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Gamboru: A border town, a city of crimes

Gamboru, a border town between Nigeria and Cameroon through to Chad Republic has become under siege of some sorts arising from the influx of suspected…

Gamboru, a border town between Nigeria and Cameroon through to Chad Republic has become under siege of some sorts arising from the influx of suspected criminals from neighbouring countries as well as the use of the area as a transit route for other criminals coming from other parts of Nigeria who may want to prey on neighboring countries.

Day after day, the border town which is located in Ngala local government area of Borno state, witnesses one form of criminal story or another with many ‘thanks’ to the porousness of Nigeria’s land borders; a development that has made border villages and towns across the nation prone to overbearing influx of bandits, either using the border areas as transit meeting and robbery points before crossing to other countries from Nigeria or using the border areas as starting point to launch robbery attacks while coming into Nigeria from neighboring countries.

Gamboru border town is faced with a two-way criminal invasion: from within and from outside Nigeria as developments have shown.

Early this year during the period, some 1000 refugees fled into Gamboru border owing to fighting between rebels and government troops in Chad, a fake diplomat who claimed he was working with an American embassy, had drove an American mode jeep into Gamboru town through the border. Unsuspecting but a little careless Nigerian Immigration gave the man access into Nigeria, relying on the “diplomat’s” claim. The man even offered a ride to some two journalists who went to cover the influx of refugees at the border along with unarmed immigration officials to Maiduguri, kilometers away from Gamboru, where he said he was heading to.

That ride however turned out to be a nightmare for the journalists and immigration officials because the man, pretending that his vehicle was having problems, politely urged all his passengers to step out while he zoomed off with computer laptops and some audio editing gadgets belonging to the journalists leaving them stranded in the bush. The man escaped even though there are grapevine reports that he was arrested some where outside Borno while attemptingto sell the customized jeep which he was said to have stolen from an American embassy.  

That aside, only two months ago, one of two Chadian immigrants was arrested with two AK47 riffles and 54 rounds of ammunition while moving into the border town through the bush on a motor cycle. In their own ‘wisdom,’ the suspected bandits avoided passing through the border gate so as not to be caught.  

But one of them, Abubakar Anour, was apprehended by the men of the Nigeria Immigration Service after his co-partner who was riding the motor cycle conveying their predatory consignment, quickly jumped down and abandoned him as they were being trailed by the immigration.

The immigration moved the suspect to Maiduguri the Borno state capital where he was paraded. The state’s comptroller of Immigration, Alhaji Sambo Gwandu said the immigrant had no travelling documents and hence was an illegal immigrant as every one assumed.

The suspect, however, insisted that he was neither a criminal nor a rebel in Chad, his country of origin. Rather he claimed that he is a “very law abiding citizen” and that he crossed over to Nigeria to follow up some money he had borrowed to someone in Borno state.

Anour also said that the riffles he was caught carrying weren’t his own and that he was a ‘good Samaritan’ who tried to assist someone in Chad who required help to move the weapons into Gamboru town. He also claimed that he didn’t know what the rifles were meant for. He was not one of the armed bandits terrorizing communities in Gamboru, he maintained.

A very disturbing aspect of the scenario was that the Chadian’s arrest came just a few days after another Cameroonian immigrant was nabbed, also in possession of 33 rounds of live ammunitions, 7 magazines, two cutlasses and a lot of charms along the same Gamboru border also by men of the Nigeria Immigration Service. The charms carried along by the suspect are believed to make him disappear whenever he was to be caught. Perhaps, the supernatural powers of the charms proved otherwise. Interestingly, further interrogation of the suspect led to the recovery of some ammunitions hidden in the bush along the border.

Criminal invasion of Gamboru border town does not appear limited to those smuggling arms. Indeed, other forms of socially unacceptable activities abound in the area.

Some weeks ago, the Nigeria Customs Service, Borno command, handed over 20 bags of substances suspected to be Indian hemp to the National Drug Law Enforcement  Agency (NDLEA), after recovering it from a trafficker who abandoned the substance at the same border town.

The Comptroller of Customs in the state, Aliyu Mahmud, said that the carrier of the substance was conveying it into Nigeria on a bicycle abandoning Customs officials, the criminal took to his heels and abandoned the substance. He said he was handing over the items to the NDLEA because it was the agency, constitutionally charged with handling drug related matters.

Criminal activities along Gamboru border town go beyond riffles and drugs, even human beings are smuggled out through the town for trafficking and other suspected unhealthy purposes.

Only recently, immigration officials arrested a suspected human trafficker, Amina Musa Elaite, while attempting to cross over to neighboring countries with four girls between the ages of 19 and 24 years. Two out of the four girls as well as the suspected human trafficker hail from Edo state. The four ladies gave their names as Chioma Oawo, 19- year from Abia; Fate Joshua (22) from Edo, Tracy Tanimo (24) from Edo and Regina Eabe (22), Delta state.

The Borno Comptroller of Immigration, Alhaji Mohammed Sambo Gwandu, disclosed that human traffickers have now devised a means of avoiding airports but rather relying on land routes to smuggle young ladies and boys to European countries. Gwandu believes that the suspects avoid airports because of tight security to take advantage of the porous borders in the Northeast and Northwest sub-regions of the country.

The immigration believe that the suspected human trafficker had planned to ‘export’ the four girls out of the country for prostitution and other menial jobs available in Spain and Italy, noting that human traffickers use Chad, DR Congo and Libya as their exit points to European countries.

However the suspected trafficker, Amina Musa Elaite, said she was taking the girls to Chad for her hotel business and not for prostitution in any European country. She had maintained that she had no money to acquire ECOWAS travelling documents for the girls and that was why she resorted to smuggling them through Gamboru border. Amina and the four ladies were handed over to the National Agency for the Prohibition of Trafficking in Persons (NAPTIP).

But quite unlike Amina whose motive for smuggling the four ladies could be guessed, there was no clue as to what motive the kidnapper of a commercial motor cyclist (‘achaba’ man) had in mind when he recently smuggled a 21 year old man through Gamboru border into Kusiri, another border town in Cameroon Republic.

The crime was committed this time around by an indigenous suspect, Malam Ali Chiroma, resident of Kanumuri ward, Gamboru, Ngala local government area of the state.

Parading the kidnapper last Monday in Maiduguri, Borno State Commissioner of Police, Mohammed Sambo, said that the suspect, kidnapped an ‘achaba’ man named Rawababa Samaila, resident of Lamisula ward in Maiduguri early June, specifically on 4th of June, 2008 for criminal intention. The CP also said that the suspect sold the motor cycle belonging to the boy before he was apprehended days later in Kusiri, a border town in Cameroon.

“On June 15,  at about O800hrs one Malam Modu Mohammed ‘m’ of Lamisula ward, Maiduguri, reported at Gamboru division that on the 4/06/2008 at about 173Ohrs, one Rawababa Samaila ‘m’ of the same address, 21 years old, a cyclist was kidnapped with his motorcycle, registration no: QC 754 BAM from Maiduguri to Kusuri, Cameroon Republic. On the 16/06/2008 at about l300hrs, one Malam Ali Chiroma ‘m’ of Kanumuri ward, Gamboru, Ngala L.G. A. was seen and arrested at Kusuri, Cameroon Republic in possession of the boy, Rawababa Samaila whom he kidnapped with criminal intention. He also confessed to have disposed the motorcycle at N’Djamena,” the CP said.

Disturbing as these developments seem, there are fears that many criminals engaged in similar activities or worse, may have successfully migrated into Gamboru town, other parts of Borno state or the country, while those from the country may have also been able to move out hitch free to neighboring countries to carry out nefarious activities.

The Comptroller of Immigration in the state attributed the influx of suspected criminals and migration through Gamboru border town to a clear manifestation of insecurity in Nigeria’s land borders. He said if the situation was not checked, the lives of every Nigerian in the street will be in danger. Gwandu urged that the porous nature of the land borders, coupled with arm conflicts in neighboring countries should be viewed with all seriousness.

He also appealed to community members in Gamboru border towns to be very vigilant and report to authorities, any information regarding the activities of criminals tormenting them so that security agencies can in a joint effort, combat the many troubles in the area.

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