EXCLUSIVE: Why Nigeria’s Seme, Idiroko borders may remain closed for 28 days — Investigation

More facts have emerged on why the borders, most particularly Nigeria’s busiest borders, Seme and Idiroko were shut for activities on Wednesday. This is even as the joint security team has revealed that the restrictions around the borders nationwide could last for 28 days.

It would be recalled that following the announcement on Tuesday of the deployment of Nigerian Armed Forces and men of the Nigerian Customs Service (NCS), Nigerian Immigration Service (NIS), as well as the Nigeria Police Force (NPF) and other security and intelligence agencies at the nation’s borders, the arrival of the special team of security operatives on Wednesday disrupted normal activities at the borders nationwide.

Many agents and would-be immigrant were seen standing in groups and just watching as the joint security operatives took over proceedings at the Seme and Idiroko border posts. The inactivity affected cargo evacuation at the borders and also stopped people from crossing over to the Benin Republic for the most part of Wednesday.

However, as of Thursday, some forms of movements were noticed at the Seme border as diplomats and foreigners were seen lined up, waiting to be checked to cross to the Benin Republic.

Speaking to the Tribune Online exclusively, a car hire operator, Timothy Akpan, lamented that business has been dull since the joint security operatives of Army, Navy, Air Force, and others took over the Seme border.

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“Since the security officers arrived in almost 150 Hilux trucks fully armed, the border has been quiet. Many people have stayed away from here because of fear of being harassed or arrested.

“Aside from some diplomats and maybe foreigners, you won’t see anybody here. All the shops are locked, and we have been told the situation might remain for the next 28days,” Akpan told the Tribune Online exclusively.

When contacted, the Spokesman of the NCS who also doubles as the Spokesman of the Joint military exercise, Joseph Attah told Tribune Online that it is true the borders could remain as it is for the next 28 days.

In his words, “It is likely that the joint security team will remain at the borders for the next 28 days.

“However, as I have always repeated, the borders are not closed. People with legitimate businesses and reasons are moving across the borders. If people stayed away from the borders, then ask if they are into legitimate businesses.

“In the morning of Wednesday, we heard that people were not being allowed in and out of the borders, so we quickly called our people to correct that aspect of the joint military exercise.

“The exercise is not meant to debar people from moving freely in and out of the borders as long as they have legitimate reasons to be there. That was on the morning of Wednesday.

“So I don’t know where people are getting such information from. Maybe some people with ulterior motives suddenly became intimidated by the heavy security presence at the borders. We are not stopping movement in and out of the borders, as long as such movements are legitimate.”

It will be recalled that the Federal Government, on Tuesday, had announced the commencement of a joint border security exercise, codenamed “EX-SWIFT RESPONSE” at the nation’s borders.

The joint exercise is being coordinated by the Office of the National Security Adviser (ONSA) and will take place in 4 geopolitical zones, namely; South-South, South-West, North-Central and North-West.

It is expected that the exercise will promote interagency cooperation and increase preparedness to address trans-border security challenges such as terrorism, armed banditry, smuggling, the proliferation of small arms and light weapons, amongst others.

The exercise will also involve the movement of personnel, vehicles and equipment within the affected parts of the country.

The government had called on members of the public not to panic and should continue to engage in their normal duties. The overall objective is to ensure a peaceful and secure country in the interest of our National Security.

Sunday Tribune had reported exclusively that the Federal Government was embarking on plans to tighten land borders nationwide as part of moves to enhance national security, citizens safety and curb criminal activities

The move which is being coordinated by the Office of the National Security Adviser (ONSA), according to a source, is aimed at further forestalling activities of bandits, illegal migration, the influx of prohibited items and boosting the security of communities considered to be at the fringes of Nigeria and her neighbours.

The closure and movement restrictions, our reporter gathered will be executed jointly by all government security and intelligence outfits aimed at taming movements of persons with unclear intents

It was gathered that all hitherto unmanned areas along a large expanse of lands in border communities will be manned in such a manner deploying joint support, information sharing, coordination and back up, among the Services.

The Government had through Nigeria Immigration Service (NIS) asked foreigners with irregular documentation residing in the country to register within six months from July 2019.

Checks at the approved border routes are expected to increase for travellers ostensibly taking advantage of Economic Community of West African States ( ECOWAS) protocol on the free movement of persons and goods within West Africa.

“The government seems worried that neighbouring countries have allowed their areas to be access points into Nigeria for illegal migration by some suspected criminal elements and shipment of banned or prohibited items that undermine national security and economy.

“Insecurity in some parts of the country has affected agricultural activities and is capable of threatening food production as some farmers have fled their fields due to incessant attacks by suspected foreign bandits,” our source stated.

Various security agencies, our reporter gathered, have started the movement of operatives to ensure the borders are monitored with priority on the safety of law-abiding citizens

“States with land border stations across the country are likely to experience increased security presence involving the Army, Navy, Air Force, Police, Customs, Immigration, Civil Defence, Department of State Service (DSS), Nigeria Intelligence Agency and National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA) under the joint operation,” our source added.

Responding to inquiries on the issue, Spokesman for Nigeria Immigration Service (NIS), Mr Sunday James, disclosed that the Service is not aware of any plan for border closure.

He said the directive to get all foreigners resident in Nigeria registered under the e-registration is being complied with.

In his words, “every non-Nigerian living in the country is expected to come before an immigration officer to be registered in a move aimed at populating the service database for economic planning, security and statistical purposes.”