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Growing Security concerns, Interstate migration in Nigeria and the profiling in Lagos




Amid the ongoing and what's clearly an extremely treacherous route a lot Africans and South-Americans take to get to other parts of the world they consider more favorable for human habitation, I've often argued on the side of the migrants; and especially of migration, as essentially a historical human reality that nobody can wishes away.

Before the systematization of various nations around the world which has led to their proper and sometimes arbitrary boundary delineations and the emergence of state apparatuses for vetting immigrants who expressed the intentions to come into a giving country, nothing has been easier as migrating from one part of the globe to another of one's choice as an undocumented migrant.

Today, that's no longer the case. Indeed, migrating to another country even as a documented migrant is not easy either. Conditions for entry vary from country to country.

Historically speaking, migration, documented or undocumented has organically led to statutory reconfiguration of societies either for good or for evil.

While there are unprecedented benefits in terms of helping the host countries bridge whatever their existing developmental gaps are; rise in crime rates and general insecurity are some of the direct consequences. And it is not funny.

To curtail the unrelenting and undocumented influx of South-Americans into the US, the Trump's administration, for instance, among other measures is building and commissioning high-rise perimeter fences down south on its border with Mexico.

The EU on the other hand is punctuating the African migrants' attempt to reach Europe as their coast guards continued to intercept the migrants' boats as they make their suicidal Mediterranean Sea crossing.

Having said that, clearly, the lot of Nigerians who are desperate to get to the mainland Europe through war-torn Libya is a most graphic case of self-imposed second slavery.

There are reports of torture, rape, forced labor, hunger and starvation; and even deaths through not only accidental or intentional bombings of migrants' camps by the rivaling Libyan militia groups but from incidences of capsized migrants’ boats.

This cannot be anything less than an indictment of successive governments in Nigeria which had superintended over a worsening economy and other social vices.

Be that as it may and by every means reasonable, Nigerians still owe it to themselves the responsibility of self-preservation. When and where this is not the case, the choices before the governments at all levels are indeed few. One of such is to seek their repatriation in collaboration with other countries and international agencies.

Nigeria, poor as it may look, which is the excuse a lot of Nigerians latched on for taking a chance on their lives in such reckless manners; still has its share of African migrants many of whom are undocumented.

This is not only because it borders are some of, if not the most porous on the world but because many Africans from the far and near equally see her as a land of opportunities.

And I quite appreciate the facts of its expansive borders which makes it a near impossibility to secure in the manner in which the US is going about hers. Of course, this has led to an uncontrolled influx of elements with questionable character.

The culpability of some of the operatives of the various Nigerian security organizations cannot also be overlooked. From what we know of their activities in the interior, it is unlikely they would receive monetary and material inducements or gratifications if you like to aid and abet criminal crossings of humans and materials that may prove injurious to the continuous wellbeing of Nigeria and Nigerians.

Certainly, the security challenge the nation is currently facing may not be unconnected with the nefarious activities at our various official and unofficial border routes. It is also incontrovertible that the porous borders have acted as accessories to the funneling into the country of both light arms and ammunition; and as well as pump-action firearms.

These necessarily must have led to the spike in crime and criminality in the country because, today we now talk of not only kidnapping and armed robbery but of a new phenomenon called banditry whose elements ruthlessly rustle cattle while at the same time killing and setting villages on fire.

However, there is a growing sense of security alertness among Nigerians whom you might say have been well-advised and are responding to the charge of taking the ownership of their own security by reporting the suspicious movement of people in their neighborhoods.

I need to emphasize that crime is mobile. As such, Boko Haram elements fleeing the theater of war in the north-east could as well as easily migrated to other parts of the country metamorphosing into something else for an occupation.

We likewise have other criminal elements who daily criss-cross the length and breadth of the country to perpetrate their dastardly acts. To counter this menace sure calls for the eternal vigilance of the entire populace. Everybody's eyes must stay on the ball.

This is what must have played out, for instance on Saturday 31, 2019 in Lagos, when suspicious movement of people and motorcycles crammed into a truck was spotted and the state's security apparatus was immediately contacted by the witnesses.

Responding to the distress call, the truck was intercepted and in the end, 123 men were profiled alongside 48 motorcycles by the combined team of the Lagos State Environmental Sanitation and Special Offenses Taskforce and the Nigerian Police.

It was discovered that most of them have been living in the state but only went home to Jigawa state, north-west, Nigeria, for the Salah celebration. A handful of them, however, are visiting for the first time.

Since the break of the news concerning these Nigerians who certainly were on an interstate migration, opinions have been divided. While many think the manner in which they were migrating calls for suspicion and praised Lagosians as well as the custodians of their environmental and security affairs for acting promptly; others are of the view that the action of the police in profiling them is wrong and condemnable.

The argument was advanced that the migrating Nigerians who had traversed a number of states en route Lagos whose indigene or residents as the case may do not see their presence as constituting a security threat and so did not raise an alarm. Why is it different in Lagos, they quipped?

Countering that submission, opinion leaders in Lagos and indeed the entire south-west believed it is the choice of the people of those states through which they passed to take for granted the sight and the approach of something which should ordinarily arouse their suspicion. Lagos, they insist, is not other states.

The suggestion to overlook seeming threats even when we can do something like just alerting the relevant security outfits underscores how petty and sentimental we can get sometimes over the issue of our collective security.

And this is how criminals infiltrate our communities both at night and in the broad daylight and we just look away. And before long they begin to unleash terror on the innocent citizens.

It is also interesting to note that the profiled persons are feeling aggrieved and are suing for damages at a Lagos high court to the tune of one billion naira. And in my opinion, one billion is too small. They should've asked that the entire budget of the state for this year be handed over to them lest they die, literally speaking. But then who am ‘I to say they can't get lucky as they seek redress in the court. We shall see how it ends.

Again when I ponder the way those guys and their goods were loaded on that truck, it occurs to me that only our brothers and sister from the north can do such a pathetic thing.

In 2018, I saw something so similar and I was very sad. Lagos state government under Akinwunmi Ambode was about to demolish the popular Ile-Epo market in the Alimosho LGA after months of lobbying against such a move. While other people including the Yorubas were busy moving their goods out of their shops, my northern brothers were busy foot-dragging.

There were indeed side-talks of a possible resistant. But on the morning of the demolishing, it dawned on the dreamers who believed that the exercise could be truncated somehow that there is nothing they could do. It was after the arrival of Lagos task force that they started making frantic efforts to clear out their shops. As you might rightly guess, they lost valuables that are worth a fortune to the rampaging bulldozer.

The part which gutted me was seeing my northern brothers exposed. There were three mosques in the market which in addition to the countless tables in the open stalls served as temporary homes and shelters for the numerous Mai Kayas as they are called in Hausa.

But before anybody could say jack, they had crammed into a waiting truck which brought farms produce to Lagos and they were gone. Of course, I had time without number seen a handful of men hang on trucks laden with cattle that were ostensibly coming from the north but that was the first time I was seeing people traveling across such a long distance at very short notice and in such inhuman way.

Yes, people can argue for the right of Nigerians to go wherever and whenever. It is also the right of other security-conscious Nigerians to take note and report what they considered as an inappropriate movement of persons in their communities or neighborhoods. Failure to do so could make them become victims of avoidable danger which they innocently overlooked.

Interstate movement of goods and persons is a daily reality in Nigeria, just as it is historical but in view of the growing insecurity in the country no efforts should be spared by the people and the security agencies to collaborate in combating the terror that seeks to harm us at night or daytime.

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