(formerly IRIN News) Journalism from the heart of crises

Security pact negotiated with Niger and Chad

Nigeria has announced that it is negotiating security pacts with its northern neighbours Niger and Chad to clamp down on smuggling, human-trafficking and cross border banditry.

Internal Affairs Minister Iyorchia Ayu said on Wednesday these new agreements would complement the closer cooperation agreed recently with Benin, Nigeria's western neighbour.

President Olusegun Obasanjo closed the border with Benin on 9 August in protest at the failure of the Benin government to curb the activities of smugglers and bandits operating into Nigeria.

The frontier was reopened a week later following a meeting between Obasanjo and Benin's President Matthieu Kerekou, at which Kerekou pledged to cooperate more actively with the Nigerian authorities.

“Everything is being done to secure the lives and property of our citizens so that those who live on the border-states will sleep and carry on their activities in peace,” Ayu told reporters. “We need maximum cooperation from our neighbours.”

The minister said that since the reopening of the Benin-Nigeria on 15 August, eight posh cars stolen in Nigeria have been returned by Benin. These included a four-wheel drive which had been purchased second-hand by President Kerekou’s son.

He said several people wanted by the Nigerian police for cross-border crime had been arrested in Benin and would be extradited soon. They included a Niger national, Hammani Tidjani, who was suspected to be a major receiver of cars stolen in Nigeria, and Leon Loboye, the suspected leader of a gang that attacked a convoy of cars carrying Obasanjo’s daughter, Iyabo, near Lagos in April.

The Nigerian authorities are equally worried about the activities of heavily armed gangs in the northeast. Many of these are believed to be former rebels in Chad and Niger, who turned to crime following the collapse of their political cause.

They have been attacking road travelers and settlements in Nigeria for the past five years.

Borno State Governor Ali Sheriff, whose state borders both Niger and Chad, said on Wednesday that 360 policemen would be deployed immediately to patrol five highways leading to the state capital, Maiduguri. They would be provided with additional vehicles, he added.

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