Abia holds meeting with Northern communities, over interception of truck carrying over 30 Almajiris

Abia State government will this morning hold a crucial meeting with leaders of the Northern communities in the state over interception of another 30 youths known better as Almajiri in Umuahia.

The meeting is coming a day after a Dangote truck carrying about  30 youths from the North commonly referred to as Almajiris was intercepted at Umuahia, the Abia state capital.

Though the agenda of the meeting was not made public but a Government Special Announcement signed by the Commissioner for Information, Chief John Okiyi Kalu, said the meeting would be held at the Office of the Secretary to the State Government, Barr. Chris Ezem, by noon.

“The leaders of Northern communities in Aba, Umuahia and Umuchieze/Lokpanta are hereby invited to a crucial meeting with the Secretary to Abia State Government, Barr Chris Ezem, and members of the state Inter-ministerial Committee on COVID-19 tomorrow, Thursday, 14th May, 2020,” part of the announcement read.

“Each community is expected to be represented by not more than two leaders, including the community head,” the Commissioner added while stressing that attendance was mandatory.

It is being speculated that the meeting would discuss, among other things, the increasing cases of stowaways by Northern youths suspected to be Almajiris into and through Abia which have heightened fears over insecurity and spread of coronavirus in the South East.

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Only recently, it was published in the media that members of Book Haram allegedly threatened to invade the South East when the Covid-19 pandemic was over in Nigeria.

Many have expressed fears that the increasing cases of the stowaways through which many Northern youth who hide themselves inside trucks conveying either livestock, food items, cement or other commodities, find their way to the South East in their numbers, despite the inter-state travel ban.

Apart  from the apprehension over security, Abians are worried that the Almajiris may aid the spread of the dreaded Coronavirus in the region since their influx is coming  at a time the pandemic was ravaging many states in the North.

Meanwhile, a Dangote truck carrying about 30 youth believed to be from the Northern part of the country was intercepted at the Umudike Junction of Aba Road, Umuahia, Wednesday by security operatives and men of  the Traffic and Indiscipline Management Agency of Abia State (TIMAAS).

Reports had it that TIMAAS operatives in the area received intelligence that a Dangote truck carrying the youth was approaching the area from the Akwa Ibom State axis of the border and immediately mounted surveillance.

On sighting the truck, the officers flagged it down and inquired from the driver what he was carrying.

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The driver was said to have replied that the truck was empty but when the officials climbed the truck to ascertain the veracity of the driver’s claim, they found over 30 northern youths lying on the floor of the enclosed cargo space of the truck and invited nearby police officers to join in intercepting the truck.

When the truck and its human cargo were taken to the office of the State Commissioner of Police, Mrs Janet Agbede, she interrogated the driver and the stowaways and later directed that they be escorted back to Akwa Ibom end of the border from where they entered Abia.

Agbede ordered security officers to ensure strict monitoring of Abia borders to check influx of unwanted elements in the state.

She noted that though the truck’s driver had authorizing papers, security operatives at the Abia border should have detected the hidden travellers.

The Abia CP therefore advised Dangote Company to “re-instruct their drivers to stop deviating from federal and state governments’ instructions and to obey orders”.

Speaking to newsmen on the development, the State Commissioner for Homeland Security, Prince Dan Okoli, warned 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.

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Okoli called on all neighbouring states to strengthen monitoring and enforcement of the restrictions on inter-state movement at their various borders to help control the spread of COVID-19 from state to state.

In another development, Governor Okezie Ikpeazu has ordered TIMAAS to, as a matter urgency, rid the popular Opobo Junction area at Ogbor Hill in Aba of forms of street trading.

Chief Press Secretary to the Governor, Sir Onyebuchi Ememanka, disclosed this in a statement in Umuahia Wednesday.

The CPS said Ikpeazu gave the order to the General Manager of the agency, Engr. Bright Chinedu Ikeokwu, while inspecting some on-going projects in Aba Wednesday.

According to Ememanka, the Governor had earlier spoken about the menace of the street traders around that axis during his radio interview at Magic FM, Aba and lamented that despite appeals to the traders, they have persisted in their unlawful occupation of that area, including the entrance into Ehere Road through Opobo Junction.

He charged the agency to use every lawful means to move the street traders away from the junction to allow for free flow of traffic as there was “there is no approved market there”.

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