BY ABUSATAR HAMED
IGBOKOFI, a border community in the Yewa North Local Government Area of Ogun State, has been provided with a territorial borehole to protect its residents from the persistent harassment they once experienced from the Benin Republic police.
On June 17, 2023, the Nigerian government commissioned the borehole, located along the disputed boundary between Nigeria and Benin Republic, as a marker to claim ownership of the encroaching area and to deter further incursions by the Beninese police.
Pastor Kunle Garb, a Nigerian field missionary, explained that he had pressed the National Boundary Commission to assist the people of Igbokofi by siting the borehole.
The borehole not only serves as a source of clean water, but also acts as a physical marker to ward off Benin Republic from encroaching into Nigerian territory.
During the construction process, Pastor Garb received three different delegations from Benin Republic, all demanding that he persuade the Nigerian government to halt the borehole project.
However, Garb made it clear that he had no control over the government’s decision and asked the Beninese representatives to provide evidence if they believed the settlement belonged to their country, but they could not provide any.
The approval for the project began last year when the Benin Republic government attempted to grade one of the roads linking them with Nigeria called Asaga.
Pastor Garb alerted the state and federal government, leading to the deployment of the Nigeria Immigration Service’s Rapid Response Squad to Igbokofi and its environs to secure the area.
The presence of the Nigeria Immigration Service has effectively deterred encroachments from the Beninese police, ensuring the safety of the villagers.
Garb expressed confidence that if this continues, the Beninese police will eventually have no choice but to completely withdraw from the region.
The borehole, completed on June 3, 2023, now serves as a significant marker preventing further encroachment.
Prior to its installation, the people of Igbokofi had to travel approximately 15 kilometers to access piped water.
Pastor Garb also hopes that the government will take additional measures, such as erecting border fences, to prevent Benin Republic from achieving its long-standing ambition of taking over the entire community.
The efforts of the Ogun State government, particularly through the office of the Deputy Governor, Engr. (Mrs.) Niomot Salako, in agreeing with the National Boundary Commission to situate the borehole project, deserve commendation.
It is also worth mentioning that the Onjoun of Ijounland, Oba Gabriel Ogunji, who has Igbokofi under his jurisdiction, provided unwavering support during Pastor Garb’s ordeal with the Benin government.
Recall, Pastor Garb’s valiant act of resistance against encroachment led to his arrest by Beninese Gendarmes on June 24, 2021.
It was gathered that while awaiting trial in a Beninese jail, Pastor Garb studied the country’s judicial system and chose to represent himself in court, despite offers of assistance by the Ogun State Government and the Nigerian Embassy in Benin Republic. Ultimately, he won the case and regained his freedom on July 14, 2021.
His bravery prompted the National Boundary Commission and the Office of the Surveyor-General of Nigeria to review Benin Republic’s activities in Igbokofi.
As part of Nigeria’s 61st Independence Day celebrations, former President Muhammadu Buhari presented Pastor Garb with a Special Award for patriotism and bravery.