The project tells the story of an international border conflict between two West African countries — Nigeria and the Republic of Benin. Using open-source tools and satellite images, the journalist investigates the history of the border dispute and the role of technology in establishing the truth. It analyses the boundary politics and the plight of the community members who are battling for an identity. Using data from different mapping tools, the story goes further to look into discrepancies in international border allocation and how this is contributing to the prolonged conflict between the countries.
After this story was published, the Nigerian government sent police officers to man the abandoned police post in the affected community. Also, surveyors from the federal government were sent to the community to confirm if there was an encroachment by the neighboring West African country and also identify the true border lines.
I used four satellite and mapping tools: Google Earth, Cesium, ArcGIS and Mapcarta, With these tools, I questioned the discrepancy in the international borderline demarcation and how it is contributing to the conflict between the two countries.
What was the hardest part of this project?
The hardest part of the project was the field trip to the border community. The village at the centre of the international crisis has no good access road, hotel, electricity or social amenities. The access road is also a dangerous smuggling path between the two countries. Travelling to the remote community and shuttling between the borders for days to map key infrastructure came with extreme difficulty and hardship.
What can others learn from this project?
Beyond exclusive interviews with victims and community members, we should use open-source technology tools to investigate stories. Bringing a scientific probe to a story gives credibility to the data and narrative.