…says ECOWAS Protocol not liable as other
W. African countries don’t have similar problem
Following the rising cases of kidnapping, banditry and insurgency across Nigeria, occasioned by the proliferation of small arms, light weapons and influx of criminal elements into the country, a security strategist, Col. Tony Nyiam, has put the blame squarely on the penchant for deceit, lack of political will and sincerity on the part of the Federal Government.
Nyiam dismissed the tendency to blame the influx of armed herdsmen and criminals from neighbouring countries into Nigeria and its attendant widespread insecurity on the ECOWAS Protocol on Free Movement of Persons in the sub-region. Similarly, a retired Brigadier- General and expert in constitutional and Armed Forces law, Godwin Anyalemechi; Chairman, Presidential Advisory Committee Against Corruption, Prof. Itse Sagay (SAN), as well as a former State Director of the Department of State Services (DSS), Mr. Mike Ejiofor, also warned the Federal Government against breaching the extant ECOWAS Protocol, in an attempt to address the menace, insisting that the problem of border control must be given utmost priority. Also, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), Dr. Biodun Layonu and a former National President of the Committee for the Defence of Human Rights (CDHR), Mr. Malachy Ugwummadu, both urged the Federal Government to review Nigeria’s adherence to the ECOWAS Protocol on movement.
While the security strategists and experts urged the Federal Government to redouble its efforts in addressing the ‘monstrous activities of kidnappers and bandits influx, Saturday Telegraph gathered that intelligence reports revealed that the rising spate of insecurity in the country, especially in parts of the North, was as a ilresult of the crisis in the Sahel region, which continues to impact negatively on Nigeria. The ECOWAS Protocol on the Free Movement of Persons, Residence and Establishment confers on ECOWAS citizens the right to enter into Nigeria without visas and to stay for a period of 90 days. This privilege has over the years, become an excuse for the nomadic Fulani cattle herders to enter into Nigeria and settle indefinitely without recourse to local laws.
Nyiam: FG must protect lives, property
Speaking exclusively to Saturday Telegraph, Nyiam said the Federal Government should blame itself for lacking sincerity of purpose and political will to safeguard lives and property of Nigerians and protect the territorial integrity of the country, as well as the growing threats to internal security. Nyiam argued that the ECOWAS Protocol cannot be blamed for what is happening in Nigeria as other countries in the sub-region, which are signatories to the same protocol, are not experiencing the same abuse of the protocol because of the measures taken by these countries to police their borders, check criminality and enforce immigration laws.
He said: “Is Ghana not part of ECOWAS? How has Ghana dealt with the Fulani herders’ problem? The Ghanaian security agencies dealt decisively with the herders, who were constituting a security risk to the people of Ghana. So, all these blame game on ECOWAS Protocol is the usual tactics of distracting our attention from the real issue and buying time.
“If the Nigerian government had the political will and sincerity of purpose they could have resolved this issue. The government of the day has not been sincere and is that lack of sincerity that is making them to blame ECOWAS Protocol. “Other countries such as Ghana, Ivory Coast and even Mali have dealt with this issue. So, in our own case, it is the usual game of dodging the issue. It is pure deceit in the sense that the Ghana example is there. “Even if we want to talk about protocol, if anybody is entering your country armed, do you need ECOWAS Protocol to take the necessary action? “So, it is deception when they claim that the government cannot do anything about these people coming into Nigeria from all directions because the country is a signatory to the ECOWAS Protocol.”
Nyiam, who also reacted to the claims by the Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association of Nigeria (MACBAN) and supported by some Fulani elite that Nigeria is the inheritance of the entire Fulani race, said such claims were not only false, but highly provocative to the indigenous ethnic groups in Nigeria.
He said: “The Fulani in Nigeria have to make up their mind whether to continue with their own belief in a Fulani ethnic nation worldwide or subscribe to the Nigerian state. They cannot have it both ways. “They should know that the idea of trying to make Nigeria the home of the Fulani ethnic nation worldwide is offensive to the indigenous ethnic groups of Nigeria. “It is offensive to the Hausa, Igbo, Yoruba as well as the other ethnic nationalities in the South-South and Middle Belt regions of Nigeria.”
Ban entry of foot cattle; protect borders – Sagay, Anyalemechi, Ejiofor
For Anyalemechi, Sagay and Ejiofor, the trio insisted that the ECOWAS Protocol that allowed for free movement of persons within and among member-nations, was inviolable. They also urged the Federal Government to strengthen security around the country’s borders, in order to frustrate entries by elements of destabilisation, arguing that the said protocol only recognised entry through recognised entry routes. On his part, Anyalemechi said: “People have discussed this several times at different fora. Nigeria should not decline or come out of that protocol. The protocol itself did not say that you should allow insurgent elements to cross over the border. “The protocol did not provide for insurgents or militants or miscreants or bandits to cross over the border from another country. “It did not provide for easy intercontinental border crossing for crimes but for the good of member states, so Nigeria should not because miscreants are crossing border then you decline to subscribe to that protocol. “My own view is insurgents crossing over should be dealt with and our borders should be manned because, it is the responsibility of any government to protect its territorial integrity and make sure that its protection is total including dealing with insurgents no matter where they are coming from and no matter who is involved. “What of our own citizens? We have so many Nigeria citizens living outside the territory of Nigeria especially from the South East. There is no part of world that you will not find them. So, if we take this view that you are expressing now it will be worse for us.” On his part, Sagay said: “You see, when you talk of free movement by my own opinion it’s usually through recognised international routes. Airports, roads, rail and by boats. Those coming in through the bush with cattle herders don’t come in within that ground of freedom of movement or entry. I have no doubt in my mind that given all the extremely negative impact it has had on this country, I think we should just ban any type of entry either foot cattle or whatsoever from anywhere. “Personally I don’t regard that as breaking any rule because that is not within the spirit when you talk of free movement within ECOWAS country you are talking of international borders, international routes not people strolling in undocumented through forests and so on. That is not included in the freedom of entry.” Corroborating Sagay’s position, Ejiofor said: “It’s an international protocol. You can’t breach it. I think what they should do is to have effective manning of our borders, and there is no way we can do it without applying technology. “But the way, it is now, with all our porous borders, there is no way you can ensure the inauguration of human forces to check all these illegal routes. “But, the influx of the illegal immigrants is not the issue. Illegal immigrants cannot come into the country and operate on their own…”
Govt knows what to do – Layonu as Ugwummadu seeks review of Protocol
However, Layonu and Ugwummadu both urged the Federal Government to review Nigeria’s adherence to the ECOWAS Protocol on movement. This, they said, would help in curtailing the free movement of criminals, bandits and weapons across the nation’s border. The lawyers while baring their minds on the issue in a chat with Saturday Telegraph noted that the primary responsibility of every government is the protection of lives and property of citizens. In his comments, Layonu emphasised the need for the Federal Government to tackle banditry and other insecurity problems facing the nation headlong. He said: “The Federal Government did not say our problem is the ECOWAS Protocol. We know how the Fulani bandits came in and when we are determined we know what to do to make them leave.” On his part, Ugwummadu said government should do everything to checkmate free movement of criminals at the nation’s porous borders. He said: “Once a right or privilege, whether human rights, political or diplomatic rights, is found to be abused or used to perpetuate crimes, such right or privilege can be abridged particularly where such activities jeopardise the rights of others and the security of the country. “It’s the primary responsibility of the state to protect lives and property and cannot in the name of ECOWAS Protocol allow bandits free ingress and egress to commit crimes.”