From ISMAIL OMIPIDAN (with Bureau reports)
For those familiar with the country’s various border towns in the north, it is common to find Nigerien herdsmen on camels, sometimes in their hundreds, moving into Nigeria. Ordinarily, one would assume they are hapless herdsmen trying to locate a greener pasture. But investigations have revealed that most of the arms and ammunitions used by the late leader of Boko Haram, Mohammed Yusuf, and his group were brought into the countryby them through the Niger border especially in Maiduguri.
In fact, further investigations revealed that the group had links with another group in Algeria that sends the arms and ammunitions through Niger. The source further said: They load these weapons on top of camels in the name of grazing and enter Nigeria. Our Customs and Immigration officers must take note of this. Anytime you see those Nigeriens crossing our border to Nigeria with animals, check them very well.
They were the ones (Buzu) that came to Nigeria when Ja’afar (late Kano-based Islamic scholar murdered in the wake of 2007 elections) was killed. “If you remember, they say they (Buzu) normally disappear when they are shot and that bullets do not penetrate them. They came fully prepared for the Boko Haram war and that was why they also made local pistols and bombs. Their plan was to plant the bombs in strategic places, so that you just hear explosions without knowing where they were coming from.”
The source further disclosed that most of the soldiers from Algeria, Somalia, Niger and Mauritania including a few that fought on the side of the late Al-Queda leader, Osama Bin Laden, and later, on the side of late Yusuf, came in with their arms and ammunition. How arms get to Borno Our correspondent, TIMOTHY OLA, reports that geographically, the location of Borno state in the north-east fringe of Nigeria, around the Chad Basin makes it an easy route for smuggling of arms especially light weapons and ammunition, into the country.
The state which has an area of about 61, 435 square per kilometers of landmass, the third largest in the country, shares border with three African nations namely, Republic of Niger to the north, Chad Republic to the north-east and Cameroon to the east. Borno is also a gateway to the war-torn North African nation of Libya Unfortunately, these landmass and border areas are so porous such that movement of any good; legal or illegal, can hardly be properly checked.
With persistent rebel activities in these neighbouring nations particularly in Chad and Niger, security sources believe a lot of arms and ammunition might have found their way into the Nigerian soil through the Borno borders. “Some of the arms being used by the Boko Haram men may have been sourced from these rebels who may have willingly joined the Islamic fighters or exchanged their guns for money to sustain themselves and oil the machinery of rebel operation in their various countries,” a military officer once hinted. It is also believed that some of the arms and ammunition used by hundreds of the slain Libya strongman, Muammar al-Gaddaffi may have similarly been brought into the country.
With a climate that is usually hot and dry for most part of the year except from late June till early September, the Sahel vegetation and desert nature of the entire landmass particularly in northern and central zones of the state undoubtedly encourages movement including shipment of arms into the country even in the night. Commenting on the porous border recently in an interaction with journalists in Maiduguri, the Shehu of Borno, Alhaji Abubakar Garbai El-Kanemi urged the Federal Government to do something urgently. “Borno is bordered by three African countries of Niger, Chad and Cameroon and all these borders are very porous.
I appeal to the Federal Government to do something urgently about it because the situation presently portends greater danger to security of this nation,” Shehu said. Sunday Sun learnt it was this vulnerable condition of the border areas to criminal activities that informed the resolve of the former Comptroller of Customs in charge of Borno/Yobe Area Command, Alhaji Abdullahi Ahmadu Adamu to checkmate illegal importation of banned goods including arms into the country through the Borno end.
However, such bold step by Comptroller Adamu, according to some personnel of the Customs Service in Maiduguri, cost the Potiskum-born customs officer his life as unknown gunmen mowed him down few hours after he returned to his home town from a week official engagement outside the state. Sources also said the thriving merchandise in Borno equally provide veritable means for concealing arms and ammunition brought into the country. “Arms and ammunition can also be concealed in a truck carrying grains, beans or fish from Bama, Gamboru-Ngala, Banki, Malam fatori or any of the communities around the borders without anybody suspecting anything.
So it is a huge problem,” another top security source noted, adding “a comprehensive review of surveillance will be required in the area.” True to the above claim, a woman was caught at Dabar-Mansara, Kukawa Local Government of the state with rifles concealed in a sack of grains. She was arrested in April 2011 by combined team of Immigration officials and other security agencies. Weeks later, two men were arrested by the SSS in separate places in Maiduguri with guns carefully hidden under the back seat of a Mercedes Benz car and cartons of fish. While the driver of the Mercedes Benz was allegedly aiming to offload his weapon of destruction in Plateau State, then in turmoil, the other one was transporting some rifles en route Adamawa State with the guns carefully concealed in cartoons of fishes.
Despite measures put in place by security agencies, it is believed that arms and ammunition still find their way illegally into the country especially from Borno end. Just this week, the Joint Task Force (JTF) said it recovered six AK 47 Rifles, two G3 Rifles, three Pistols, one Rocket Propelled Grenade Bomb (RPG), 20 RPG chargers, two Double Barrel Rifles, one RPG tube, 33 assorted empty magazines, 2,543 assorted ammunition during “a fierce battle” with suspected Boko Haram men.
In Katsina State, the ugly development was said to have worsened with alleged influx of fleeing armed militants from Libya and Mali into the state. Although the Customs and Excise Command and other security agencies in the state readily deny the trend, arms traffickers were said to be active in virtually all the illegal routes. Our correspondent, Andy Asemota reports that although the state command of the Nigerian Customs Service and other security agencies play down the influx of arms through the state, experienced gunrunners exploit the numerous illegal routes.
This is because the state has one of the largest borders in the country with Niger Republic that also shares a common border with Mali. Even the most charitable defender of the security agencies cannot deny that some migrant cattle herdsmen enter the country with assorted rifles and ammunition as well as other dangerous weapons. Years ago, the police announced that they recovered AK 47 rifles and other weapons from foreign herdsmen in the state. However, the Customs command voted the best in the country in the past one year, and known for monitoring and scanning every vehicle and luggage entering through Jibya international border, assured effective monitoring of the numerous illegal routes.
“No parcel falls short of the size needed to be checked by our men on any route,” said a Customs official who spoke on the condition of anonymity. ACF reacts From Kaduna state, Noah Ebije, reports the Northern socio-cultural organization, Arewa Consultative Forum (ACF) as blaming the influx of illegal arms and ammunition into Nigeria on porous borders of the country. Speaking to Sunday Sun, the National Publicity Secretary of the Forum, Anthony Sani said with the Arab springs and the raging crisis in Mali, more arms are likely to find their way into the country through the leaky borders. “Nigeria’s borders are porous; so illegal immigrants use the borders to flood our country with arms.
When the Niger Delta militants surrendered their arms, the volume of arms that were collected from them was frightening. Now it is the turn of Boko Haram through porous borders. “More so, as a result of Libyan crisis, many illegal immigrants found their way to the country with arms through porous borders. The Mali crisis too has scattered these people and they are finding their way to Nigeria. Unless our security is seriously tightened to check the influx of these illegal immigrants and movement of arms and ammunitions into our country, we will still have problem.
We don’t want a situation whereby things will get out of hand. But in every problem, there must be a solution. Therefore, we urge the government to confront the security challenges in the country for peace and development. “Tell me which aspect of Nigeria that is doing fine. Is it the education, health or the energy sector that is doing fine? I submit that almost all aspect of Nigeria’s way of life have collapsed because of insecurity. There is injustice in the land and you cannot separate insecurity from injustice. So all these challenges we are talking about are due to injustice”, Sani said.