Cameroonian soldiers ‘invade’ Cross River community
The on-going unrest in neighbouring Cameroon between militants and Government forces continues to spill into border communities in Nigeria. Last week some Cameroon security forces raided Danare in Boki Local Government Area of Cross River State ostensibly in search of militants. Although no life was lost, citizens were alarmed by the impunity of Cameroon forces. They were said to have fired sporadically into the air while the exercise lasted putting fear in the hearts of ordinary folks. They also promised to return to catch the militants who have crossed into Nigeria and are taking refuge in the forests in Danare. The report also added that some of the militants also fired back. This is unacceptable. The Nigerian Government must take steps to protect its borders at all times.
This is a matter of international significance. Cross border raids can only be carried out with cooperation between both countries involved. The artificial boundaries of African nations are partially responsible for the fluid movements of citizens from one country to the other. People commit crimes in one zone and move to the other. They sneak into a new environment and blend with the population until the heat is over. They then plan another onslaught. The Boko Haram scourge is one of such anomalies that has plagued the country. It is for this reason that President Muhammadu Buhari visited neighbouring countries shortly after he sworn in as President. He needed their cooperation to deal with the security challenges created by roaming criminals. It was the right thing to do. Cross-border crimes are a reality. Boko Haram also operates from Cameroon.
Nigeria and Cameroon should work out the technical details of entering Nigerian soil while chasing militants. Except there is mutual cooperation and agreement such incursions amount to military invasion. International protocols for such movements are well laid out. The first consideration for both nations is the security of citizens. No nation should tolerate an incursion into its territories without the necessary guarantee of safety of its citizens. So far the impression is that the Nigerian government cannot be bothered about the activities of Cameroonian troops in Cross River. This is because of the huge security challenge that currently preoccupying the nation’s armed forces.
The Federal Government should take urgent steps to police the nation’s borders. Apart from criminals freely moving from one country to another, there is also the problem of smuggling. In some of the borders, there is infinite lawlessness. Indeed people in the area do not recognize the borders. Some of their kith and kin live on the other side of the border. For them therefore it is not a question of in and out. It is for this reason that smuggling of contraband, deleterious to the national economy has proven difficult if not impossible to curtail. The security implications are grave. Any nation that cannot police its borders effectively cannot have full control over its resources and people.
The crisis in Cameroon is also an indication of dissatisfaction with the political situation in that country. The great tension which exists between the northern and southern parts of Cameroon has led to an upsurge in the number of displaced persons taking refuge in Nigeria, particularly in Cross river State. We also have not forgotten the Bakassi Peninsula matter that almost ruined the cordial relationship between the two countries. The fluid nature of the border problem calls for a persistent and well articulated response to the situation in Danare.
Under international law, the displaced persons deserve protection from the Nigerian Government. The conflict is an internal matter and as a nation we cannot get involved in their disputes. But because when there is crisis in that country it could spill into Nigeria, the Federal Government should take more than a passing interest in the climate of uncertainty in Cameroon. Strong diplomatic actions through the African Union in the tradition of being a brother’s keeper are in order.
The porous points of our borders should be properly policed. With the upsurge of violence carried out by herdsmen we are not too sure whether infiltrators from international terror groups has not started. We must not be caught napping. The obligation of securing the nation’s land, sea and air borders along with the safety of life and property rests squarely on the shoulders of the Federal Government. It must not shirk its responsibilities to the Nigerian people. The oath of office which the President and other State officials took must be the guiding spirit behind actions. The people of Danare and Cross river State need reassurance that they will not be left to the caprices of overzealous soldiers on Nigerian soil.
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