Nigeria Loses N12bn To Idiroko Border Closure

LAGOS JULY 5TH (NEWSRANGERS)-Idiroko is a town in Ipokia Local Government Area of Ogun State located on Nigeria’s border with the Republic of Benin. It has been an official border crossing point in the past six decades.

Due to the location of an official cross-border post and as a result of cross-border trading activities within the frontier town, Idiroko has become the fulcrum of both local and international business transactions.  In addition to the business boom in the area, the border town has also been turned into a safe haven for illegal migrants leaving or entering the country at will.

The Federal Government decided to shut the border, alongside others, in August 2019 as part of its effort to check the activities of smugglers bringing in banned goods from neighbouring countries and the unbridled influx of illegal migrants. Before the closure, the Idiroko border was estimated to have generated over N6 billion annually. By August 2021, it would be two years since the border was officially closed. This clearly translates into the loss of revenue estimated at N12 billion.

THEWILL recalls that the House of Representatives recently shut down a motion to reopen Idiroko border and other land borders in the country. The motion was moved by Kolawole Lawal (APC-Ogun) at the plenary held last week in Abuja.

Addressing the House, Lawal pointed out that while the Federal Government reopened the Seme, Illela, Maigatari and Mfun borders, the Idiroko border had remained closed.  Since the borders’ closure in August 2019, he argued, residents of Idiroko had witnessed a massive economic downturn and the situation did not increase the volume of food production in the area.

Meanwhile, THEWILL investigation shows that no fewer than 500 Nigerians, mostly youths, leave the country annually through the Idiroko border. Other neighbouring towns and villages, such as Oke Odan, Ilase, Ita Egbe and Ajilete, which also serve as escape routes for desperate and illegal migrants, equally suffer the same fate.

Further Investigation shows that many youths between the ages of 25 to 30 are involved in this illegal movement and each traveller is charged N65, 000 for the two-day journey that begins from Lagos.

A popular transport company with its headquarters in the Yaba area of Lagos, it was gathered, collaborates with unscrupulous Immigration officers to arrange the trips after which they share the proceeds.

According to a bus conductor, who works with the transport company, the role of the transport company is to charge intending travellers the total amount required for the trip, factoring in hotel, immigration and transportation fees.

The conductor, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, disclosed that the company charges N65, 000 for a full service, which is paid up front.

“The company charges N65, 000 for full service. Once they pay, they are given time to report at its Iyana Ipaja branch office where they usually take off at about 5.00pm every evening.”

The bus conductor disclosed that the preferred time of departure was to enable the travellers to get to Owode, another border town that is a few kilometres from Idiroko, where they are handed to the Immigration officers who will take them across the border at Idiroko.

He said, “The Immigration officers are expected to take them through Hila Condji, a border town between Cotonou in Benin Republic and Lome, the capital of Togo. In Lome, the travelers are usually lodged in hotels where they rest and freshen up before continuing the journey the following day. The movements are done with both cars and commercial motorcycles.

“From Togo they now move to Ghana, which is usually the destination of most of the travellers in the first phase of the journey. The remaining phases of the trip could take them outside the continent.”

Further investigation shows that there are over 25 checkpoints from the headquarters of Living Faith Church (Winners Chapel) located at Km. 10, Idiroko Road, Ota in Ogun State to Owode, but the security personnel manning the checkpoints, who seem to be aware of the deal, always look the other way. They are said to be settled regularly by the bus drivers and receive as much as N2, 000 from each of the drivers, depending on the negotiation between both parties.

It was also gathered that the drivers used to drop the travellers wherever they reach any checkpoint perceived to be manned by ‘difficult’ and uncompromising security personnel. The travellers in turn would trek several kilometers away from the checkpoint to evade interrogation. They are usually picked up to continue the journey when they have walked quite a long distance from the checkpoints.

To enable them to outwit law enforcement agents, the travellers are also trained by the transport company to lie about their home addresses. They are taught to claim that they live in nearby communities, such as Onibukun, Iju, Obere, Atan, Lusada, Alapoti, Igbesa and others, whenever they were asked about their destinations.

A resident of Atan, Yahaya Abdul-Azeez, describes such movements across the border towns as a frequent occurrence, which takes place almost every day.

Abdul-Azeez explains that the complexity of its pattern stems from the fact that the same socio-cultural group is found on both sides of the Nigeria-Benin border.

He urges the Federal Government to ensure that the border surveillance is strengthened to stop illegal migration through the land borders.

In his reaction, a human rights activist and lawyer, Mr Tony Wami, said people migrate for different reasons.  According to him, some of the movements are considered as being within a nationality rather than between two geo-political entities because of the proximity.

The lawyer pointed out that some aspects of the movement of people would not normally be regarded as migration, particularly when such travellers stayed for a short time.

He however, opined that since the movement occurs over an international boundary, and is subject to legal restrictions and regulations, it also has to be regarded as international migration.

Thewill

Proudly MAJAN

 

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Posted by on Jul 5 2021. Filed under National. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

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