Ilorin — Ywruyo Yusuf has been living in Bukuro, a border village in Baruten local government area of Kwara state for more than 30 years "but I have not witnessed any government presence in the area, and I feel Nigeria and the Kwara State government need serious advise on the need to pay attention to the well being of Nigerians, wherever they are."
As a young man who grew up at Bukuro, he understands the meaning of development and the presence of government, from his experience with the neighbouring town of Kasuwan Allah in the Republic of Benin.
To Yusuf such development is made in heaven, and he also believes that leaders in Benin Republic are more God fearing than their counterparts in the neighbouring country, because there is hardly anytime Benin republic officials don't visit their people at the border ,such is not the same with the Nigerian government officials, he stresses.
Yusuf says, "I have lived for more than 30 years at the border. The government of Nigeria needs serious people to give them advise, people living by the border are neglected. I have taken my time to move to other neighbouring countries around us, and I discovered that it is only in Nigeria that we are being treated like second class citizens in our own country. We are suffering."
Yusuf who sells provisions, motorcycles and other items, said the irresponsible attitude of the Nigerian government is hurting them a lot, when one compares what Benin Republic is generating, in terms of revenue because of their security at the border.
"A lot of goods move out and come into Nigeria through this route without anybody checking them. Our petroleum products move out freely to other neighbouring countries, products from our brewery and a host of other products," Yusuf said.
The 2010 boat mishap experience of the people of Bukuro is hard to forget in a hurry, where about 30 promising children lost their lives on their way to school in Kasuwan Allah in the Republic of Benin.
Idris Bature, another resident of Bukuro, while lamenting on his experience living at the border, said, "Our experience has been hectic in the sense that the Beninoise government conceived the idea of the bridge, because of the boat mishap that happened in 2010. Initially, they brought engine boats to be conveying the children, and their choice of schooling in Benin republic was because our own government didn't pay attention to the education system, because they have very good schools in Benin republic, roads are well constructed, and the social amenities intact. Our people prefer to enroll their children there for schooling.
"Schooling in Benin republic for our children is easy, because the people are very accommodating, and that is why it is very easy for us to mingle freely. We are, as a matter of urgency, appealing to the federal government to consider border communities," Bature said.
The village head of the community, Sunugofe of Bukuro, Issa Aliyu, said he felt so bad as a community leader for not being able to save the lives of the innocent children, who died in the boat mishap as a result of the government's negligence, especially Kwara State government.
"The road leading to our village is a death trap,and there is no portable water.The only hospital we have is a morgue because there is no single drug there or equipment to attend to us. We feel more at home and at ease with the authorities of the Republic of Benin, because during the incident the President of Benin Republic came here and gave us some relief items, while government also sent some relief materials to us through some officials. Because of the accident, the Benin Republic President promised to erect a bridge on the river to avert a future occurrence, and true to his word, they have erected the bridge though it has not been opened officially, especially because of the Benin Republic children living in our midst and going to school in Benin Republic.
"Remember I told you we don't have portable water. We have only one borehole serving the whole community, while other nearby villages also drink from the water. There is no hospital because at the only clinic Kwara State government built for us, there is no doctor or nurse there. We have only one health officer who usually rushes to Benin Republic to get drugs for us," the Sunugofe lamented.
The village head said for them to feel as being part of Kwara State and Nigeria as a country, governments at all levels should come to their aid, adding "We usually take our sick people or wives on the verge of delivery to Saworo in Republic of Benin, because of its proximity and good road. If we decide to take them to the nearest hospital in Gwanara or Kaiama, both in Kwara state or Shaki in Oyo State, the person may die because of the bad road.
"The charges for services we access in Benin Republic are very high because of the exchange rate. Even though I have never attended the hospital before, but my people usually do, so I cannot say precisely how much is being charged while ailment also determines how much they charge."
Baba Ahmed who is the secretary to the village head, said if not for the neighbouring Benin Republic, the children would not have had access to education.
"We have only one primary school here, while our children usually further their education in Benin Republic. In fact many attended primary school in Benin republic ,because even the primary school we have here cannot be called a school. We have only one teacher teaching 120 children, and one other Arabic teacher," he said.
Even though smugglers usually pass their area being a border community, Aliyu said their activities have never affected the community negatively.
He said government should help them and construct the road and dig more boreholes for them, because the only one they have is what is serving the whole community. We use it for drinking, while we use other sources of water for washing and bathing, and the hospital is very important because when we are taking our people to hospital, we sometimes don't get on to the boat on time, and thereby leading to death of our people that may be prevented.
Focussing on the security of their lives and properties, Ahmed said the Nigerian security usually protects them, but at times, the Republic of Benin security usually come to their aid.
On other challenges facing them as a community, Ahmed said "We have a lot of challenges here, because this is one of the tightest borders that links Nigeria with other countries. We have all the paramilitary officers here from immigration, customs, and others, which minimizes the issue of smuggling here. Security of our lives and properties is secured, because we have a very good rapport with the people of Benin Republic, and as a result there is no threat to our lives or properties. We also have local vigilantes who protect us. We have over 5,000 people in Bukuro alone, and there are many other farm camps around numbering about 20 with large populations, as well such as Budo Agbede, Bude Iseyin, Ambraki, Ane, and so on.
The Chief Imam of Bukuro, Mahammdu Sabi who spoke on religious tolerance, said there are people of different faiths and religions in Bukuro, but majority are Muslims, and they live there harmoniously without any rancor, and the relationship is so good.
"We have Christians, Muslims and other religious believers. Even the people of the Republic of Benin among us are of good character. They like us and we also reciprocate. We are predominantly farmers here, and there is no farm produce that we don't cultivate here, we have yam, maize, rice. There is no road from Baruten up till this place.Any one who visits this place does so on pure service to humanity and out of love, and it has always been like that. No good road links us to the Kwara State which we belong to, not to talk of the whole country. There is no sign of development in our area, no matter how little it is. Kwara State government has not done well to us at all. We cannot get up and travel to Shaki in Oyo State, or even to Ilorin our own state capital, to access medical attention or anything, and that is why we go to Benin Republic which is closer to us with good roads. We are always ashamed to be called a Nigerian before our Beninoise neighbor. When we heard that journalists were coming to assess our area, we were happy because we have never seen any government official, or people like you, here before. We have very cordial relationship with the people of Benin Republic living at the border, in fact we inter marry."