RE:ECOWAS RAISES MONITORING UINT AT THE NIGERIA-BENIN BORDER



In the 17 May, 2011 edition   of the GUARDIAN NEWSPAPER, a Nigeria based newspaper,was a news report by Oghogho Obayuwana withe above caption. This report was supposed to be an outcome of a national workshop for the security agencies with the aim of establishing a monitoring unit at the Nigeria-Benin border in view of the insanity with which this border post has been engulfed.
I find this report interesting reading in view of the fact that it failed to state clearly what the main functions of this unit will be. Apart from that, there is also no indication as to whether or not the monitoring unit will be a special unit independent one with special forces  put in place by ECOWAS or it will be an old wine in a new bottle kind of unit. For the sake of argument, let’s assume the latter will prevail: I am tempted to say or strongly doubt of this effort will be able to make any significant impact considering the level of the insanity. Again for the sake of argument, if the monitoring unit will comprise special forces with enviable track record in this operation appointed by ECOWAS from Nigeria and Benin, with random evaluation to be conducted by ECOWAS, then I can say without any hesitation that the problem on this border post will be eliminated to a very large extent.
Equally of importance is that the news report did not spell out any comprehensive functions to be undertaken by the unit.
Now let’s come to the substantive issue. ECOWAS provides for the enjoyment of the protocol of free movement of persons, goods and services amongst member states. On the contrary, this otherwise good policy exists only on paper.
Of all the borders in the sub-region, Ghana-Togo, Togo-Benin  for example, Benin-Nigeria is the most frustrating for many migrants. The Benin-Nigeria border post popularly known as Seme border, has been the most notorious of all the borders in the sub-region, having been noted for its incessant harassment, intimidation, extortion and molestation by the operatives of the security agencies that have been entrusted with the mandate of upholding this protocol of free movement of people.
On the Seme-Lagos Highway, one could count several groups of uniform officers from different security agencies one can easily think of.All these people have one thing in common which is to extort money from unsuspecting migrants. Each of them has mounted check-points or better still pay-points within every 5 metres of the way and every driver is made to pay sums of Naira between N200 and n400 at each point. They collect the money in the full glare of everybody in some cases with and without bargaining.In fact I cannot into all the details of this tale but those who have traveled or plied this road knows what I’m talking about. If juxtapose this phenomena with what happens on the highways of Ghana, Togo Benin, you will appreciate the fact that what is happening on the Seme-Lagos Highway sends a bad signal of the country that prides itself as the ‘Giant of Africa’.
 

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