Senate President David Mark in Abuja on Monday decried the continuous influx of mercenaries, terrorists and insurgents across Nigeria’s borders.
He made the remark at a one-day public hearing organised by the joint Senate Committee on Judiciary, Human Rights and Legal Matters and States and Local Government Administration.
Represented by the chairman, Senate Committee on Niger Delta Affairs, James Manager (PDP-Delta), Mark said that the Border Communities Development Agency Act was established in 2004 and amended in 2006.
“The agency has the responsibility of improving the social and economic lives of Nigerians living in various settlements, villages and towns spread across 96 local governments in the 21 states along Nigeria’s borders”, he said.
According to him, in spite of the amendment, the condition of border communities in Nigeria has yet to improve.
The Senate president also decried the rise in human trafficking in border communities and attributed it to the inability of government to meet the needs of the people.
“The situation is worsened by the dearth of amenities, such as good schools, hospitals, markets and even water and it makes the inhabitants cross to neighbouring countries for them”, he said.
Mark expressed optimism that the amendment bill would enable the agency to function efficiently to improve the lives of people and tighten security around the borders.
In his remarks, the sponsor of the bill, Olufemi Lanlehin (ACN-Oyo) noted that although the Border Communities Development Act was signed into law a decade ago, the condition of people at border communities had not improved.
He attributed the situation to poor funding of the agency and added that the fund got smaller every year with only N436 million budgeted for it 2013.
“The downward trend of the budget allocation must be arrested coupled with the need to strengthen the institutional framework of the agency”, he said.
Earlier, the chairman of the committee, Umaru Dahiru (PDP-Sokoto), said some border towns had become a hub for trafficking of arms, stolen goods, drugs and hostage taking by criminals.
Dahiru stressed the need for the Senate to tackle the poverty and dearth of basic infrastructure at the border towns.