OPENING ADDRESS BY HIS EXCELLENCY, PROF. YEMI OSINBAJO, SAN, GCON, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE FEDERAL REPUBLIC OF NIGERIA, AND CHAIRMAN OF THE NATIONAL BOUNDARY COMMISSION AT A MEETING WITH DEPUTY GOVERNORS REGARDING BOUNDARY ISSUES HELD AT THE OLD ASO VILLA BANQUET HALL ON THE 10TH OF JANUARY 2022
Your Excellencies, I thank you very much for taking the time to be here for this event and especially also to welcome you all to this meeting, perhaps the first of its kind in the history of the National Boundary Commission itself and certainly the first in the life of our administration.
The idea of this meeting came from discussions I have had at various times with several of your excellencies and most recently with a group of your excellencies who were concerned that the potential of the Commission to settle disputes and minimize inter-state rancour and instability would be greatly assisted by the Commission interacting directly with responsible State functionaries and getting a better sense of how they think their border disputes could be more efficiently and more successfully tackled.
I fully agreed that such an interaction was necessary and important after all, the users of the services of the Commission are best suited to give useful feedbacks and in any event, such an interaction would be an opportunity to jointly review the work of the Commission so far and to chart a pathway to peaceful management of our inter-state Boundaries. And we cannot stress this enough: the attempt to try and resolve boundary issues as peacefully as possible.
Land is an emotive issue, and this is so, not just in our country, but everywhere. It accounts in many cases for the mindless violence and sometimes fatalities that result from border disputes and clashes. For many of our people, it is the very essence of their identity; in some cases, it is tied to ancestry and ancient unresolved rivalries. But lost on many combatants is the fact that many of these boundary lines are in many cases merely for administrative convenience, the sorts of disputes we have, even if there are, shouldn’t result in violence and dislocation of so many of our people.
So the handling of border disputes requires a good knowledge of the issues, and in my view, sincerity of purpose and sensitivity. This can only be effectively done at the highest levels of governance which is why the National Boundary Commission (Establishment Act) 2006, provides organs at all three levels of government to establish State Boundary Committees under the chairmanship of the Deputy Governor in each State of the Federation and the Permanent Secretary at the FCT.
While the Vice President chairs the internal National Border Commission, (the apex body for resolving border disputes), I believe that bold, fair-minded, just, courageous and patriotic leadership is required to settle border disputes without politicization and heightened tensions. Very often you find that where politicians play ethnic or religious games, it merely exacerbates otherwise straightforward issues, and may frequently result in violence and death.
I believe it is responsible leadership that can sit at the table with other leaders and agree to give and take, make concessions that are often difficult and be able to communicate the issues to their constituents and populace. It is that kind of courageous leadership the Law had in mind when those of us who are put into positions of responsibility with respect to border disputes are placed in those positions.
In that difficult but crucial enterprise, the Border Commission has a vital and sensitive role to play as an expert body, and as an honest and trustworthy broker. It is supposed to be balanced, which is why we have the Honourable Members of the Commission who are from all the 6 geo-political zones and they have introduced themselves already.
Because the Commission is a public resource, whose credibility in dispute resolution is fundamental, we all have a duty to support the Commission, but also to keep it honest and on its toes all the time, because the role of the Commission is central to everything we do in border dispute resolution.
So I hope this interaction will help the process of achieving some of these objectives. This meeting is not meant to review specific border disputes or issues otherwise we would not leave here till the end of the month. We have provided just for your information, a list of the current status of border disputes and the list of all border disputes.
The Director-General will take us through an overview of the structure of the Commission and how it does its work and the current state of affairs in general terms. I expect that after his presentation, we will have a robust discussion on the issues but focusing, if I may request of you, on suggestions on how to improve the work of the Commission.
Once again let me thank you for taking the time to attend this meeting and assure you that the Board of the Commission will give urgent and full attention to all recommendations that are made at this very important meeting.
Thank you very much.