Groups Raise Alarm Over Influx of ‘Almajirai’ into South East
By Ralph Madugu
Following the recent decision by northern governors to repatriate Almajirai children to their states of origin, the Nigerian Christian Graduate Fellowship (NCGF) has raised an alarm over what it termed “movement of human cargo from the North to the South” of Nigeria.
NCGF, a non- denominational fellowship formed over 40 years ago with branches in most state capitals of the country, caters for the spiritual needs of Christian graduates as they pass out of higher institutions of learning.
In an open letter to the Inspector General of Police, the National Assembly and governors of south southern Nigeria, the group said: “The attention of the Nigeria Christian Graduate Fellowship has been drawn to reports of human cargo in disguise of goods by trucks from the North to the South despite the lockdown by the Federal and State governments as a measure to curtail the spread of the covid19 pandemic.”
According to NCGF, these human cargoes were already ravaging most northern states and pointed out that investigations have revealed that able bodied men classified as Almajiris were being off loaded in the South East, South South and South West geopolitical zones of the country, adding that the same was being reportedly done in some Middle Belt states like Nasarawa which were already heavily infested with COVID-19.
The group alleged that these abled bodied able bodied men being off loaded in these states were either instruments of spreading the infection or they are as advance party for an ominous plan of invasion as was already being insinuated by people.
“Whatever be the intention, the timing of this human cargo smuggling into these areas of the nation is wrong and counterproductive to whatever anybody can claim as right of freedom of movement and settlement in any part of the country,” NCGF maintained.
While expressing its worry over the situation, they noted, “We are more concerned that this illegal human traffic is taking place in the presence of security agencies who have the responsibility of enforcing the lockdown and restriction of movement.
“We are all aware that between Oturkpo Junction in Benue State and Iriebe in Rivers State there are close to one hundred military checkpoints and double number of police checkpoints. The same can be said of the western flank of the national highways, yet these illegal movements have continued unabated. In the last one week three interceptions took place along the eastern axis.”
According to NCGF, locals intercepted an eastern bound luxury bus with 60 northerners at Obollo Afor, adding a trailer load of about 200 of the same human cargo was intercepted at that at the Lokpanta axis in Abia State.
“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 incidents the driver of the truck was said to have confessed that the police collected N4,000 from each of the passengers to allow them passage; a proof that the security agencies are colluding in the illegal movement. Cases of interceptions are being reported around Lagos of trucks from north with of human cargo whose mission are not clearly stated,” they disclosed.
While wondering how those so-called Almajiri were able to pay their fares to the south, the group said: “But those arrested who confessed to have bribed security agencies are loaded showing that they are not almajiris in the real sense of the word. But maybe people representing a sinister interest.”
While calling on the Inspector-General Police and the General Officer Commanding the 82 Division of the Nigeria Army and his counterpart in the southwest to call their officers and men on the North-South East and southwest flanks of Nigeria’s highways to order and discipline the erring officers, the NCGF urged southern governors to make the destiny of their region a priority by evolving an independent ad hoc security arrangement to forestall this illegal movement of humans whose COVID-19 status cannot be determined, likewise their intentions.
They also cautioned citizens of the southern states not to take their safety for granted as the “price of freedom is eternal vigilance.”
The group further advised them to “do everything within the ambit of the law to ensure the safety of their communities.
“At the same time, we call on the entire south to be vigilante as there is more to these surreptitious exportations of these human cargoes from the North than meets the eye.
“Boko haram threat to invade the south cannot be ruled out. It is a known fact that the Chadian government has put Boko haram in disarray. The embattled sect is looking for a safer haven and the unprotected South will be an easy alternative. This is why no stone should be left unturned to check the present trend.”
In a related development, the Igbo socio-cultural organisation, Ohanaeze Ndigbo, and traditional rulers in Anambra, Imo and Abia states have also expressed fear over the increasing number of youth being dumped in the south east from the northern parts of the country under the guise that they are Almajirai.
Speaking with newsmen, Ohanaeze Ndigbo rejected the transportation of northern youth and Almajirai in large numbers to the South East, saying that the motives were highly suspicious.
The group’s Publicity Secretary, Prince Uche Achi-Ogbaga, wondered why large numbers of youth from the north were making their way to the South East even when inter-state movement was banned.
“This is the most difficult riddle of the years. Most of the palliatives have been shifted to the Northern part of the country. While the palliatives were shifted to North, the people from the North are trooping in thousands to the South East and South South. I wonder what they are coming here to do.”
The Chairman, Anambra State Council of Traditional Rulers and the Obi of Onitsha, Igwe Nnaemeka Achebe, has lamented that the influx of the Almajirai was a cause for great concern.
In a communiqué issued after a meeting in Awka, the royal fathers pointed out that the situation was even more worrisome because that many of the Almajirai might have already contracted the coronavirus disease before going to the South East.
They advised the governors in the zone not to allow the Almajirai to enter the states as they would not fit into the zone’s economic, social and cultural environment.