Special Reports

Editorial: Refocusing trans-border security politics in Western Nigeria

Ogun State Governor Dapo Abiodun commissioned the Nigerian Immigration Service Forward Operating Base at Oja Odan over the weekend.

Oja Odan is a town in Yewa North Local Council bordering the Republic of Benin, and located 565 kilometers away from Nigeria’s Abuja capital city. The agrarian community is part of the international corridor that has served legitimate and informal activities between Nigeria and Benin Republic for centuries.

Nigerian government has shut down the land borders nationwide but the Nigeria-Niger border accessible through frontiers in Katsina State is believed to have been exempted.  The Western Command has been worst hit. Stretching from Seme and Idiroko in Lagos and Ogun States, it spans across diverse communities home to an estimated ten (10) million people on the Nigerian side, terminating at points in Kwara State.

Our preliminary assessment estimates 100 Billion Naira worth of farm produce have been lost by immediate impacted communities across the Western Command, arising from sudden border closure, bad roads, lack of media attention, and inadequate storage facilities and poorly governed spaces. These are poor and subsistence communities whose means of livelihood is agriculture and petty trading.

Policy intelligence assessment suggests loss to Ogun State domestic economy could be within the region of One Trillion Naira mark by the end of next month. Internally Generated Revenue for the State has been in successive decline throughout 2019, and could reach the 50% mark at the end of this month. Similar trend has been indicated for Lagos and Oyo States.

NCS has disclosed borders will not be reopened until Republic of Benin and Togo learn to respect Nigerian laws; fuelling concerns over intentions, indefinite occupation of key Southwest cities, and unacceptable collateral damage. Our editorial position is that Nigerian Government should not find it convenient to punish Nigerian people for the infractions of foreign Nations who have chosen to be uncooperative and that would reflect poor value being placed on citizens.

According to United States Department of Defense, a Forward Operating Base “is an airfield used to support tactical operations without establishing full support facilities”. Wikipedia further describes it as an “entry control point and secured forward operational level military base which is used to support strategic goals and tactical objectives”.

DCI Sunday James, Spokesman for Immigration Service explained the Forward Operating Base at Oja Odan is being established to fight trans-border crimes and strengthen border security in Ogun State. Our editorial position is that government should devise its plans and policies in a way that imposes the least inconvenience on centuries-long legitimate trade and cultural relations among families, businesses and people who simply share common international borders.

It is important we refocus narratives around trans-border security in other to achieve desired results. Smuggling is an ancient acceptable practice which depends on policy thrusts. While major cartels can be squashed, tackling involvements by natives require sensitization, policy incentives, alternative opportunities and local economy mainstreaming.

Governments at all levels have failed the people as evidenced by absence of infrastructure to support farming activities in many of these communities. Nigeria also made transshipment a necessary business survival strategy at a time Togo and Benin Republic explored comparative advantage in policy initiatives and port investments.

Smugglers engage local people at random as freight and route guides for foodstuff consignment within and around their communities. This follows the same pattern that has survived in these communities through centuries, and calls for no armed response. Our editorial position is that attention should be focused on intelligence intercepting organized cartel rings, off-taker depots, distribution channels, armed banditry and trade negotiations rather than harassing poor local communities.

Connecting the dots further between the Army Barracks at Owode along Idiroko Road in Yewa South LGA, the NIS FOB in Yewa North LGA, and the stringent enforcement of border closure despite existing ECOWAS protocols, it is apparent South West State Governments have not been forthright about the reasons and oversight of increased security operations and logistics.

As a responsible Media Group, we are calling on the Federal and State Governments, as well as the DAWN (Development Agenda for Western Nigeria) Commission to emphasize the need for holistic approach towards the sustainability of border communities. This will engender regional integration, investments, local capacity promotion, trans-border security management and a truly secured territory. The politics of trans-border security ought to be driven in a way that assures safety, innovations and support for our people, the Nigerian people.