THE Abia State government will meet with leaders of Northern communities in the state over the smuggling of youths, mostly almajiri beggars through Abia to other South East states.
Although the agenda was not disclosed, there were speculations that it was prompted by the recent interception of a truck in Umuahia, the state capital, with 30 youths, concealed in its belly.
According to sources, the government was worried over the security implications of the trend of trucks concealing and transporting northern youths suspected to be beggars into Abia and to other states in the region in this era of coronavirus.
The fear is heightened by media reports that members of Book Haram threatened to invade the South East when the COVID-19 pandemic was over in Nigeria.
Said a security operative, who preferred anonymity, “it is worrisome that these youths are hidden inside the truck. Why hide them if they are ordinary passengers. The drivers of the trucks transport the youths along with goats, yams, bags of foot stuff or other commodities. Why are they moving when there is a ban the interstate travel.”
Apart from the apprehension over security, there are worries that the Almajiris may aid the spread of the coronavirus in the region since most of are coming from states with high infection rates.
The recent interception of a Dangote truck carrying 30 youths in Umuahia, Wednesday, by security operatives and men of the Traffic and Indiscipline Management Agency of Abia State (TIMAAS), following a tip off, has further compounded the situation.
According to eyewitnesses, when the truck was stopped, the driver said the truck was empty but on close examination, security operatives
found over 30 northern youths lying on the floor of the enclosed cargo space of the truck.
The State Commissioner of Police, Mrs Janet Agbede, directed that the truck and it’s cargo should be escorted back to the Akwa Ibom State end of the border, from where they entered Abia.
Agbede advised Dangote Company to “re-instruct their drivers to stop deviating from federal and state governments’ instructions and to obey orders.”
The State Commissioner for Homeland Security, Prince Dan Okoli, told newsmen that, henceforth, “trucks carrying human cargoes to and through the state would be decisively dealt with in line with the directive from the Federal Government banning inter-state movement, except those on essential duties.”