By Ushang Ewa
Following the renewed hostilities between Danare II community in Boki local government area of central Cross River and Bodam community in Western Cameroon last week, the Nigerian Immigration boss, CG Mohammad Babandede has called for partnership between both countries to avert further occurrences.
The attacks happened last week and more than 7 days after, the casualty figure is still unclear with AIT’s Rasheed Olanrewaju quoting the Commissioner for Police, CP Hafiz Inuwa as saying that six sustained injuries from pellets fired by the Cameroonians while one sustained severe machete cuts which is contrary to what residents said.
“We have recorded casualties on account of this matter. As we speak at least fifteen lives have so far been lost. We are living in fear, so now that Government is here, please help us,” said Jabim Kekong the youth leader of the area while fielding questions from journalists who visited the area.
Some media platforms have reported that at least 2 died with Cross River Governor, Senator Ben Ayade wading in to deescalate and calling on the federal government to assist.
The Governor had last Sunday sent a delegation which was led by the State Security Adviser, Mr Jude Ngaji and cp Inuwa that met with the leaders of the community, including youth leaders where Mr. Ngaji assured the people that the governor will seek the intervention of President Muhammadu Buhari on the matter as it involves a foreign country and urged them to keep the peace and not react to the provocation of the Cameroonians as the state will soon bring in infrastructural development to give the people a sense of belonging.
“This is a border community and the governor will take it to President Muhammadu Buhari to ensure that something is done as quickly as possible,” he told the people.
CP Inuwa told journalists after the meeting that: “We have urged them to embrace peace and dialogue while the state and federal governments are doing everything possible to ensure that not an inch of Nigerian soil is surrendered to any foreign country.”
He disclosed that the state police command has deployed its men to the community to ensure peace, adding, “As police, we have deployed our men to bring peace.”
A lawmaker, Itam Abang and a resident village head, Chief Achibal Agbor called for the re-delineation of the boundary and heavy security presence.
“We want the United Nations to go back and re-deliniate and conclude what they started in 2013 because it has not been concluded,” Abang said.
“We want the land border protected. We don’t want to see any Cameroonian Crossing to our land without checks because they will continue to unleash their violence against us.if you know that we belong to Nigeria, then do something now,” Chief Agbor added.
Nigeria And Cameroon Can Work Together – Immigration Boss
And, Mr. Mohammad told journalists in an interview on Thursday that “The two countries can live peacefully together. Mr. President is aware of this efforts been done by the two countries to make sure that they live peacefully.”
This followed his commissioning of some projects in the state command of the Immigration service where he donated a vehicle for effective patrolling and a courtesy call on Governor Ben Ayade of Cross River where he announced that some 40,000 immigrants are expected from Cameroon with about 300 arriving the state already.
CG Babandede said he was in the state on a fact finding mission and was impressed so far on the level of cooperation between Nigerian security agencies even as he hoped that it will be replicated internationally.
“What I see is a great cooperation on our side… Our own law enforcement, the customs, immigrations, civil defence, the road safety, and all other security agencies which I may have forgotten to mention; The police are working together as a team.
“I will like to see similar cooperation between us and Cameroon collectively, that is why I am here.
“I spoke with the Governor and he assured me of his commitment to invest in the security of his own state to ensure his people are safer. To ensure that the neighbours who are coming who are also at the same relation with the people in Cross River stay protected.
“So I am impressed with the level of readiness and cooperation among law enforcement and the volume of ingress so far from Cameroon has not reached more than 300 according to information available to me so things are well, we are well prepared ahead (and) we are solving problems before they become large.”
He maintained that refugee management can not be done with force as the service takes human rights and dignity very serious.
“But, I am telling you, migration management is not more of by force. We manage it with respect to human rights, with dignity.
“Just day before yesterday, together with the Swiss government, we launched a movie; ‘missing step’. It is an informative movie to tell our citizens and of course the whole migrants in Africa that migration should be beneficial. It should not be a matter of death where people will die along the road, where people will get drown in the sea.
“So we believe that migration could be managed in more civil than militant way of doing it,” he said.
Ayade Calls For Review On Migration And Foreign Policies
Meanwhile, Governor Ayade has slammed the manner the Nigerian foreign policy which is ‘Afrocentric’ is been implemented and called for a more human focused policy that will accommodate humanity.
“Our foreign policy is Afrocentric in nature and if Africa remains the center of our foreign policy Nigerians must be interested in not just the protection of Nigerians within the borders of Nigeria but also what happens Africa.
“There is a human element to forced migration and the issue before us today and incident of our people in the Boki local government and Ikom are now exposed to the people flocking in must be an issue that Nigeria should visit as a core subject matter otherwise we make mockery of our foreign policy,” Ayade said when he received CG Babandede where he argued that the right to self determination, a United Nations declaration has made him “to insist that the African and indeed Nigerian foreign policy presupposes that Nigeria must show interest in the welfare of those Africans and brothers of ours who by no circumstance orchestrated by their own actions.”
He continued: “As the Comptroller General of immigration you have a moral, ethical and religious duty to go beyond the boundary of protection of Nigerians and indeed Cross River but to the protection of humanity.
“You must therefore globalize your concept thinking because it makes no sense when a people are reduced to want in body and in spirit.
“When people are denied the opportunity to have the luxury of what they want or relate with and are compelled under very difficult situation and circumstances to sustain a lifestyle that becomes impossible to keep their head above bulky waters.”
He said that there was need to cater for refugees irrespective of their origin as “A brother is not in the name of same family, community, local Government, State or Country but brotherhood should be shared deeply in mankind.
“You must go back to Mr. President because your budget needs to be expanded but Cross River State is ready to support you with a budget.
“Our carnival theme for this year is the agony of migration where young Nigerians go through the tortuous journey of the Mediterranean Sea and the Sahara desert with the imagination of a James Bond life.
“This is a systematic failure and our people must understand the depth of illegal migration and this is orchestrated by our own inadequacy.”
He wondered why Nigerians still faced challenges in getting visas to African countries despite having an Afrocentric foreign policy.
He said: “Under our foreign policy, Nigeria is the big brother of Africa always ready to provide succor to our brother. But I ask this question, why is our diplomatic and international relationship particularly within the African corridor a challenge? And why will Nigerians continuously have to possess a visa to be able to travel to Gabon or nearby African Countries?
“It is very imperative that we remove the boundaries and open our borders for opportunities which will help in reducing crime to the barest minimum.
“The restriction we have imposed on ourselves is also a restriction on our potentials because farmers cannot travel to sell their produce. And you must realize that it is a lot easier for a foreigner to come into Nigeria than for us visiting.
“As a number one immigration officer you have the responsibility of bringing dignity to the color of a black man. So I challenge you today to rise as an African leader so that in the fullness of time when you return to your creator, ‘He will say yes my son you emancipated my people.”
CG Babandede in his remarks had said that the primary function of the service is to manage migration and also ensure that expatriates obey law and order and do not take the jobs of Nigerians and said an assessment carried out last year showed the service as best in terms of reforms because “people can now apply for visas through emails which we reply within 24 hours instead of coming down to Abuja.”
He said the discourse for the next century will be dominated by the issues of global warming, terrorism and center migration which he said need to be managed properly.
He said the criminalization of migrants smuggling was to checkmate the unnecessary deaths at sea by citizens who search for greener pastures even as he hoped that the movie ‘Missing Steps’ will help educate Nigerians and called for support for the sensitization.
“We are going to continue to protect our citizens and I hope we can all contribute in the campaign to sensitize our citizens of the dangers of illegal migration,” Babandede said and spoke on the expected migration from the Cameroon’s.
“The crisis happening by the Nigeria and Cameroon border has been estimated by the United Nations High Commissioner that around 40,000 Cameroonians might migrate as refugees to Nigeria and when we did the analysis, Cross River State is going to be the most affected and we have observed that 300 people have registered.
“This is the reason I am here today to work with you sir, in order to ensure that the situation will be well controlled.
“The Cameroonian Government did their part in terms of the Boko Haram Crisis so it’s our turn to reciprocate and assist the Cameroonian refugees so that they will be well protected but without sacrificing our own security,” he said.