Trans-border crimes and lingering security challenges in Nigeria – Ya’u Mukhtar

3 min read

Summary: The Nigerian government’s inability to effectively manage its borders has affected national and international economic activities, thus, posing a threat to national sovereignty and security. Addressing problems like poverty, illiteracy, and corruption would be the first step towards tackling Nigeria’s border crimes.

Security threats in West Africa due to activities of illegal migrants, smugglers, drug/human traffickers and the recently jihadist movements have provoked serious concerns across the nations in the sub-region, including Nigeria.

Cross-border crimes comprise illegal and notorious activities carried out by individuals and groups across national and international borders, either for financial, socio-political or religious considerations. 

These also include money laundering; arms smuggling, leading to the local proliferation of small arms and light weapons (SALWs); as well as the build up of chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear and explosives (CBRNE) materials; illegal oil bunkering and illicit trafficking in mineral resources; business fraud, etc.

The North-Eastern part of the Nigerian border, which has the highest concentration of border communities can be listed as the most backward due to its most difficult terrain, very low level of literacy, and a very high poverty, and unemployment rate.

The combination of these factors could explain why the region has the worst case of border-related crimes, such as the activities of Boko Haram terrorists, etc. There is the alleged proliferation of CBRNE by the ISIS, which shares strong ties with Nigeria’s Boko Haram terrorists, leading to the possibility that Boko Haram could launch attacks in the area in the future, using these dangerous weapons, and thus raising concerns about the need for a counter measure strategy, as stated in the latest version of the National Security Strategy 2019.  

The document, which was released by the Office of the National Security Adviser (ONSA), revealed that, currently there are about 857 million SALWs in circulation globally, of which 10 millions are in Africa, with about one million that had continuously flowed into Nigeria.

Nigeria’s porous borders allow for the proliferation of light weapons, which are argued to have found their way into the country from the Maghreb following uprisings in Liberia, Sierra Leone, Cote d’Ivoire, Mali and Libya. The ECOWAS Protocol on free movement of persons, goods and services has also created a space that criminals exploit to facilitate cross-border trafficking.

However, one of the major factors advanced for this crime in Nigeria is poverty. In an environment where there is high poverty rate, illiteracy, poor governance, corruption, ethnic violence among others, drug trafficking and the movement of weapons will be surely high in such a place. 

In North-East Nigeria, the movement of people and arms across borders has created severe security problems in recent years. Large bands of gunmen, and remnants of rebel wars in Niger and Chad in the last decade, have slipped into Nigeria, where they have become bandits making major highways and many isolated towns and villages unsafe.

Similarly, nationals of Guinea, Libya, Niger, Mali and Senegal have been found to have engaged in illegal businesses in parts of Central Nigeria, notably Plateau, Nassarawa and Niger States, where the illegal mining of solid minerals has gained much grounds, alongside illegal foreign currency exchange deals.

Cattle theft, land rights infringement by nomadic herdsmen from neighbouring countries and violent crimes such as armed robbery, kidnapping, car theft and smuggling are daily occurrences around the country’s North-Eastern border.

Nigeria’s South-Eastern border with Cameroon was is also a favoured space utilised by child traffickers over the years. The smuggled children are mostly moved by sea to their destinations, which include Gabon, Cameroon and Equatorial Guinea, from where they are shipped to European countries to work as prostitutes or slaves.

According to reports, some of these victims end up having some of their vital organs, such as kidneys, being illegally harvested. Northern borders are also utilised in the trafficking of young women through North Africa to Europe, where they work as prostitutes as well.

Money laundering is the illegal process of concealing the origins of money obtained illicitly by passing it through a complex sequence of banking transfers or commercial transactions. It is a derivative crime, which is driven by proceeds from other crimes, such as drug trafficking, oil bunkering, advance fee fraud and cyber-crime.

Despite the presence of various security operatives around the Nigeria’s border area, with checkpoints mounted by the Nigerian Customs, Immigration, National Drug and Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA) and the Police, there are still frequent reported incidences of smuggling of goods around these areas. Most of the border security agents in Nigeria and environs are highly corrupt, as they are known to regularly aid criminals and their activities in exchange for financial rewards.  

To curb organised transnational crimes, border management, which involves the collaboration of government agencies comprising the Immigration Service, Customs, armed forces, and Police, with the aim of controlling and regulating the flow of people and goods across the country’s border in the national interest (particularly of economic development, security, and peace), is surely needed.

The failure of the Nigerian government to manage its borders affects domestic and international economic activities and also poses threats to national sovereignty and the security of the country. Nonetheless, the problem associated with poverty, illiteracy and corruption in the country should be the first place to begin with in addressing the problem of border crimes in Nigeria.


• To tackle border crimes in Nigeria, the first step would be to address the country’s social problems, such as poverty, illiteracy, and corruption.
• To curb transnational organized crimes, border management would require the cooperation of government security agencies, such as the Immigration, Customs, Armed forces, and Police.

About the Author: Ya’u Mukhtar writes from Madobi in Kano State. He can be reached via;

Source: Premium Times

Keywords: Border, Crime, Nigeria, Security,

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