Saturday, 26 January 2013

Mali Crisis: Security Tightened At Nigerian Borders

Following fears that that current Malian crisis may spill into Nigeria and other West African countries, the federal government has beefed up security at the country’s borders with Niger Republic through Maigatari town in Jigawa State.
When LEADERSHIP SUNDAY visited the border posts, aliens coming to Nigeria were subjected to thorough search. Their luggage were also checked item by item by the security operatives.
It was gathered that, every day, no fewer than 100 illegal aliens from Niger Republic were turned back to their country because they did not possess the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) travel documents.
Security agencies comprising the Nigeria Immigration Service (NIS), Nigeria Customs Service (NCS), Sea and Dry Port operatives as well as men and officers of the Plant Quarantine have been deployed in over 60 illegal routes where Nigeriens sneak into Nigeria.
Combined teams of armed mobile and regular policemen were seen patrolling the routes and assisting sister security agencies at the borders.
The spokesman of the Jigawa State police command, ASP Abdu Jijinri, said the command had been on the alert before the present security challenges in the country.
He said his men and officers were assisting other sister security organisations at the border to maintain law and order.
The special adviser to the Jigawa State governor on security, Alhaji Akilu Liman Auyakayi, said the state government attaches importance to security issue. He disclosed that security meetings are regularly held in the state and frequent patrols undertaken by the security personnel across the state.
Also at the Jibiya border post on the Nigeria-Niger route, commercial activities were going on between both countries amid tense security. The post is a few metres away from neighbouring Dan-Issa village of Maradi in Niger Republic.
There are however fears of possible infiltration of Malian rebels into the area.
Our correspondent who visited the border post observed normal commercial activities but motorists were subjected to rigorous search by Immigration and Customs officials.
A cross-section of residents said there was a relative decline in the movement of persons into Nigeria from the border post.
“I have not noticed any change in terms of movement of people and goods into the country through this area,” one Musa Muhammad, a commercial motorcyclist, said.
The situation was different at border communities in Madagali local government area of Adamawa State where policemen have abandoned their duty posts for fear of insurgents’ attack. The police have also deserted the ancient missionary town of Shuwa for the same reason.
It was learnt that the incessant attacks on police formations towards the end of last year was the main reason for the action of the security men.
The police headquarters in Madagali and an outpost in Shuwa were burnt when gunmen attacked them late last year.
Residents of the two communities said they were living in absolute fear even though military personnel maintain routine patrol in the areas.
LEADERSHIP SUNDAY learnt that the police are accusing the communities of providing sanctuary for the criminals who continue to terrorise them and travellers, especially on market days.
Police authorities in the state allegedly ordered the merger of the two formations after last year’s attacks.
Meanwhile, President Goodluck Jonathan yesterday left for Addis Ababa, the Ethiopian capital, where he is expected to push for continental economic integration and the implementation of the African Union Standby Force for quick intervention in crisis-prone areas, particularly Mali.
Jonathan, who left the country yesterday to participate in the 20th ordinary session of the Assembly of Heads of State and Governments holding today and tomorrow, will return to Nigeria on Tuesday.
This is just as the federal government has received the support of some African countries to send troops to be part of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS)-led intervention force now battling Al-Qaeda-linked Islamic militants in northern Mali.
Non-West African countries, including South Africa, Rwanda, Burundi, Tanzania as well as Chad, have agreed to send troops to help in stopping the spread of terrorism from Mali.
This was the outcome of a meeting with a federal government delegation led by the foreign affairs minister, Ambassador Olugbenga Ashiru, in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, on the sidelines of the ongoing African Union (AU) summit.
Briefing journalists on the meetings with the various countries’ delegations including the United Kingdom’s foreign minister on African Affairs, Henry Bellingham, Ashiru hinted that Nigeria rallied support for the need for the crisis in Mali not be seen as a regional problem, saying the crisis would have consequences outside the sub-region if it was not curtailed.
“It is in Nigeria’s national interest that we remain seized with this matter, that we remain seized to taking the lead and that was why I had this series of meetings to ensure that we now have an international consensus on Mali. And luckily, that is playing out very well,” the minister stated.

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