By Ya’u Mukhtar
Security threats in West Africa due to activities of illegal migrants, smugglers, drug/human traffickers and the recently jihadist movements have provoked serious concerns across the nations in the sub-region including Nigeria.
Cross border crimes represent illegal and notorious activities carried out by individuals and groups across national and international borders, either for financial, socio-political or religious considerations.
These include human trafficking, money laundering, drug trafficking, arms smuggling, also known as proliferation of Small Arms and Light Weapons (SALWs), as well as proliferation of Chemical, Biological, Radiological, Nuclear and Explosives (CBRNE), illegal oil bunkering, and illicit trafficking of mineral resources, business fraud, to mention but these notable few.
The North-Eastern part of Nigerian Border which has the highest concentration of border communities can be listed as the most backward due to most difficult terrain, lowest literacy, highest poverty, and unemployment rate.
The combination of these factors could explain why the region has the worst case of border-related crimes i.e. Boko-Haram Terrorists (BHT) activities. The allege proliferation of CBRNE by the ISIS who shares strong tie with Nigeria’s BHTs, there is possibility that BHTs may launch attacks in future using these dangerous weapons, thus raising concern for underscoring counter measure strategy as stated in the latest version of National Security Strategy 2019.
The document which was released by the Office of the National Security Adviser (ONSA), revealed that, currently there are about 857millions SALWs in circulation globally, of which 10millions are in Africa, while 1million are continuously flowing in Nigeria.
Nigeria’s porous border allows for the proliferation of light weapons which are argued to found their way into the country from the Maghreb following uprisings in Liberia, Sierra Leone, Cote d’Ivoire, Mali and Libya. The ECOWAS Protocol on free movement of persons, goods and services, has also created a space that criminals exploit to facilitate cross-border trafficking.
However, one of the major factors that advanced for this crime in Nigeria is poverty. In an environment where there is high poverty rate, illiteracy, poor governance, corruption, ethnic violence among others, drug trafficking and drug addiction will surely grow fast every day. The commonly trafficked drugs include heroin, cannabis, cocaine and synthetic drugs.
In North-eastern Nigeria, movement of people and arms across borders has created severe security problems in recent years. Large bands of gunmen, remnants of rebel wars in Niger and Chad in the last decade, have slipped into Nigeria where they have become bandits making major highways and many isolated towns and villages unsafe.
Similarly, Nationals of Guinea, Libya, Niger, Mali and Senegal were found to engaged in illegal businesses in parts of Central Nigeria, notably Plateau, Nassarawa and Niger states where illegal mining of solid minerals has gained much ground alongside illegal foreign currency exchange deals.
Cattle theft, land rights infringement by nomadic herdsmen from neighbouring countries and violent crimes such as armed robbery, kidnapping, car theft and smuggling are a daily occurrence around northeast border.
The Nigeria’s South-eastern border with Cameroon was also favored and being utilized by child traffickers over the years. They are mostly move by sea to their destinations including Gabon, Cameroon and Equatorial Guinea, where they are shipped to the European countries to work as prostitutes or slaves.
According to reports, some of these victims end up having some of their vital organs such as kidney being illegally harvested. Northern borders are also utilized in trafficking young women through North Africa to Europe, where they work as prostitutes as well.
Also, money laundering is the illegal process of concealing the origins of money obtained illicitly by passing it through a complex sequence of banking transfers or commercial transactions. It is a derivative crime which is driven by proceeds from other crimes such as drug trafficking, oil bunkering, advance fee fraud and cyber-crime.
Despite the presence of various security operatives around the Nigeria’s border area with checkpoints mounted by the Nigerian Customs, Immigration, National Drug and Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA) and the Police, still there are frequent reported incidences of smuggling of goods around these areas. Most of the border security agents in Nigeria and environ are highly corrupted, thus, have been severally accused of aiding criminals in exchange for juicy rewards.
To curb transnational organized crimes, border management which involves the collaborative government functions of immigration, customs, armed forces, and police, with the aim of controlling and regulating the flow of people and goods across a country’s border in the national interest (particularly economic development, security, and peace) is surely needed.
The failure of the Nigerian government to manage its borders affects domestic and international economic activities and also poses threat to national sovereignty and security of the nation. Nonetheless, the problem associated with poverty, illiteracy and corruption in the country should be the first place to begin with in addressing the problem of border crimes in Nigeria.