Nigeria is at a crucial point in its historic journey. Our peace and security is being threatened right on our land by terrorists. Peace and Security is a necessary ingredient for our success in our everyday lives. Following the bomb blast at Nyanya motor park in Abuja in the early hours of 14 April, 2014 which led to the deaths of hundreds of people and scores injured, economic activites were paralyzed for the day. And perhaps, the residents in that vicinity have not overcome the shock and are not in the mood to go to work. Of course, going to work is now scary. Many of the dead and injured were people going to there places of work.
This can’t go on. If our security is not significantly and visibly improved, it’s not far fetched to think that the nation might soon collapse into grievous anarchy. I believe our government should urgently start putting measures in place to reassure people in the short term and also start planning for the long run. We need to know ‘who’s who’ in this country. There are several un-identified people in our land. Apart from dubious characters who avoid census and other data collecting programmes, the bulk of these ‘fleshly ghosts’ come in through our sparsely policed borders.
Since these persons don’t appear in our official national statistics of persons living in our country, they are apparently not included in logistic planning and are inevitably left out. They are mostly unemployed, unskilled, and poor. Their prospect for living a good life is dim. They become perfect targets of recruiting terror groups. They are in large numbers, unknown and unaccounted for by formal, constitutional government, and they are in great despair. In summary, they are ‘fuel and fire’ for civil disturbances, violence and disease.
I think Kenya has learnt this lesson the hard way and is now taking radical steps to reverse the tide and protect its citizens and national interests.
I also think it is time for Nigeria to review it’s immigration procedures at our land borders, and to start a verification exercise across Nigeria. We absolutely cannot continue to allow unknown nomads to enter into our country. The government has to look for ways to man our borders. That would include staffing up Immigration Services and conducting specialized training for them. As far as I know, none of our immediate neighbours are facing a crisis that warrants fleeing refugees such that we could make excuse for not being able to manage the inflow and get their data on time. So I don’t see a reason why those coming in through our land borders should do so without checked papers in a time of peace. How much more when our country is distressed and we keep receiving news of how foreigners from neighbouring states are among the insurgents!
I also believe the ECOMOG can be instrumental in the area of border policing since the ECOWAS also has an interest in the free flow of people and goods across West Africa.
Verifying ‘who’s who’ should not be a problem. A national or state I.D card should do- a voters’ card, or the National I.D, or state’s Residential I.D.
These I.D cases are within the reach of every Nigerian citizen. Besides, those who have them show that they are ‘known’ by the government.
One may argue that this might prompt dubious aliens and persons to obtain this cards. It would be a shame that the institutions giving out these identification documents would allow crooks to beat them due to shoddy work. But if these institutions are conscientious in their duty, such people can be easily identified and dealt with. This is still a part of the verification process of making sure we know who our next door neighbours are. And it can be done under a minute or two at security check points on our roads.
I believe that none of these is difficult for us to do if we are intent on getting out of the alarming state we find ourselves in.
We need to contain the problem and eliminate it. I have seen movies that depict an epidemic outbreak and the government seals off the affected region, not allowing any form of movement of goods or persons, neither does it send in medical teams to assist the people. Clearly, that is irresponsible and it is not in any way similar to what I am putting forward. I am not asking that we seal off our neighbours from coming into our country. Nigeria has proven itself a responsible neighbour state in the past and will continue to do so by doing what it can to assist the nations around it. What I am advocating for here is an even more responsible approach to doing that for the good of the entire region. Allowing Nigeria to break up under pressure from illegal immigrants is totally injurious to West Africa’s stability, security and prosperity. Nigeria could support weak states in the region through military and economic aid. But being careless with our border is not certainly helping anyone at home or abroad.