Agency seeks Interior Ministry’s support to address border communities challenges

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By Yahaya Isah

The Border Communities Development Agency (BCDA),  has solicited the support of the Ministry of Interior to address challenges facing residents of   border communities in the country.

The Executive Secretary of the agency, Mr George Kelly, made the call during a courtesy visit on the Minister of Interior, Dr Olubunmi Tunji-Ojo in Abuja.

Kelly said that having taken a critical look at the agency’s core mandate, there was no way the agency could succeed without the support of critical stakeholders like the Interior Ministry.

“That is one of the major reasons why we are here. The agency was created to accelerate developmental projects and cater for the needs of the border community dwellers.

“As you all know, in Nigeria, we have over 3,000 of them, spread across 21 states of the country and across 105 Local Government Areas.

“We are not also unaware of the fact that we have about 86 official land borders and 14 sea border control posts in Nigeria.

“But as much as we have border control posts, we must always be aware of the fact that we also have a lot of ungoverned spaces.

“These  spaces not just in Nigeria alone, we have in sub-saharan Africa and these are like the inlet for banditry. It is like the access point for insurgents.

“Therefore, government presence has to be felt, not just in border communities but also in ungoverned spaces.

“Our mandate is to fast track the basic amenities, infrastructure, the socio-economic welfare and wellbeing of these people.”

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He decried the negligence of these people who happened to be found around the fringes of the circumference of the country over the years.

Kelly explained that most of them do not have access to basic amenities, such as water, healthcare centres, schools among others.

“They depend mostly on neighbouring communities from the neighbouring countries for survival.

“Their case is very bad. For me, I don’t see myself as somebody from the River extraction right now, but I see myself as an ambassador of the border communities.”

The Executive Secretary promised to do his best possible to ensure that succor comes to them for their survival.

“For instance, about two weeks ago, we got an urgent message from Ogun , particularly from the Asa community and other neighbouring communities of people dying in numbers.

“So, we had to intervene speedily. I immediately sent a team to find out what was the cause.

“Only for them to find out that it was due to a cholera outbreak. This is because they depend solely on pond water for survival due to non availability of pipe borne water nor borehole.

“We understand that they even trek several kilometres to the neighbouring community just to get water for survival,” he added.

He expressed optimism that with a healthy collaboration with the Interior Ministry, especially as the custodian of internal security of the country, it would go a long way to ensure at least their security.

Kelly also solicited for the ministry’s support in terms of provision of basic amenities to alleviate their suffering.

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In his remarks, the minister promised to give the necessary support to the agency to enable it carry out its core mandate of making life easy for the border community dwellers.

Tunji-Ojo expressed displeasure that the agency had been a victim of politics for too long a time by the previous administrations for failure to place it where it should be.

“We have forgotten that every time you play politics with the agency, you are risking the lives of millions of people.

“Nigeria is a country that cares about its people. Nigeria is a country built on optimism, hope and rendering people in border communities hopeless obviously is not who we are.

“So, to me, your task at the agency is very key, not just in terms of infrastructure as people view it, to me, I can view the agency from the security angle.

“This is because they are the first line, I mean the first people around our borders. If there is any external aggression, they are the first line of defence that we have.

“They are also the first reliable intelligence report we get about our country, not even our intelligence agencies.

“For instance, go to other countries like the U.S. they spend more money developing their border communities even with Mexico.

“Reason being that, you need the buy-in of your own people, you cannot protect people that do not want to be protected.

“So, we must end the loyalty of our border community to other countries.

“If we fail as a country to cater for our people that dwell at our borders, chances are that they will give their loyalty to the neighbouring countries that cater for them,”he said. (NAN)

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Edited by Joseph Edeh

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