Saturday, 19 November 2016

Strategic Intelligence: How Nigeria’s Porous Borders, Proliferation of Arms Fuel Boko Haram Insurgency, Militancy

Preamble: Few days ago, Colonel Al-Amin Abubakar Garba who is the Commander, Division Intelligence Command (DIC) of the Nigerian Army 1st Division, Kaduna, stated the obvious that, ’’porous borders and weak security system are routes through which Boko Haram and other criminal groups source arms. In his words, ‘’the porous Nigeria’s frontiers make it difficult to track movement of illegal arms and immigrants, hence the proliferation of weapons among criminal groups’’. Also speaking on the sporadic attacks attributed to herdsmen, the erstwhile Inspector General of Police, Mr. Solomon Arase opined that most of the herdsmen that allegedly attack locals were foreigners who gained entrance into Nigeria due to border porosity. There’s no gainsaying the fact that persistent human trafficking and influx of illegal immigrants, weapons and ammunitions, Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs) and their raw materials through Nigeria’s ubiquitous porous borders and their far-reaching socio-economic and national security implications. That Boko Haram militants abducted and have in their custody,  a chunk of the over 276 Chibok school girls it seized over two years ago, underscores lax security and porosity of Nigeria’s extensive borders.
Beyond tritely whining about hitherto known shortcomings responsible for national security challenges, it is high-time Nigeria’s security agencies and officials mandated to fix them, concentrated on proffering innovative solutions. A holistic security approach, cutting-edge border security and surveillance gadgets will rein in this porous border and the attendant arms/weapons, drugs and human trafficking upshots.
 
Nigeria’s Extensive Illegal Borders, Entry Points

Nigeria shares about 5,000 km radius mostly unprotected, unmarked border with a couple of sister African countries. Aside national security implications, Nigeria’s porous borders have socio-economic and health ramifications. Sequel to the Ebola Virus Disease outbreak, it was reported that Nigeria’s over 1,479 Illegal porous borders could hamper efforts to curtail the spread of the virus. While it is difficult to ascertain precisely the number of illegal entry points into Nigeria, the NATFORCE - National Taskforce on Illegal Importation of Small Arms and Light Weapons, SALW, raised an alarm before the 2015 general elections over the increasing number of illegal borders currently being used to smuggle dangerous weapons into Nigeria, which NATFORCE says hit 6,000. Nigeria’s borders in the northeast is so extensive and porous that at the border town of Banki, in Gombe State, the southern entrance to a local mosque is reportedly inside Nigerian territory while the northern exit of the same mosque lies in another country, Niger Republic.


How Porous Borders Boost Proliferation Weapons (SALW), Drug Trafficking 

It is estimated that Nigeria accounts for about 70 percent of illegal small arms and light weapons (SALW) circulating within the West African sub-region. Undoubtedly, many of these weapons fall into the hands of non-state actors such as Boko Haram Terrorists, BHTs, Niger Delta Militants and criminal elements. The former Boss of NATFORCE, Mr. Okeke accused a former National Security Adviser as masterminding the importation of over 22 trucks of illegal arms, ammunitions and light weapons into Nigeria through the Nigeria-Seme border. In his piece - Border Security, Arms Proliferation And Terrorism In Nigeria - Colonel Sagir Musa submits inter-alia that, ‘’some border towns particularly in the Northeastern flank serve as locus for trafficking of arms as well as centers for stolen goods, drugs and hostages perpetrated by criminals, terrorists and their collaborators’’. 

Intercepted SALW in Nigeria/Image Credit: Aljazeera
A former Comptroller, Ogun State Command of the Nigeria Customs Service, Ade Dosunmu, once narrated how his men seized 3, 000 shotgun cartridges allegedly smuggled into the country through the border town of Agosasa, Ogun State. Recall how Nigeria’s security agencies on July 17, 2010, intercepted about 13 container loads of military-grade weapons including rocket launchers, grenades amongst others at the Lagos port allegedly imported by an Iranian - Mr. Azin Aghajani. 15 Russians were also arrested in Lagos by naval officers on October 18, 2012 and subsequently arraigned for unlawful importation of arms into Nigeria.

Nigeria-Idiroko Border, onward Benin Republic
Boko Haram Weapon Trafficking Procedure, Itinerary

On Friday 30th April 2016, troops of the Nigerian Army reportedly busted a clandestine Boko Haram Terrorists’ Improvised Explosive Devices-making factory in Ngala town, north eastern Nigeria. A National Mirror Newspaper report: how Nigeria’s leaky borders aid insurgents, asserts that at the peak of the Boko Haram insurgency, hundreds of weapons including rocket launchers, anti-aircraft missiles, military-grade bombs, RPGs and Ak47 rifles were intercepted by security operatives in Maiduguri and in border villages plausibly routed from Libya and Mali and bought from rebels there. In his write-up titled, ‘’Boko Haram’s Arms Trafficking Modus Operandi’’, Dr. Freedom C. Onuoha, a research fellow at Nigeria’s Centre for Strategic Research and Studies, National Defence College, Abuja, inter-alia submits that Boko Haram terrorists conceal and smuggle arms into Nigeria via ‘’specially crafted skin or thatched bags attached to camels, donkeys and cows, trucks, trailers, lorries, tunneling and underground bunkers’’. The report cites that in July 2013, Nigerian security forces discovered a vast network of underground tunnels connecting houses and many bunkers (some have the capacity to accommodate over 100 persons) used by Boko Haram for trafficking SALWs in Bulabulin area of Borno State. 

Boko Haram Underground Tunnel
A conservative estimate by locals in Kuros-Kawwa, a village in Monguno council area of Borno State claims there are tenably 300 unmanned and unprotected walkways which are potential arms trafficking routes connecting the Borno - Damaturu/Maiduguri axis with Niger, Chad or Cameroon. Out of the 27 local government areas in Borno State, nine are said to crisscross into a couple of neighbouring countries through unsecured common borders. It is understood that in southern Borno, it is easier to walk-in to Cameroon from some adjoining mountainous settlements in Gwoza council area than to come to Maiduguri, the state capital. Central Borno towns - Bama, Kala Balge and Ngala councils are said to have direct links with Cameroon. Aside Banki, Maksamari, Kumshe, Sigal Diba, Mokhole, Djilbe, Wulgo and Gamboru, several villages such as Zaga, Fage, Bula Batube, Ngilewa, Kabbal Balram, Ngurno, Baga, Kawwa, Barwati, Bisagana, Arage, Mitile and Mallam Fatori, Kadi, Asagar, Gashagar, Foguwa and Galjiya, amongst others are peopled, interspersed with Nigerians, Nigeriens and Chadians bound with historical, religious, cultural and language ties. 

Last year, the police in Maiduguri arrested a 35-year-old woman, Lucy Dangana, with 10 AK-47 rifles and nine magazines.  In Adamawa State, there are possibly 30 illegal entry routes interspersed between Ganye, Belel, Mubi, Madagali, Toungo and Maiha through which contraband and weapons are smuggled into Nigeria from Cameroon or vice versa. In Katsina State, local council areas such as Jibia, Kaita, Maiadua, and Zango, amongst others, crisscross into neighbouring Niger Republic. Other notorious trafficking and smuggling routes in Sokoto State include Illela and Birnin Konni, Gani Kashine, Kwaras-Kwaras, Bayan gidan doune, Araba , Kalmalu and Kes-Guda border towns where thousands of illegal Nigerien migrants waltz into Nigeria yearly, with the collusion of corrupt border and immigration officials.

Niger Delta Militancy Buoyed By Massive Arms Proliferation

Chairman of the Presidential Committee on Small Arms and Light Weapons (PRESCOM), Mr. Emmanuel Imohe blamed rising incidents of armed struggle, including militancy championed by the Niger Delta Avengers (NDA) on the poor implementation of the Presidential Amnesty Programme (PAP) and proliferation of Small Arms and Light Weapons (SALW) in Nigeria. Mr. Imohe said this during an Inter –Ministerial Roundtable on the ATT in Nigeria organized in collaboration with West African Action Network on Small Arms and Light Weapons (WAANSA) and Control Arms Coalition. According to him, ‘’the implementation of the Amnesty programme was poorly carried out in that the militants might have returned knocked out weapons in exchange for funds with which some might have likely used to purchase more sophisticated arms’’. The then Flag Officer Commanding Nigerian Navy (Western Naval Command) Rear-Admiral Ola Sa'ad Ibrahim reportedly blamed the worrisome proliferation of small arms in the Niger Delta on illegal bunkering of crude oil in the Niger Delta region. Also, the Bayelsa state Governor, Mr. Seriake Dickson revealed that, ‘’Niger Delta militants steal crude oil to buy arms, recruit members’’. Mr. Dickson says, ‘’oil theft is a threat to national security and responsible for the proliferation of arms in the Niger Delta’’. According to him, ‘’criminals sustain their operations over the years through the proceeds from illegal bunkering activities’’ and likened the scenario to, ‘’more of a threat to national security than the loss of revenue that everybody is shouting about”. Also recall how a Russian tanker – MT African Pride laden with thousands of barrels of crude oil with 13 Russian sailors seized by the Nigerian navy on suspicion of smuggling ‘disappeared’. On July 2013, the Police arrested a former Niger Delta militant, one Anietie Etim and four others who reportedly specialize in trafficking arms in the oil rich Bakassi Peninsula area. Lax security in sea ports, unprotected water ways, thousands of creeks, dozens of private jetties, in the Niger Delta are said to be arms trafficking havens through which militants and criminals trade stolen crude oil for sophisticated weapons. 

Seized SALW
South-West Nigeria Weapon, Human Smuggling Routes

In South-west Nigeria border areas, the Seme-Badagry-Idi Iroko and Saki axis, Oke Ogun area of Oyo State, Ilesa-Ibariba, Iwere Oke, Ejio and Iseyin-Ayetoro road are notorious for trafficking. Policemen reportedly arrested a man conveying 3,500 rounds of live ammunition and an AK-47 assault rifle. Idiroko border in Ogun State is perhaps, the second busiest border in South Western Nigeria after Seme in Lagos state. It is an old border town that takes one to Porto Novo and Cotonou, all in Benin Republic in less than an hour by road via Lagos or Sango Ota through Owode, Ajegunle to Idiroko and across to Igolor, a small but busy town in Benin Republic. Obelle is another quiet village in Nigeria that borders Pobe in Republic of Benin is a major human trafficking route. Notwithstanding the plethora of Customs officials on the Obelle Oja-odan-Ilaro-Papalanto route, truckloads of rice, second hand clothes and shoes, frozen chicken and possibly arms, are smuggled into Nigeria through this axis, especially at nights. Baruten Local Government Area and connecting communities in Kwara State share common borders with the Republic of Benin. This area is reportedly porous and serves as smuggling, human trafficking route.

The Approach So Far: Penchant For Kneejerk, Quick Fixes

Many of the socioeconomic and security challenges bedeviling Nigeria are not new. What we have as Boko Haram today is a variant of ‘Maitatsine’ which ravaged the North-East Nigeria in the early 1980’s. The Niger Delta militancy was birthed in the 1960s with Adaka Boro’s formation of the Niger Delta Volunteer Force. The recurring agitation for actualization of Biafra is intertwined with events leading to the 1966 coup d'état and the 1967-1970 civil war. In the aforesaid conflicts, there’s a penchant to postpone the evil day by tackling the symptoms of the disease as against eradicating the remote and causative agents. A Committee is set up. Another Committee ensues to review the submissions of the earlier Committee and the cycle continues. 

Just recently, the Federal government set up a Committee tasked with recovering illegal weapons in the Niger Delta. Similarly, Rivers, Imo states also assembled Committees, granted amnesty to militants, cultists and criminals in a bid to make them surrender their arms. They made a show of recouping unserviceable weapons from the blokes and no one seem to bother how the arms come into Nigeria in the first instance. 

Conclusion/Recommendation/Solutions: 

In my essay - Widespread Insecurity in Nigeria: A Case For URGENT Restructuring of Security, Intelligence Agencies, I inter alia postulated that restructuring and equipping Nigeria’s security and intelligence agencies, in other words making them to be proactive rather than reactive will go a long way to rein in terrorism and insecurity in Nigeria. It is inexcusable for the security and intelligence agencies to bandy porous borders as alibi. Perhaps the State Security Service (SSS) or Department of State Security (DSS) as they are sometimes called, should focus on issues impinging national security - intelligence gathering than chasing, clamping down on Bureau De Change operators and trying to regulate foreign exchange transactions. Checking massive proliferation of arms through our borders will require seamless synergy, intelligence sharing between Nigerian security and intelligence agencies, deployment of innovative gadgets such as unmanned aerial vehicles, UAVs or drones as they are popularly called; mobile surveillance systems and satellite technology, communication devices, rugged and fast patrol vehicles, reining in entrenched corruption amongst Customs, Immigration officers at border posts and partnership with countries we share common borders with. The Ministry of Interior must synergize with Office of the National Security Adviser and relevant stakeholders and brainstorm a robust border security roadmap.  Founder of Bulwark Intelligence, Tanwa Ashiru, believes the discovery of IEDs making factories and materials in some northern states is a positive step in Nigeria’s counter terrorism fight since according to her, ‘’proper forensic examination of the IEDs will help security agencies to identify several key information including the actors involved in making the bombs, the profiles of those who implant the IEDs, and the key ingredients and components used in the creation’’.

Written by:

Don Okereke, security consultant/analyst, writer
CEO, Holistic Security Background Checks Limited
Twitter: @DonOkereke