A faith-based organization, Nigeria Christian Graduate fellowship (NCGF), has called on Southern governors and security operatives to beef up surveillance at borders, due to dangers posed by indiscriminate inter-state travels by unauthorised persons.
The group expressed worry about reported incidences of lorry-loads of child beggars, otherwise known as ‘Almajiris’, intercepted at various parts of the zone by vigilante groups and task force personnel.
Northern Governors’ Forum (NGF), recently banned the Almajiri system and commenced relocation of street kids to their various states and communities, as part of efforts to curb the spread of coronavirus in the country.
In an open letter to the Inspector General of Police (IGP) and Governors of the South tagged: ‘Re-movement of human cargo from the North to South,’ the organization accused security operatives of complicity and violation of inter-state restrictions.
The statement, signed by the group’s National President, Prof. Charles Adisa and General Secretary, Mr. Philip Nwaegeruo, expressed concerns that “some individuals are disguising as goods in trucks and trooping from the North to the South, despite the lock-down by the Federal and State governments.
“Preliminary investigations revealed that the suspects hiding as cargoes, were able-bodied persons, generally categorized as Almajiris being off-loaded surreptitiously, in South East, South South and South West geo-political zones.
“Similar sinister migrations have also been reported in the Middle-Belt, including Nasarawa State. The real mission behind this illegality, in the wake of increasing spread of the deadly disease in many Northern states raises serious concerns,” they noted.
According to the group, these so-called Almajiris, some of who tested positive or asymptomatic to covid-19 may escalate community transmissions in the south, where spread has been minimal.
They also pose security threats to the region, the group noted saying, “whatever be the intention, and the timing of this strange action is suspicious. It is wrong and highly dangerous for people to disguise themselves as livestock, folder and goods, just to migrate to other areas of the nation clandestinely, against laid down regulations.
“One cannot hide under the right to freedom of movement and settlement in any part of the country to endanger the lives of other people.”
The group alleged that “these illegal operations are taking place in the presence of security agencies, who have been deployed to ensure strict compliance with the social and economic laws.”
According to them, there are several military and police checkpoints between Oturkpa Junction in Benue State and Iriebe in Rivers State, yet these infractions are going on particularly at night.
“The same can be said of the western flank of the national highways, yet these illegal movements have continued unabated.”
The group further observed that “in the last one week three interceptions took place along the eastern axis. A team of locals intercepted an Eastern bound luxurious bus with 60 travellers from the north at Obollo Afor axis. At the Lokpanta axis in Abia state a trailer load of close to 200 persons lodged between animals and foodstuffs was intercepted. Less than 24 hours at the Abia state boundary with Akwa Ibom at Ariam another human cargo in a Dangote truck was also intercepted. In each of these places there is a military road block.”
In one of the cases, the group alleged “that the driver of the truck was said to have confessed that the police collected N4,000 from each of the passengers before allowing them to pass. This is proof that the security agencies are colluding in the illegal movements. Similar incursions have also been spotted around Lagos and Western axis.”
According to them, police reports have clearly shown that those arrested confessed to have bribed security agencies.
“They may not necessarily be Almajiris or beggars looking for greener pastures as believed hence the need to probe and unmask the real motives and characters behind this sudden migration from the north,” the group added.
The group called on the Inspector-General Police and the GOC 82 Division, Enugu, of the Nigeria Army and their counter-parts to carry out proper investigations into these breaches and prosecute erring officials, in order to serve as a deterrent.
They also urged Southern Governors to improve surveillance in the region, by establishing an independent ad hoc security arrangement to forestall this illegal movement.
They noted that the safety of the region was being compromised and reminded the governors of their constitutional responsibility to ensure security of lives and properties under their jurisdictions.
The group urged all residents to be vigilant and alert the authorities, if they observe suspicious activities in their communities.
“We also urge community leaders and Christian organizations to be alert over the recent development, considering widespread apprehensions over alleged plots by terrorists and Islamic extremists to invade the region.”