By; USMAN D SHEHU
The quest to secure Nigeria’s borders against smugglers, terrorism, banditry and other illicit activities received a boost over three years ago with the inauguration of the Border Drill patrol by the Nigeria Customs Service through the office of the National Security Adviser to the President of the Federation.
This event of August 20, 2019, is prioritized to boost local food production in the country. Not only that, it is to also encourage indigenous manufacturers and to fast track governmental policies on economic diversification of this present administration.
Proactively, the Federal government took the bull by the horns despite the general outcry that the country was not ripe for such policy, border closure and border drill brought strict sanity into our then porous borders.
Our concentration here is on the North West, Sector 4 of the Operation Border Drill. The trans-border security and economic challenges faced by the North Wast zone of the country.
These challenges are enormous, activities of these unpatriotic individuals snowballed into arm banditry, smuggling, Illegal migration, illicit drug trafficking and proliferation of light weapons among others.
Unarguably, these ugly trend had led to increasing insecurity and economic downturn for Nigerians over the years.
Despite the Economic Community of West African States ECOWAS protocol, experiences have so far shown that our neighbours have failed complying with this protocols.
Nigeria had on the altar of trade facilitation among nations exposed her citizens and it’s economy to sabotage, illicit drugs, arms and ammunition are allowed easy passage or goods that should have paid 35 per cent duty rate allowed at 5 per cent, the nation had lost huge revenue and is confronted with all sorts of security challenges.
From statistics available, seizures dropped since the commencement of the Partial Border closure. This was attainable because the increase in manpower and working tools from the participating agencies made it possible for rigorous patrol of all nooks and crannies of the porous borders.
This sent fear down the spines of smugglers with some of them re-routing their cargoes to seaports raising revenue from such commands.
The successes recorded so far in the area of security, taming the Boko Haram, Banditry, kidnapping were due to strengthening the Border Drill. The Sector 4, Jigawa State, where we have, Babura border and some others of this operation came to relevance as it wholly deal with the zone where the terrorism, oil smuggling have much stamina in the country.
It is important to note that about 90 per cent of illicit drugs and weapons that are being used for acts of terrorism and kidnapping in Nigeria today came in through borders in the Sector 4.
Of recent, the oil and gas smuggling, have drastically reduced. An incident at Babura border, where smugglers transport these products have been checked. In a country like Nigeria, we all agree that it is hard to fully stop activities of these unpatriotic elements but the with the seal and determination of the personnel attached to Babura community, things are taking normal shape.
No doubt, Sector 4 of the Border Drill Patrol team have lived up to the responsibilities of the scheme. Mr Hameed Ali, the Comptroller General, Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) who in one of his visit to the North Wast eulogized officers of the team said the ongoing Operation Border Drill is secure Nigeria’s borders was as important as the fight against Boko Haram and other insecurity challenges.
Ali said; “We are here to see the condition of your health and operation. We’re also here to convey the message of President Muhammad Buhari to you.
“The President directed us to come and see your condition of health and operation. He asked us to come and express his gratitude and commendation for your dedication and commitment to your fatherland and your resolute stand to ensure the security of Nigeria.
“The President wants to bring to your notice that your coming to these border communities is as important as those fighting Boko Haram,” Ali said.
He tasked the operatives to ensure national security, the wellbeing of Nigerians and stem human trafficking.
Ali continued; “What is bedeviling Nigeria now is insecurity which is as a result of proliferation of arms used by criminals to terrorize our people, and without those arms they cannot do any harm to us.
“Secondly, it is to ensure the wellbeing of our people by stopping contraband food into the country. This is because contraband foods such as frozen chickens and rice are harmful to our health.” The Comptroller said.
The Customs boss added that another reason for the operation was to check the influx of unknown people into the country.
“Most importantly it checks human trafficking and influx of unknown people into our country. Most actors in the insecurity that bedevils our country are not Nigerians and because our borders are porous they come in, perpetrate their heinous acts and disappear.
“So the idea is to ensure everyone coming in or going out of the country follow the laid down procedures,” the customs boss said.
Ali called on officers of the Sector 4 to sustain the successes recorded so far in this operation adding that “security is like a puzzle, if you miss a link then you’re in a dilemma.”
The Sectors 4, especially in Jigawa State already made some positive impacts in their operations with high degree of professionalism. The cordial relationship with the members of the host communities is a huge attainment.
As we all know, host communities must be given clear respond for conducting these operations and to live peacefully with them.
The present administration, through ONSA took a definitive step to put Nigeria on the path to food sufficiency, stem the flow of illicit, arms into the country and improve national security through the exercise.
The joint border security exercise, has no doubt saved the country huge resources and enhanced national security.
The exercises of the Sector 4 have also boosted production of agricultural products, especially local rice, tomatoes, maize, poultry e.t.c and this has stimulated the growth of the agricultural sector.
Today, Nigeria is fast attaining self-sufficiency in rice production, as the border drill has drastically reduced rice smuggling into the country and catalyzed rice production by farmers across the country, while millions of direct and indirect jobs have been created.
Huge amount in foreign exchange, that previously went into rice importation saved. The rice farmers in the country are now venturing beyond rice cultivation to milling, packaging and marketing.
In all of these achievements, Sector 4 of the Border Drill patrol are faced with lots of challenges bedeviling the operation of the Sector.
Sponsored allegations by saboteurs, mostly from the border communities and even an insider war, ploy to paint a picture of incompetence among the officers of the Sector.
Of recent, a police officer attached this operation was killed by bandits, even as sad as this news was, no media outfit reported the news, but in the other way round, reports of activities of these officers will filter all the news platforms in an efforts to bring down the good work of the Seetor 4 patrol team.
Sponsored media war, blackmail and propaganda are doctored with a call to scrap the functions of the Border Drill patrol. One of the most recent was the gas explosion at Babura community where some drivers were seen smuggling gas cylinders and when asked to stop for check, one of the drivers took off and in the process, eye witness said a gas cylinder fell off as a result of over speeding, the driver at that spot jump off the vehicle, the vehicle lost control and ram into shops, houses along the road and exploded.
This sad news was falsified to destroy the functions of the Sector 4 patrol team at Babura border. Even to an extend that investigation revealed that a senior customs officer from one of these host communities is responsible for the bad reportage and mainly sabotaging the good work of the personnel.
If the Federal government should look the way of these unpatriotic elements in the society, the attainment and successes recorded would be defeated on the platter of blackmail.
Border Drill patrol, Sector 4 are saddled with the responsibilities of the founding fathers of this operation, they are professionals and carrying out their functions with full sense of patriotism to their fatherland. Some personnel who joined few months back already belnd with the system and formation.
The level of professionalism is next to none. The Federal government should understand that the failure of Border Drill patrol is the success of smugglers, the drug traffickers and terrorists.
We should look beyond the outcry of these scrupulous elements in the society to bring down functions of the Border Drill operations.
We have the responsibilities to get Nigeria out of the hands of these unpatriotic individuals who are belt at going any length to shatter the successes by the Nigeria Customs Services with the operatives of the Border Drill.
Some engaged negative media campaigns against the operatives while others are left with no other options than to blackmail the officers of the Patrol with falsehood.
Conclusively, for the purposes of this laudable initiative of the office of the National Security Adviser to the President and the Comptroller General of Customs, are that, what the Joint Border Patrol team, Sector 4 and other Sectors have been able to achieve are glaring, even a lay man can differentiate what the nation was made through before the Border Drill operations and what we have presently, Government should not relent nor deterred in their determination to rid Nigeria borders off these saboteurs and give the nation, a more prolific services where all and sundry will continue to live peacefully while the sanity and safety of the nation’s borders remain intact.
Usman D Shehu, is of the Department of Communication Bayero University Kano.