Insecurity: Time to create national border institute

IT was a scary sight a couple of weeks ago. All the major newspapers in the country, at least the cover of the mainstream ones in Nigeria either above or below their main plates, all featured scary tales of Insecurity. The next day, one tabloid carried another disturbing dimension of the raging insecurity plaguing the entire country with headlines such as ”two killed in attack on Enugu police station, and “bandits kill one, abduct Kaduna private university students” as its rider.  As always, after reading all these sad and disturbing stories emanating from our beloved nation, we just say, “I think it’s high time the government buckled down and found a solution”. Then we go to sleep and wake up the next day only to be hit like a ‘thunderbolt’ by another security challenge. When will this stop? Part of our institutional lapses is that we don’t look inward to find permanent and actionable solutions that will put an end to our challenges. We lack the discipline of getting things done! But a silver bullet surfaced recently at the public hearing of a Bill For An Act To Establish The National Institute For Border Studies, Imeko, Ogun State, on the 26th of April, 2021. The public hearing, a staple of the National Assembly, is an open gathering of officials and citizens in which citizens are permitted to offer comments, give their opinions, provide and receive information as well as expand and speak to their written submissions.  The National Institute For Border Studies Bill is sponsored by Sen. Tolu Odebiyi, the Senator representing Ogun West Senatorial District of Ogun State.

A former Minister of Interior and current Senator representing Benue South, Sen. Abba Moro had said that, “Our borders constitute a very vital part of our modern society. Most of the problems we have today emerged from border misunderstandings. We have over 3,000 entry points into this country and most of them are not mounted by security agencies. This Bill seeking to establish this Institute is coming at a time when we are facing serious security challenges in this country especially the border challenges.” Observers believe that it is an indisputable fact that Nigeria needs a modern approach to manning our borders. The Bill, according to Sen. Odebiyi, is for the good of Nigerians as the people are yearning for border security and control. With the worsening security situation of our country the National border Institute remains the best option to come to the rescue.

The way our border is at the moment poses a security risk. The debilitating impact of the porosity of Nigerian borders has made it possible for an unwarranted influx of migrants from neighbouring states to enter the country illegally from such countries as Republic of Niger, Chad and Republic of Benin. The security lacuna this has caused is even more gapping, as the country has witnessed a massive ingress of illegal arms influx, and the proliferation of small and light weapons in enormous proportions. While these has posed immense security problems for us as a republic, and while the relevant security outfits set up to check these anomalies are doing their best, there is a conspicuous need to have a formal Institution set up to solely build the capacity of security personnels, and even young citizens on global best practices in handling cross border issues, migration and even the management of Internally Displaced Persons across our borderlines.

With over 2000 borders and entry points and the country’s total land borders measuring a phenomenal  4,477 km long. (With the border with Benin being 809 km long and the one with Niger -1,608 km long). The country needs to do better with the way it positions itself in terms of human capital and indeed the infrastructural ways of managing its borderlines. According to the Oxford Academic Journal of African Economies – as at 2011, the value of unofficial cross-border flows from Benin to Nigeria alone was about five times higher than the official ones recorded in the Nigeria Customs data. This was traced to so many factors, including the porosity of the country’s management and the ill management of cross-border trades. Globally, countries of the world have taken a leap in institutionalizing the management of their borders by creating educational institutes to cater for the teaching and research management of their borders and entry points. Working with their established security outfits and border control agencies, these international institutes have helped their home countries in improving the security architecture of the country and of course managing the influx of people and goods.

A worthy example is The Cross Border Institute at the University of Windsor, Canada, created with a vision to institutionalized highly efficient, safe borders that honour national policies and enforce national laws while posing minimal disruption to legitimate cross-border activities. Another worthy Institution that has done absolutely well in the area of Border management is the University of San-Diego-Trans Border Institute. The Border Policy Research Institute in Washington also provides a very germane reference point in the way countries of the world have focused on resolving their Border issues. We also have Institutes with the same mandate in India, China and more recently in South-Africa. Public policy experts, professors, opinion leaders and royal fathers at the public hearing noted that, with the current security situation we are experiencing as a people, and with a huge percentage of it, tied to issues around the control of arms and even the influx of illegal persons into the country, there is no better time to have this Institute than now, when fears are rife about the annexure of the country’s unmanned territories and the country is at an obvious disadvantage in the case of an external aggression or even war! It was therefore a right step in the right direction by Sen. Odebiyi to sponsor the Bill to establish the National Institute For Border Studies.

  • Omo’ogun writes from Abuja.

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