The Nigeria Immigration Service (NIS) has moved to tackle human trafficking, smuggling, illegal migration and other cross-border crimes through illegal routes in Ogun State, Southwest Nigeria.
Ogun shares an international border with Benin Republic through Idiroko but there are numerous illegal routes into the state from Nigeria’s francophone neighbour, HumAngle reports.
The porous illegal routes are often plied by smugglers, foreign herdsmen and human traffickers.
Earlier in the month, HumAngle chronicled how residents in the border towns are overwhelmed by fear due to regular bloody clashes between smugglers and men of the Nigerian Customs Service.
Many lives have been lost due to the clashes as the people and the security agents often engage in gun duels, leaving behind sorrow, tears and deaths.
Hammed Oloyede, the Public Relations Officer of the Nigerian Customs Service, Ogun Command 1, in a telephone interview with HumAngle, said that the smugglers could not be apprehended before they got into town because they often passed through illegal routes.
Human trafficking is also a major challenge in the country and the victims are often unsuspecting women and girls seeking greener pastures outside Nigeria.
They are trafficked for sexual and labour exploitation into and outside the country.
HumAngle gathered that underage girls are often trafficked into Nigeria from Benin mostly for domestic labour.
While some falsify papers through the aid of corrupt immigration officers, others traffick their victims through illegal routes.
A report by Human Rights Watch on the spate of human trafficking in Nigeria, identified 76 survivors, 20 of them young girls between 8 years and 17 years old.
The survivors were tracked in Lagos, Benin City (Edo State), Abeokuta (Ogun State) and Abuja.
The 2020 Trafficking In Prrsons Report by the U.S. State Department identifies Nigeria as “a source, transit and destination country” when it comes to human trafficking.
In its attempt to tackle smuggling, human trafficking and other cross-border crimes in Ogun State, NIS has established a Forward Operation Base (FOB) in Ilase, a border town in Ipokia Local Government Area of the state.
Kunle Osisanya, the Ogun State Comptroller of NIS, said the base was established ”in order to improve the ability of NIS officers to enhance migration management, combating trafficking in persons, eradicating smuggling and other forms of cross border crimes.”
This is the second FOB in Ogun State, as one was established in 2019 in Oja Odan, another border town in Yewa North Local Government Area.
“Ogun is one of the few states with two FOBs, there are 15 in the entire country,” Muhammed Babandede, the Comptroller General of NIS, said.
Babandede said that officers of NIS would henceforth start patrolling the illegal routes in order “to apprehend the bad guys.”
“Whatever that is apprehended, whether goods or persons, would be handed to the appropriate security agency. We are patrolling on behalf of all law enforcement in the area. We must continue to work as a team,” he said.
Babandede also warned officers of NIS against taxing legal migrants, saying “our borders are free.
“I urge immigration officers to desist from collecting levies. There is no levy for entry or exit; there is no tax for people who travel. Entry and exit across our borders are free. Please, don’t charge the ordinary people.
“The only way the ordinary person can trust you is when you don’t harass him; when you don’t take his money illegally; when you don’t abuse his human right. You can arrest somebody respecting his human rights. The gun and the boot is given to you to protect the country and the people not to harass them.”
The FOB has 18 buildings, comprising junior and senior staff quarters, a clinic, a chapel, a mosque, a canteen, and guard posts.