In the early hours of Friday, May 8 2020, fourteen persons conveying cattle from Adamawa in the North East to Port Harcourt were arrested at Rumuigbo, Obio Akpor LGA of Rivers State. In the last one week in Abia State, officials of the state’s homeland security office have intercepted about 44 young men hiding inside trucks conveying cattle. On Saturday, May 9, officials of the Cross Rivers State COVID-19 Taskforce intercepted at the Gakam-Benue border, trucks conveying more than 30 Almajiris to an unknown location. They were believed to have travelled thousands of miles from a state in the north.
Now these are no isolated incidences. There seems to be a pattern to it: scores of mostly unemployed youths travel from the north and arrive southern states in the dead of the night. To be allowed entry, they simply offer hefty bribes (estimates put it at N50, 000+ for a truck) to the security agents or whatever taskforce they find at the borders. The trucks are then directed on how to proceed and how quickly to get to their destination before daybreak.
Here are a few questions many Nigerians are asking as we try to make sense of what has apparently become a national mess:
- Has Nigeria become so lawless that a presidential order can be flouted so easily and by just anyone with very little repercussion? On Monday, April 27 this year, the president, Muhammadu Buhari directed a ban on all “non essential” interstate movement. Of what use is a presidential directive if it cannot be enforced or worse still, violated by security agents paid to arrest and prosecute violators?
- What really is happening? Is there a mass exodus from the north or is there a mission to cause a major health catastrophe in the south? We know things are bad in Kano, Bauchi, Jigawa and a few other states in the north. We have heard of “mysterious deaths” in hundreds. It is normal for people to flee from areas of danger to places of relative safety. However, the question we have to ask is: are these people who hid inside cattle hauling trucks merely running for their lives or is there more to it?
- Who harbours these travellers when they get into communities in the south? Apparently, majority of those caught in Rivers, Abia and Cross Rivers or even Enugu do not have any real jobs anywhere in the states where they were trooping into. What is so urgent that they must travel at a time when the nation is on partial lockdown?
- What punishment is there for the security agents aiding these violations? There are hundreds of police and military checkpoints along the road leading from north to the southern parts of the country. The drivers conveying these passengers whether in commercial buses or cargo trucks pay heavily before they are allowed to cross. What is the government doing to at least discipline these security agents who sabotage its directives and put the lives of thousands of Nigerians at risk?