B.Arak Obama once said that “we are determined not by our borders, but by our connections.” However, the experience of the border, not the border, determines the level of bonds between two countries. Effective diplomatic bridges always eliminate border troubles. That is why the combination of border security and internal law enforcement constitutes national security. The border is an import channel [and exportation] of ideas, goods, technologies and other needs for our well-being. It is also the pipeline for receiving rebels, jihadists, military mercenaries, smuggled goods, small arms, illegal immigrants and all the terrible unwanted things that create a life without taste.
The quality of support from neighboring countries depends on the seriousness of the country and the patriotism of its border security agents. For example, until Nigeria decided to close its land borders against its neighbors to undermine our economy, they persisted in excesses and, as a result, strengthened their economies. The Republic of Benin is the main culprit. For several decades, the country has been transformed into a transit route for the re-export of goods that non-members of the region cannot easily import into Nigeria, taking advantage of ECOWAS free trade between members. It imports much more foreign rice and frozen chicken than its country of about 12 million people can consume and re-export to Nigeria. Unfortunately, in addition to rice and chicken, other unwanted such as ammunition, jihadists, rebels, drug dealers have infiltrated the country.
Although the approach of closing the land border may not have optimally solved the problem, it nevertheless emphasizes the reality of the border problem and the extent to which our neighbors can either improve it or escalate it. Nevertheless, the countries need each other and especially excellent neighbors to make significant progress in both the economy and security.
There are at least four ways in which Nigeria’s neighbors directly facilitate the export of insecurity to the country. The first is failing to curb insecurity in their countries. Adapting big brother, Nigeria is always a place to seek refuge when neighboring countries are experiencing serious conflicts. Even countries that do not share a border with us see Nigeria as a place of security when there is a crisis in their own countries. Therefore, the failure of leadership in neighboring countries to control the internal catastrophe is a decisive factor. The second is that the Nigerian leadership is overdoing cross-border ethnic ties. For example, many stories and video evidence are touring how the Fulani ethnic group in the region believes Nigeria should be their homeland. Our leaders seem to agree with this through their body language and the massive influx of ethnic immigrants. Unfortunately, the basis of permitted immigration, ethnic / cultural, is the fire and gunpowder of shepherds’ conflicts with farmers across the country. There is every reason to believe that such ties underscore the support that the current president has received from two governors of the Republic of Niger when he wanted re-election.
Third, although not explicitly prohibited by the election law and the Constitution, such guerrilla participation by governors from other countries in our electoral processes is simply interference, probably because of pre-existing socio-cultural ties. The fourth is the declining socio-economic prospects. Governance in Africa usually leads to poor management of public resources and poor economic performance. The resulting continent-wide poverty naturally pushes the citizens of the affected countries to seek and migrate to areas that are supposed to be greener. Unfortunately, while migrating, they come with several other unwanted items of luggage.
Today, there is relative calm and a significant level of cooperation between Nigeria and its neighbors. But this has not always been the case. For example, Nigeria and Chad have had confrontations over the ownership of Lake Chad. The two sides’ mutual interest in oil prospects has facilitated their co-operation. They organized joint military activities at the border to prevent tensions. But with a $ 1 million investment from Nigeria to develop the management of the Nigerian basin in Chad, the dispute over ownership of Lake Chad has jumped. The Lake Chad basin provides a rich environment and facilities for agriculture, livestock and fishing and therefore attracts migrants from all over the Sahel. By April 1983, Chadian forces had invaded and captured nineteen islands in Lake Chad. However, Nigerian troops successfully captured the islands and drove the Chadian troops more than fifty kilometers across the border. Part of resolving the crisis, which included militarizing the border and building a road that facilitated the rapid movement of troops, also intensified ongoing migration.
Benin’s border with Nigeria has historically been known for smuggling ammunition, drugs, children and terrorism. The border was closed several times in 1985 for use in Nigeria’s economic sabotage. Ten years later, after the illegal execution of Ken Saro-Uiva and his colleagues, as a result of which many fires took refuge in the Republic of Benin, the border was closed. At the same time, the Nigerian government accused the authorities in Benis of providing shelter to their enemies. By 2003, cross-border crime on the Nigerian-Benin border had escalated, closing the border twice and reopening it after the leader of the Benin criminal gang was handed over to Nigerian authorities to press charges. Benin has also maintained its reputation as a transit country, using its ECOWAS membership to re-export and dump Asian goods in Nigeria.
The sour point of relations between Cameroon and Nigeria is mainly around the disputed ownership of the Bakasi Peninsula. In the end, the international court ceded the peninsula to Cameroon. Many Nigerians, who became Cameroonians with the decision, are angry and return to certain villages in the state of Cross River, thus exacerbating cross-border migration and crime. Before settling disputes over ownership of the peninsula, the border remains a powerful pipeline for the migration of criminals and armed bandits who regularly kill Nigerians. However, criminal activities at the border, including maritime piracy, continue.
Despite historical and continuing differences, uncertainty in the region has become a place to merge. He forced neighbors to cooperate against their common enemies, namely cross-border criminals, religious fundamentalists and terrorist groups. These criminals are essentially targeted and cause the most chaos in Nigeria, but flee to neighboring countries to regroup. Even in retreat, they continue their chaos in these countries. As good neighbors who seemingly believe in the concept of ‘one for all and all for one’, the countries concerned in the Sahel have come together in separate bilateral security agreements and together in a multinational joint working group to reclaim their threatened fates. But virtually every joint effort suffers from some level of free rider challenge. Nigeria’s neighbors’ commitment to the multinational joint working group is a good example of measuring the level of cooperation in rescuing Nigeria and themselves from the clutches of insecurity.
Nigeria and the Republic of Niger have a long-standing cordial relationship. The strength of the association was evident in 2013, when the country quickly agreed on joint border patrols with Nigeria to reduce insecurity. He is also actively involved in the military efforts of the multinational joint task force. The combined forces of Nigeria and Niger have conducted several massive operations to clear large Boko Haram hideouts along the border. In 2016, the Nigerian government set up demobilization sites and other non-military counter-insurgency strategies. He also continued to thwart the recruitment of rebels from the Difa region and across the Komadugu River. Currently, more than 1,700 people are in court networks due to their alleged involvement or connections with the group.
Chad remains a true ally of Nigeria in the battles with Boko Haram. Her troops crossed into Nigeria several times, with Nigeria’s consent, to hold back the rebels. He also sent part of his forces to Cameroon and Niger, signaling his readiness to overthrow the rebels. It sent troops to Niger under Operation Gamma Aiki to free the rebels in that country. Overall, the significant deployment of Chad’s military assets within the lake’s multinational joint task force and its national army on the shores of the lake has had restrictive effects on the growth of rebels in the basin. Chad remains a strategic military force to fight uprisings in conflict areas in the region. In addition to imprisoning several captured rebels, Chad has set up local defense militias that have played a significant role against Boko Haram’s operations. Chad also paid a high price for its leading military role in the conflict. In a seven-hour confrontation with Boko Haram rebels in March 2020, ninety-eight Chadian soldiers lost their lives while dozens more were wounded. In retaliation, Chadian forces neutralized more than 1,000 fighters and took sixty suspects as prisoners of war.
Cameroon’s campaign against the Boko Haram rebels did not start early compared to Nigeria’s other neighbors. However, despite the US blockade on the acquisition of strategic combat equipment, Cameroon is investing heavily in its military arsenal and vigorously fighting Boko Haram rebels. Cameroon has adopted combined strategies to militarize the Far North region, close border crossings and concentrate displaced people around urban areas to prevent the penetration of Islamic insurgents. By 2016, Cameroon authorities had sentenced to death about ninety members of the Boko Haram group. Since then, the number of those receiving the death penalty has increased.
Benin was the last country among Nigeria’s neighbors to join the Multinational Joint Working Group. However, it easily became a reserve force for rapid intervention. The northern side of the country is exposed to Islamic riots, and is currently creating a crisis in its neighboring Côte d’Ivoire. There is speculation that the country’s risk of terrorism is heightened by its support for fighting insurgents in Nigeria and Mali.
In conclusion, most of Nigeria’s neighbors initially distanced themselves from participating in the uprising operation. Typical of African leadership, they rarely imagined that it would eventually spread to their territories. Nevertheless, the neighboring country’s involvement in military engagements needs to increase. The late President of Chad called on other countries, especially Nigeria, to show a higher level of seriousness in order to clean up his country’s rebels. He was right, because the riot broke out here and we will also be the biggest losers if we do not act quickly. However, the challenges remain complex. In addition to funding, there is the complex problem of insurgents entering the military. In a radio program circulating on WhatsApp, a caller claiming to be a former sniper said he had left the war because some of his colleagues had massacred those who eliminated jihadists. This concern requires a truly in-depth operation of the operatives carrying out the war, or we continue to lose the trust and support of our neighbors.