Minister of Interior, Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola has assured residents affected by partial closure of land borders that the federal government would provide them with legitimate businesses in replacement of the illegal economic activities at the borders.
Aregbesola disclosed that smuggling, illegal migration and subversive economic activities at the borders have over the years undermined the nation’s economy.
The minister dropped the hint at the weekend while inaugurating a forward operations base of the Nigeria Immigration Service at Oja – Odan, a border community in Yewa North Local Government Area of Ogun state.
The minister, who was accompanied to the event by Governor Dapo Abiodun, Comptroller General of Immigration, Muhammad Babandede, state Immigration Comptroller, Doris Braimah and other personalities, expressed concern over the illegal economic activities at the borders with neighbouring countries, lamenting that huge importation duty that should accrue to Nigeria has gone down the drain.
The former governor of Osun state while submitting that perpetrators of illegal activities take advantage of the porous borders, however, hopes that with the ongoing drill, “the porosity at the borders would be brought to a halt permanently.
“In as much as we like to maintain cordial relation, it must be within the ambit of the law. Illegal migrations, smuggling, trans-border banditry, criminality, subversive economic activities and other practices have undermined our economic sovereignty, way of life.
“I urge all our agencies to be vigilant and be up to their bidding and ensure that these untoward practices are brought to a halt. Again, I want to commend the courage of our president for approving the drill that is happening now.”
Speaking on the effect of the drill on the residents, Aregbesola said “you seem not to be happy now, but I assure you that you would be happy later because the federal government will give you alternative businesses and legitimate engagement that would bring legitimate wealth to your pockets and happiness to your land.”
He however, assured the residents to take up complaints of alleged killings of the people in the area by operatives of the Nigeria Customs Service.
But, he challenged traditional rulers in border areas to prevail on their subjects to be responsible and be law abiding, saying security agents have duties to apply minimum force to ensure enforcement of law and order where necessary.
“It will be insane if any officer or operative bearing arm to just shoot at people; it’s impossible. But, when people attempt to violate laid down rules and order, the only option left for men whose primary duty is to safeguard the interest of the nation, is to apply maximum or minimum force to ensure obedience to law and order.
“We are not by this recommending reckless use of arm. So, we are appealing through you (traditional rulers) to know that the interest of the nation is paramount,” Aregbesola said.
In his remarks, Gov. Abiodun said the men of customs need to be cautioned against alleged killings of the residents and urged the security agents to carry out their duties responsibly.
He also appealed to men of immigration not to allow neighbouring countries take the state’s proximity for granted, saying Nigeria “is not a banana republic.”
Earlier in his address, Babandede explained that the forward operations base is meant to give conducive working environment to operatives at the border, saying 12 forward operations bases were constructed at various points across Nigeria.