Border arms seizure
n indication of the utility of international cooperation to curb cross-border crime was demonstrated recently when large caches apparently destined for Nigeria were seized by Cameroonian gendarmes along that country’s border with Nigeria. It represent a small victory in the effort to stem the flow of small arms to Nigeria, which could add to the country’s security challenges, particularly in the North East region. Cameroonian authorities should be praised for the recent seizure of weapons, which Nigerian officials believe was meant to resupply insurgents in the North East. According to a spokesman for the Nigerian Army, the caches included 288 rifles and 35 rockets; rocket propelled grenades and improvised explosive devices (IEDs). Two suspects carrying over 50 Cameroonian passports were arrested. The seizure no doubt is a boost to the collaborative efforts by the two countries towards curbing the activities of insurgency and other crimes that the trade in small arms fuels. Cameroon had previously been accused of not doing enough to assist Nigeria to curb the insurgents suspected to be operating out of Cameroon. Nigerian authorities have often complained that insurgents linked to Boko Haram routinely flee into Cameroon after perpetrating mayhem in Nigeria. While the Cameroonian authorities pledged to back Nigeria’s counterterrorism operations, little had been done to show such commitment. There are many in Nigeria who urged the government to invoke Nigeria’s national interest and chase the insurgents in hot pursuit into another country, regardless of border protocols. In fact, that event has occurred before, when in 1983 the military government of General Muhammadu Buhari ordered troops into Chad to repel a brief Chadian invasion of Nigerian territory through Borno State. Even in Western democracies, particularly the United States, soldiers have been deployed to enter other countries without prior arrangement in enforcement of the national interest. However, such militarist response on the part of Nigeria in the current circumstances could be misconstrued; and could potentially open up wider and unintended ramifications and consequences. That is why reaching an understanding with Nigeria’s neighbours was the proper way to go. The successful assistance of Cameroonian authorities in seizing arms caches attests to the wisdom of that that diplomatic initiative. Apart from the arms recovered, disclosures from captured terrorism suspects have apparently led to more arms being seized in the ongoing offensive in different areas. A military spokesman noted that since the Cameroonian authorities pledged to back Nigerian security forces in the fight to curb insurgent activities, the results have been positive. It is vitally important that the impetus be kept up by better use of internal security mechanisms. The agelong tradition of communal vigilance should be encouraged and revived. District and village heads and other community leaders should be able to identify and point out strangers in their areas. The Border Communities Development Agency also has a role to play in improving security in these areas. Over the years, border security and management has been left chiefly to the customs and immigration services to deal with, and these alone are incapable of controlling wide expanses of land that demarcate Nigeria’s borders with other countries. The widespread smuggling of goods into the country is indicative of the porous nature of these borders and the challenging in controlling movement through them. Until the menace of the insurgency, not much attention had been paid to tightening border security. Local intelligence is required to effectively combat the menace of cross-border terrorism. Not only should such communities be willing and prepared to assist the authorities in their intelligence gathering, it is in their long-term communal interests to report on those whose presence in their midst presents a security threat. Such border community vigilance would strengthen international cooperation in addressing the threat of terrorism and other crimes.