Border Security: A Quarantined Pandemic

Pandemic are epidemic occurring on a scale that crosses international boundaries and affects a large number of people. Influenza, Ebola and Corona fall into this category. Corona virus a highly alleged pathogenic viral infection caused by severe acute respiratory syndrome with fatality rate of almost a million and millions quarantined all over the world. The case in Africa was linked to passengers who disembarked from the airport and land borders of African territories with little or no health check from relevant authorities. It is a sad reality that the global economy was on locked down with a likely long decade of minus in development efforts and the negative indices still palpable. Billions of dollars which could have been used to address development and improve infrastructure have been rechanneled to address increasing health emergencies brought about by corona virus made worse by the neglect of border security. Cross border crimes in African sub region which started in the form of smuggling of goods as a means of livelihood has transformed into a criminal enterprise with sophisticated network involving illicit trafficking of persons, prostitution, proliferation of small arms and light weapons, recruitment of child soldiers, narcotic peddling, cattle rustling has exacerbated due to Border Insecurity.

The direct negative impact of cross border criminality is worse than that of COVID 19 Pandemic but the pandemic has been given global attention more than border security. Regional discourse on African development has never prioritized border security hence remnants of Chad and Libya rebels who have lost their cause have criminalized African borders to the points of challenging the legitimacy, sovereignty of surrounding countries. The continental body language that gives the impression that border security matters needs to be constantly in quarantine must stop in the spirit of maximizing the benefits of recently flagged off of African continental free trade area. Socio economic and political issue capable of addressing issues of poverty, unemployment and democratic governance has become imperative. There are always verifiable links between the levels of poverty and incidents of criminality.

In the last one year, the office of the Nigerian National Security Adviser has supervised a joint border security network not comprising the imperatives of inter agency collaboration. At least it is no more business as usual as steps are being taken to stem the influx of small arms light weapons, drugs and human trafficking, which are drivers of terrorism and other forms of border criminalities. Nigeria is presently improving in food sufficiency; agricultural product are getting a boost as the partial border closure has reduced rice smuggling sparking up job opportunities in the informal sector of the economy and guaranteeing of foreign exchange earnings.

As at 31st August, 2020 this joint effort has recorded an estimated monetary value of seizures worth Eleven billion, thirty million sixty two thousand nine hundred and fifty two naira fifty kobo, one thousand two hundred and forty three irregular immigrants arrested, millions of litters of premium motor spirit (Pms) and eight hundred and thirteen parks of tramadol drugs. confisticated. One of the lessons of Covid 19 is the need to share knowledge and information. Lack of information sharing can cause an avoidable human error turn into a global social and economic catastrophy. The need to focus on technological opportunities made available by new emerging technologies in fighting old, new and emerging forms of cross border crime has become an emergency. Countries with comparative advantage must stand up to save the borders.

Regional integration which is one of the key components of transformation agenda of African development bank should look into sensitization of legitimate businesses in sub Saharan African borders. High percentage of traders at the borders are women who employ more than one person in their activities and support the need of about six persons. Revenues from this trade are sources of social safety and provides basic needs which compliments the efforts of the regional government to curtail the menace of unemployment. Globally pandemic can be prevented through detection of early warning signals, building capacity to contain the pandemic in advance and coordinated global research and information sharing. If border security with its immediacy of threat capable of disrupting regional global development is given the global resilience given to Ebola and COVID 19. The world can be free of border pandemic. Time to put words into action is how.

by Igwe Martin, Co-ordinator Waansa Nigeria Media and Advocacy Centre