Deputy Comptroller Henry Foday Zargo, Chief for Migration Management at the Liberia Immigration Service, has expressed serious concerns about the porous nature of Liberia’s borders with other countries and logistical challenges, such as means of transportation officers at points of entry are experiencing and called on the national government to take urgent actions to address the situation which he noted poses serious threats to national security.
Deputy Comptroller Zargo made the assertion on Thursday, September 2, 2021 in Glio Tenpo, Grand Gedeh County, a border town with Côte d’Ivoire, when he led a joint border patrol team comprising of security chiefs and personnel drawn the army, police, immigration and other security apparatuses from Liberia and Cote d’Ivoire into Liberia through that point of entry on a project to assess cross border security management and reinforce social cohesion between locals living within the border communities between the two West African states.
“I have come and physically seen what is on the ground. I am deeply concerned how porous and poorly managed our borders are. I am even more concerned about the conditions our men and women are going through to provide security and protect the territorial integrity of this country. This is not what we can boast of as it poses serious security threats to our country. We will be communicating these concerns and make recommendations to the appropriate authorities in Monrovia when we get back”, Comptroller Zargo said.
He praised the immigration officers assigned at the Glio Tenpo point of entry for their uncommon sacrifices they are making under such unfavorable conditions, stating that he was proud of the level of professionalism and patriotism they are exhibiting which should not go unnoticed by every Liberian, be it government or ordinary citizens. He mentioned the makeshift structures constructed by the officers out of thatches , sticks and mud to provide office space and relaxation during duty through their own innovation, ingenuity and means just to serve the country and its people.
“This is to the extreme someone can take professionalism and patriotism. Building these makeshift structures so as to have a place to sit down and do the Liberian people’s work through your own innovations, ingenuity and means is something beyond commendation. You have shown the way for others to follow and it is also a wake up call for the government to play its role in providing security and protection for its citizens”, he said.
Deputy Comptroller Zargo used the occasion to commend the International Organization for Migration (IOM) for the purchase of a 120 acre of land on which the institution, through the UN Peacebuilding Fund is constructing a modern structure to house the offices and operations of the members of the Liberia Immigration assigned at Tenpo Glio. He said he could not overemphasize how grateful the government was for such a huge intervention in the face of the many challenges the government is facing to meet up with its obligations to the people.
An immigration officer assigned at the Tenpo Border who preferred not to be identified in the press said that it was good that the team was visiting the area to know the harsh conditions they go through daily in discharging their duty and hope that it will be an avenue to get the national government to think in the direction to improve their conditions of service.
“I am very excited for the visit and seriously hope that from the visit we will begin to have better conditions of service extending to us. Besides not being motivated, we have serious issues with logistics for mobility. How can you track all the criminal activities around the border area when you don’t have vehicles or even a motorbike to move from one place to another? We are ready, willing and able to work for our country, but the government needs to provide what it takes for security personnel to exercise their full duty”, he said.
At a general Town Hall meeting held with the citizens and residents of the town, Zargo told the people of the purpose of the visit which also included a high power Ivorian security and asked the citizens to freely express what was on their minds as it relates to their own welfare as well as the relationship that exists between them and their Ivorian counterparts across the border. He
Speaking for and on behalf of the people, the Town Chief, Mr. Anthony Gee thanked the delegation for the visit and said besides the advent of the Corona Virus which has impeded economic activities in the area, they find it difficult commuting between towns and villages, especially connecting to Ziah Town which is the biggest place for commercial activities due to lack of roads in the area. He said motorbikes are the main means of transportation and they charge very exorbitantly and made an appeal to the national government to find a lasting solution for road connectivity in the area.
On the relationship between the Ivorian security assigned across the border as well as the local citizens, the chief said that before the COVID-19 pandemic, there was just a single checkpoint but the checkpoints have since increased to three from the Ivorian side, extorting money and impeding the passage of people and goods into and out of Liberia. He appealed to the authorities to revert to the status quo for the betterment of the people. He also said that they are in good rapport with their Ivorian counterparts whom he described as “our family people” on the other side.
Responding to the people, the General Commander of Gendarmerie in the region and head of the security team on the Ivorian Side, Kohou Bi Zamble said he has taken into consideration citizens’ concerns, stating that some are within his domain that he can provide solutions to while others are beyond his authority and will have to relate the same to the government for redress. He said he will discuss with the border commander at the Ivorian side to take action with respect to reducing the checkpoints but for the opening of the border, it has to be with authority of both countries to agree for the reopening of the border.
Commandant Zamble urged the citizens to support the efforts of both governments on cross border security by reporting any criminal or subversive activities to the appropriate authorities so as to have a peaceful and harmonious relationship between the two countries. He mentioned about the illegal mining, smuggling and drug trafficking by some West African nationals like the Ghanaians, Malians, Guineas and Nigerians which according to him should claim the attention of the local citizens and make sure that these activities should not be concealed by them.
“Today I am happy to be with you in this place. Cote d’Ivoire and Liberia are two sister countries and our people are one. You should try your best to cooperate with what we are doing so that every one of us will live in peace. Please report all the bad things like crimes and people trying to cause trouble and confusion between the two countries to the authorities in your country”, he concluded.