all fallouts from ineffective border control. Essentially, these are only part of the larger and dire long-term consequences which may result.
While some people – especially farmers outside the border communities – may want to hail the border closure due to its positive impact on their businesses, I would argue that it is not the same for farmers in our constituency. Farmers in our constituency are suffering untold hardship because of the difficulty to differentiate between crops and dairy products from our constituency from those from across the border by the security personnel posted to our area.
If actioned to the letter, the motion will precipitate the supply of tracking devices, monitoring equipment strategically placed at necessary places for adequate monitoring. This will perhaps reduce the number of physically manned check-points which have now proven to be counter-productive. Training of security personnel will equally enhance productivity and improve revenue generation.
Each time I drive around in my constituency, I share the suffering of our people. I see their grief and perceive their unhappiness. Subsistent farmers can no longer freely transport their products to the market without being harassed by the security personnel. Our traders and artisans are no longer free to carry out their businesses without being harassed. The average entrepreneurs can no longer carry out their legitimate businesses smoothly. Commodities like cement, biscuits, soft and other drinks could no longer go beyond Ajilete! Pedestrians are harassed incessantly. Cyclists, bikers and commuters are not spared either.
I feel your pain each time I see the check-points and the unnecessary queue. I never cease to belief and ponder that there must be some other better and effective ways for the security personnel to carry out their statutory duties without putting the people through hardship. I am inundated daily by reports of harassment of our people. It is beginning to look and feel like a siege rather than the precautionary security operation that it is.
It is for these reasons that I am determined not to relent in the follow-up on the adopted motion on Idiroko Border. I have put strategies in place to interact with concerned government Departments and Agencies as well as the leadership of the border control security Agencies for improvement in the scheme of things. I will not relent!
I will like to enjoin my people to be patient pending the time the Federal Government will receive the awaited report and fine-tune the process which will (hopefully) guarantee us free movement of human and goods to give back to us our lives and livelihood.
*Rep. Kolawole Lawal, is MHR representing Yewa South/Ipokia Federal Constituency, Ogun State, Nigeria.