Nigeria and other west African countries on Thursday met to brainstorm on tackling migration challenges.
The Comptroller General of the Nigerian Immigration Service, Muhammad Babandede, said migrants will soon begin to travel freely across the ECOWAS sub-regional borders.
Mr. Babandede made the announcement on Thursday during a joint meeting of the Nigeria Immigration Service, NIS, and ECOWAS Heads of Immigration held in Abuja.
The meeting was convened to review and make recommendations on the protocol of free movement of persons, migration and irregular migration management as well as regional data sharing.
“As you are aware, there is already free movement but it’s also coupled with the security challenges.
“We should be able to save a lot of lives at the end of this month. Migrants will travel across the desert because we have a common border; there is Nigerian border, there is Togolese border, there is Ghanaian border but there is the sub-regional border which people move freely without visas and they can easily be in our territories so we should protect our own citizens within those borders.
“If you take Nigeria for instance, our regional border is in Niger, towards the North; so, if we want to protect our people from problems through the desert, we need to work closely with Niger. That’s the purpose of this meeting and I’m sure peace will be brought out of this meeting,” Mr. Babandede said.
The comptroller-general also emphasized on how the Service intends to use technology in tackling the issues surrounding porous borders across the sub-regional countries.
“We can exchange information, we can do joint patrol and investigation. That way, we can send the right signal to criminals that we are united.
“In terms of technology, one of the major decisions taken is the use of biometrics in order to strengthen cooperation among sub-regional countries,” he added.
Mr. Babandede said the service has graduated at least 400 officers that went through border training.
The officials that participated in the training were heads of patrol officers and drivers, he said.
“We have also trained rapid response team to help in times of crisis,” he added.
The Minister of Interior, Abdulrahman Dambazzau, in his remarks said arms smuggling is a major challenge across Nigeria’s borders. He said that there is need to use collaborative efforts within the sub-region to tackle the porous border.
“Because our borders are porous, one of the things we are looking at is the effective use of technology because of the extensiveness of the porousness of the border and also the similarities among border communities.
“We are looking at ways we will use the means of modern technology to check this menace. We cannot do this alone without collaborative efforts with in the sub-region and also international organisations so that we can now bring out our ideas together and synergize to see the best way we can handle this,” he said.
The minister also said arms proliferation is a major issue and challenge in every country across the globe.
“We want to clean up arms that are already coming in and to prevent further movement of illegal arms,” Mr. Dambazzau said.