The country’s grand plan to construct border plazas equipped with modern security gadgets in all of its 84 legal entry routes is lying fallow due to lack of funds.
LEADERSHIP Sunday findings have revealed that the authorities are concerned that taking up the project would put government in greater debt burden.
The border plazas project, which was proposed in 2012 by the administration of former President Goodluck Jonathan, was aimed at checking the influx of illegal immigrants and battling the security threat posed by the Islamic sect, Boko Haram, killer herdsmen and other criminal elements.
LEADERSHIP Sunday learnt that the plan was, however, halted by the previous minister of Interior, Comrade Abba Moro, on grounds that the budgetary allocation to the ministry under whose purview the task falls could not adequately fund the construction of the proposed plazas.
It was gathered that, on resumption of office, Dambazau had expressed concern that venturing into such project would increase the country’s debt profile, especially as the country was battling with recession.
Border plazas are Automated Immigration Border Control (ABC) systems attached to multi-camera walls that combine the latest technologies of e-gate hardware and advanced software such as facial recognition and border control software.
LEADERSHIP Sunday gathered that with the e-gate, a traveller can be through a border in a matter of seconds, making it one of the most efficient technologies in the market.
Findings showed that upon installation, the multi-camera wall with e-gate begins processing biometrics as soon as a passenger steps in. The cameras are usually located at the exit door, right in front of the passenger. Digital mirrors are also placed next to the cameras, instinctively attracting eyes in the correct direction for successful image capture and, thus, minimising the risk of human error and associated time loss.
The proposed border plazas usually come with biometric verification software (fingerprint, facial recognition or a hicombination of both), with live quality assurance checks and globally-recognised matching engines, which will among other things ensure the passenger is the rightful owner of a given document.
LEADERSHIP SUNDAY gathered that though the project has been halted, President Muhammadu Buhari, who is committed to liberating the nation from the shackles of insecurity, has continuously frowned at the absence of the state-of-the-art plazas as is obtainable in other countries.
Statistics however indicate that while the country has 84 legal routes into the country , about 197 illegal routes also exist. However, the legal border entries are mostly demarcated with mere tires and woods.
However, a top source at the ministry of interior, who pleaded not to be named, said there was no better means of tackling the security challenges in the country than having well equipped border plazas in place.
He faulted claims that the plazas may never be built as he insisted that though the minister was yet to make public comments on the pressing security threats the nation is faced with, efforts are already being made to get funds for the project from alternative means.
He said, “My minister, Lt-Gen Abdulrahman Dambazau, is very worried about the state of the nation , especially as it concerns internal security, and will stop at nothing to ensure the safety of every citizen. We can’t deny knowledge of a proposal for the procurement of appropriate technologies to effectively man the borders.
Stressing the importance of the plazas, he said: “If we complain about lack of data for foreigners that are here, it is because we don’t have well designed and well equipped points of entry that will be able to get these records.
“By the time we complete our plazas on identified legal routes to this country, they will be equipped with appropriate technologies that can be able to take proper records of people who are entering Nigeria legally and that is an ongoing arrangement.”
A security expert, Mr Salihu Hassan, who expressed shock that such project capable of curtailing terrorism could be abandoned, recalled that, in what is considered the first for West Africa, the Ghanaian government last year commissioned biometric e-Gates at the international arrival hall of the Kotoka International Airport.
He explained that the biometric gates control is a part of a bigger initiative by the Ghana Immigration Service (GIS) to revamp and modernise security.
When contacted, spokesperson of the Nigeria Immigration Service (NIS), Mr. Sunday James, said that he was not aware of the border plazas proposal. He, however , reeled out the initiatives the present administration had taken to control the influx of people in the country.
According to him, on assumption of office, his boss, Muhammad Babandede, emplaced proactive border security reform measures to deliver secured borderlines for the country.
The Immigration spokesman noted that Nigeria had extensive and expansive borderlines with a land border stretch of about 4,070km and international maritime boundary of hundreds of thousands of kilometres.
He stated that a batch of about 611 officers and men of the NIS were trained between October to December 2017 in Modern Border Management and Security Techniques in Kano.
He further disclosed that the service had also upgraded its passenger clearance machines across major international airports for the purposes of ensuring that only proper and fit persons are allowed in and out of the country.
Sunday James added that, only recently, the Service in collaboration with the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) and Japanese and Swiss governments, acquired and installed a Migrant Information and Data Analysis System (MIDAS) centre at the NIS headquarters.
The purpose, he said, is to access and process all relevant migrants’ data across the country and beyond.
The NIS spokesman also revealed that the service had acquired and installed a Birder Censor and Surveillance Technology at the headquarters, which will enable the service monitor all movements and activities across connected border posts in the country.
Efforts to get the ministry’s reaction proved abortive as they presently do not have a director in charge of press.
Also, messages sent to the chief press secretary to the minister were not responded to. When LEADERSHIP Sunday finally reached him after failed attempts on Friday, he insisted that the sources be disclosed to him, otherwise, the reporter should officially write to the ministry.
It would be recalled that President Muhammadu Buhari had on April 11, 2018, stated that the killings going on in parts of Nigeria were as a result of the influx of bandits trained and armed by former Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi, who was killed during an uprising in 2011.
President Buhari in London, told the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, that the arms Gaddafi provided to his supporters had filtered into Nigeria where they are now being used to fuel killings across the north-central zone.
“The problem is even older than us. It has always been there, but now made worse by the influx of armed gunmen from the Sahel region into different parts of the West African sub-region. These gunmen were trained and armed by Muammar Gaddafi of Libya. When he was killed, the gunmen escaped with their arms. We encountered some of them fighting with Boko Haram,” he had said.
LEADERSHIP Sunday reports that embarking on a hi-tech security project such as the border plazas will go a long in curtailing cross border crimes as well as rein in the influx of criminals in the country.
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