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Fear grips S/West Over Influx Of Northern Youths.

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SOUTH-WEST states have tightened security at their Northern boundaries amidst discoveries that Northern youths are hiding behind bags of foodstuffs and livestock to breach the existing COVID-19 lockdown in the zone.

At all the boundaries, security agents have intensified searches on trucks conveying foodstuffs from the North, especially with Kano emerging as the new epicenter of the COVID-19 crisis in Nigeria.

Some days ago, Ekiti State residents felled trees across roads at boundaries to beat the antics of security agents who were suspected to be compromising the security of the state.

The trees were soon cleared because they blocked access for vehicles on essential travels.

In Lagos State, pressure is gradually mounting over the possibility of a second major outbreak of coronavirus as truck drivers moving farm produce from Kano have been accused of smuggling passengers from the Northern state into Lagos, hiding them among huge tomato
consignments.

Lagos, Nigeria’s most populous state, is leading in COVID-19 infection, topping the 1,000 mark, while Kano’s number is surging at a rate that has alarmed medical experts and personnel.

Kano State governor, Abdullahi Ganduje, had confirmed COVID-19 patients fleeing the state and threatened to have their names published.

The two states are under presidential lockdown with the North’s most populous state moving into the epicenter of the coronavirus crisis, following a slew of high-profile deaths within weeks, suspected to be COVID-19-related.

The alleged smuggling of passengers from Kano, whose COVID-19 status are unknown, into Lagos is causing panic and uproar in the
south-western state.

A similar situation between Osun and Zamfara states which saw indigenes of the latter being packed alongside goods from the North to the south-western state has witnessed a flurry of unpleasant official exchanges between the governments of the two states.

Kaduna and Kano also recently engaged in a brief spat over same issue after a truck from Kano was caught by Kaduna officials at the border trying to smuggle in young boys suspected to be almajirai.

Kaduna is another hotbed of COVID-19 and the governor, Nasir el- Rufai, just sailed through the infection, having spent weeks in isolation.

Trucks doing inter-state movement of essential goods, especially foodstuffs, are cleared by the authorities manning the lockdown regulations and the alleged abuse of the privilege is linked to desire to make a fortune out of the national misfortune.

As the controversial situation deepens, authorities are talking tough but market leaders from the North trading in Lagos are washing their hands of the illegal movement of humans, which could further hurt official and unofficial efforts at stopping the spread of the deadly virus.

Security agencies in charge of enforcement of the ban on human interstate movements are alleged to be in a compromise, facilitated by bribe monies from the truck drivers and their passengers.

Lagos State governor, Babajide Sanwo-Olu, has consistently warned security agencies against compromise that could further hurt a populace which has been on a lockdown for close to five weeks.

President of the National Union of Road Transport Workers (NURTW), Alhaji Tajudeen Baruwa, has also joined the fray, warning the union members across the country to desist from mixing passengers with foodstuffs and livestock.

Baruwa, who is a member of the Technical Task Force set up by the Federal Government on free movement of foodstuffs and livestock, gave the warning in a letter sent to all the state councils of the union.

He said in the letter: “This is to bring to your notice that the Federal Government, on April 24, 2020, inaugurated a joint Technical Task Force.

The mandate of the team is mainly to facilitate the movement and free flow of food, livestock and agricultural inputs across the country during the lockdown period.

“The purpose of this circular is to inform all our member drivers, particularly drivers of articulated vehicles (trucks) who are involved in conveyance of foodstuffs, livestock and agricultural inputs across the country that carrying of fare-paying passengers on their trips is highly prohibited.

“However, a driver is authorised to go along with his assistant/mate (conductor) who will help the driver in the event of any breakdown or an errand while on their trip.

“However, be informed that the in the state or areas where there are no trucks, buses and cars can also be used to convey food items, provided that such vehicles are not used to carry another passenger (s) except the driver’s assistant or conductor, as the case may be.

“Furthermore, state secretaries are hereby directed to liaise with the directors of the Federal Ministry of Agriculture in their respective states as similar technical task teams will be constituted in every state of the federation.”

Reported by: Vincent Paul

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