•Our govs must act quickly –Kokori, Archbishop Adeleye, Wills, Morris, Eyengho,
•They’re Boko Haram in disguise, not Almajiri – Agitators, activists
•No evidence they’re terrorists, they deserve fair treatment – Ambakederimo, Ariyo, Ikimi, Ibor
By Emma Amaize, Regional Editor, South-South, Sam Oyadongha, Jimitota Onoyume, Festus Ahon, Gabriel Enogholase,Ike Uchechukwu, Chioma Onuegbu, Emem Idio, Chancel Sunday and Francis Efe
THERE is red alert in the six states of the South-South over the day-to-day incursion in the past few weeks, especially under the cover of the night, by thousands of northern youth and foreigners, with the leaders, stakeholders, agitators and human rights activists, who expressed worry, weekend, calling on Governors of the oil and gas-rich region to rise up to the occasion by halting the intrusion and fast-tracking formation of security outfits in all the states to help prevent crime.
However, some citizens think the influx is mere movement of almajiris from the north, probably seeking better fortune in the area, saying there was no cause for alarm.
Others countered, arguing that with the recent threat of Boko Haram to overrun the South-South and South East regions, the coordinated movement was a choreographed agenda to catch the people off guard.
Kokori blast govs
Elder statesman and former Secretary-General of NUPENG, Chief Frank Kokori, who spoke to Saturday Vanguard, among others, on the recent development, smoldered, as he blamed the governors of the South-South for not doing enough to secure their territories.
He hollered: “Nigeria is a federation and the South -South governors are not doing what they are supposed to do. They boasted that they are going to organize themselves just like the South West and come up with their own security apparatus like Amotekun. But up till this moment, they have done nothing. They should be ashamed of themselves.”
“We have to hold the government responsible for their actions. I am not happy that the Fulani herdsmen are driving our people out of their homes and killing and kidnapping them and the government is just sitting down looking at them and doing nothing. The whole South-South states, especially the Delta State Government, should be chagrined.
”The coming of Almajiris is now a new development. They are beggars and this is why people are criticizing their leaders in the North. If you give birth to a child, it is expected that you take care of the child. But the Almajiris case is not like that,” Kokori said.
Another fear is that many of the people invading these areas are not Almajiris. They are able bodied men, beating the ban on interstate travel, moving down south. There are security implications.
Archbishop Adeleye spits fire
Archbishop of the Ecclesiastical Province of Niger Delta of the Anglican Communion, Calabar, Most Reverend Tunde Adeleye, told Saturday Vanguard: “The story of Nigeria is becoming extremely sad and unfortunate. It is a tragedy and it is most unfortunate that these people can even move in their numbers like this, especially during this lock-down.”
“A few years ago, this was how they were bringing in guns, later on, it turned to kidnapping, abductions and killings. Some are said to be from Niger and so on, no one is saying what they are looking for, but as for me, they have a plan, because they cannot be moving about without a plan.
“And a lot of questions come to mind; is it the accomplishment of Islamization agenda, is it meant to completely take over the economy of the people and diffuse the peace and tranquility that is so much in the South-East and South -South and many of these people are religious bigots, who we know their intentions could be religious, political and even more, including causing social tension and pressure so a lot of things come to mind.
”Like I said before, it was guns, later it metamorphosed into killings, maiming, kidnapping and herdsmen attack on villages and community, now they are coming in droves, but it is obvious that there is a plan and there is an intention. I do not know who to blame, but some of them have been turned back and it shows that government is not serious.
“South -South governors must come together to create a security apparatus to combat these attackers not when it is has become too difficult to control or organize,” Adeleye said.
Almajiris‘re smokescreen to distract N’Delta – 21st Century Youth
A Niger-Delta group, 21st Century Youths of Niger Delta and Agitators with Conscience, which distanced itself from those describing the incursion as mere re-positioning by mendicants, stated: “We are aware of coordinated plans by terrorist organizations to flood the Niger Delta and the southern part of the country with trained terrorists using the almajiris as a decoy to hoodwink our people.”
Leader of the group, self-styled “General” Izon Ibe, in an electronic response to Saturday Vanguard inquiry, said: “We call Southern, Niger Delta governors and leaders to live up to their oaths of office to protect their people and territory from this pestilence that is walking by daylight.
No solution in Abuja
“We urge all governors of the Niger Delta and Southern Nigeria to rise up and lead, this is no time for political correctness by our leaders and not saying the truth in the face of threatening and imminent danger. Going to Abuja to look for solution to this danger will be of no effect taking into cognizance the sustained and coordinated murder of the people of southern Kaduna and the Middle Belt for years by this same terrorists without any check by the government.
“We also use this medium to sound a warning to ethnic chauvinists that the Niger Delta and it’s people have been magnanimous enough in sharing its wealth with the nation, which the leaders steal instead of using it to better their people, we, the Niger Delta people would not bear the brunt of the thievery, wantonness and perfidy.
Boko Haram, killer-herdsmen, not almajiris penetrating S’South- IPDI
An Ijaw activist group, Ijaw Peoples Development Initiative, IPDI, responding to the supposed incursion, asserted: “The movement of terrorists, herders and alleged almajiris to the South-South, South-East and other southern states has security implications. Nothing will be wrong if these people were traders or business people. The youths moving to the South are Boko Harams, Covid-19- infected youths and killer- herders imported to commence attack and infect South-South and other southern states and not almajiris.”
National president of the group, Austin Ozobo, in a statement, said: “It is sad that some conspiracy is helping Boko Haram to find their ways to South- South states despite lock-down of boundaries. The police in the various routes from the north to the south should be investigated, those found culpable arrested and prosecuted for violation of the presidential lock-down order.”
What S-South govs should know
“It is my advice to South-South governors and leaders to come up with a strong regional security network that will displace killer herders and the current Boko Haram threats with immediate effect.
“His Excellency, Senator Ifeanyi Okowa, who is the Chairman of South- South Governors Forum should stop playing politics with the lives of the people of the South- South states.
“We do not know what he is waiting to constitute the South-South security network. There is no time to waste, more people will be killed and communities will be invaded if the needful is not done.
“He should understand the implication of his attitude towards security issues in the region. He has disappointed the people with the long delay in takeoff since the last time the issues of security for the region was discussed.
Let’s not thrust incorrect indicators- Ambakederimo, Ariyo, Ikimi, Ibor
Nevertheless, Convener, South- South Reawakening Group, SSRG, Joe Ambakederimo, differed, saying: “I do not think the movement of northern youth down south is deliberate or it is specifically designed by any one person or group. We have seen this pattern of movement down south and back up north during the planting and harvesting season, including festive periods as well.”
“Because people hide in trucks conveying food items should not be enough for us to raise unnecessary alarm. If it is not for the Covid-19 pandemic, would these youths be conveyed in this manner, they hide because they know they will be arrested when caught, so to evade the arrest, they need to hide in trucks.
“When they came down south before Covid-19, do they hide? The answer is no. What the governors should do is to send them back for now pending the total closure of the pandemic. There should be no sentiment and there should be strict adherence to the guidelines as put out by NCDC,” he stated.
Lawyer and human rights activist, Chief Robinson Ariyo, who agreed with him, said: “These people are migrating to the south from the north because they are trying to explore where they can get better economic conditions.”
“Nigeria is a country and by the provision of the Constitution you have every right to live wherever you like and to own property in any place in Nigeria. And nobody can compulsorily acquire your property except in accordance with the provision of the law,” Ariyo said.
In seeking solution to the migration problem, Ariyo appealed for caution so that the wrong signal is not sent, adding that “state governments must come together, work with the Federal Government to ensure that problems from one state do not transfer to another state.”
No substance in guerilla claim
Executive Director, Centre for the Vulnerable and Underprivileged, CENTREP, Oghenejabor Ikimi, also thinks some persons were over-dramatizing the affair. “My reaction to the allegation of movement of suspected terrorists from the north to the south-south and other southern states under the guise of almajiris, while Covid-19 lock-down is on to my mind is a mere allegation. The mere fact that these persons are tagged suspected terrorists imply that there is no concrete proof whatsoever that they are indeed terrorists in the first place.”
“However, whether or not there is truth in the above theory, I wish to recommend that the task of policing our various communities in the South-South or other geo political regions in Nigeria should not be entirely left with the Nigerian Police, as they have failed woefully. To my mind every Nigerian should police the community where he or she is resident. A community could be a street, road, crescent, close or quarter an individual is resident.
“A regional outfit like Amotekun in the South West is good, but in the South –South, I recommend neighborhood watch. We, in the South South region, do not have the same language, history and ancestry like what obtains in the South West region, hence my above recommendation.
“In a well-organized neighborhood watch outfit, everybody resident in a given community is a policeman/woman as the case maybe. In other words the duty of policing a given community is that of all residents. Any new face in a given community is easily identified or spotted, and any individual or group of person perambulating in such a community are easily identified and reported to relevant authorities. Suspicious objects or bags abandoned within a given community are easily nipped and same reported to the authorities.
“Having said that, technologies such as drones, CCtv cameras can be acquired by private individuals, communities, companies and state governments to complement the efforts of neighborhood watch outfits in every community. I rest my case,” asserted.
Almajiris‘re human beings, deserve fair treatment
Chairperson, Child Protection Network, Cross River, James Ibor Esq., said: “They are just children and nobody has cared to know the people behind this evil act of bringing them down to the south or moving them in droves from state to states. NAPTIP and Police are supposed to investigate this, they are supposed to be involved and get to the root of this ugly development.
“These kids are mostly underage and the way they are being transported is very dehumanizing ,we need to start hearing about arrests and violation of their rights instead of that , what we hear about is their interception, nobody has been arrested for the movement of these children, they need protection.
“It is sad that the Nigerian state has failed, it is very sad that the Nigerian government has failed to give them protection, is unfortunate because the almajiris are also human beings, the treatment they are getting is reprehensible,” Ibor lamented.
“States are refusing to take responsibility and refusing to compel parents to take responsibility for the protection of these children, it’s not just a Niger Delta problem but a national one.
Edo, others should direct security agents to tighten borders – Edigin
From Edo state, human rights activist, Leftist Edigin, told one of our reporters: “The movement of some youths from the northern part of the country into the Niger Delta region and indeed the entire South is indeed alarming and worrisome because citizens were not expected to cross inter states borders as a result of the lock down by the Federal and state governments.”
“The various security agencies are not responding adequately to the directives of the governments on this issue, so they are to be blamed for their influx into the south. If the security agents were doing their work, they will not be able to smuggle themselves as they are now doing.
How Bayelsa trapped some intruders
Bayelsa is lucky to have two motorable entry and exit points at the Adagbabiri boundary with Patani in Delta and the Igbogene flank with Mbiama in Rivers making it easy to monitor the movement of vehicles coming to the state.
The state government task force on Covid-19, state vigilante and security operatives have intercepted and turned back no fewer than three buses conveying suspected Almajiris to the state while enforcing the “no entry” directive of the state government at the boundary posts.
Though some of the passengers claimed they were on their way to the state on commercial fishing expedition, others claimed to be on the way to Port- Harcourt, Rivers State en route Bayelsa waters.
In just one week alone, the Bayelsa state government and security operatives have intercepted and sent back no fewer than three buses conveying Quranic education pupils, also known as almajiri at the state entry point into Yenagoa, the Bayelsa state capital.
“Confirming the development the Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Information and Orientation, Yenagoa, and member of the State Covid-19 Task force, stated that in quick response, the security operatives stationed at the entry point ordered the almajiri children be taken back in the same buses conveying them in line with the “No Entry” directive of the government at the border.
According to the state government official, while some of the almajiris claimed they were on their way to the state on commercial fishing expedition, others claimed to be on their way to Port Harcourt, Rivers State en-route Bayelsa waters.
In the same vein, chairman, Bayelsa State Vigilante, Doubiye Alagba, who also intercepted and immediately ordered back a 14- sitter bus fully loaded with almajiri from Zamfara state, said: ”We are very much on ground at all the entering points of the city as directed by our governor, His Excellency, Senator Douye Diri, to make sure that the no entry lock down order is enforced.
N’Delta govs sleeping on duty- Wills
But Barrister Iniuro Wills, a vocal Ijaw leader and two time commissioner for Information and Environment in his native Bayelsa state, who is the President, Ijaw Professionals Association (Homeland Chapter), heaped the blame of the new wave of migration on the region on the door steps of the governors and the elected representatives of the people.
His words, “The Niger Delta people should hold their governors responsible for any consequences of this glaring danger. Niger Delta governors need to stop sleeping on duty, as is always the case with the region’s political representatives.”
“On the part of the Federal Government, it needs to know that if it does not arrest this reckless and massive internal incursion, particularly as it also breaches the President’s ban on interstate travel in his bid to stem the spread of Covid-19, it could trigger constitutional and geopolitical tensions of historic note”.
Why ‘re our leaders foot-dragging? Morris, environmentalist asks
Also renowned environmentalist activist, Comrade Alagoa Morris expressed concern over current scenario where civilians of extraction are descending on the South -South from the North when they are not uniformed personnel or any government officials at such a time when there is corona virus pandemic related lock down.
He said: ”It would have still been a concern even when we are not experiencing such pandemic; because of security reasons. Before this corona virus interrupted ongoing activities and plans globally; the issue of threat posed by some bandits, kidnappers and terrorists resulted in the clamor for regional security outfits.
“The West acted promptly by coming up with the establishment of operation Amotekun. That was good; as the North already has their related security outfit. The East and South- South were being urged by some concerned citizens of the zones, including myself; to make haste and establish same for our zones. This, I supported, because I felt such outfits which would be creation of law, would play complementary roles to the military, police, DSS and other security agencies since these agencies seem to be overwhelmed by the security challenges Nigerians are contending with.
It’s security threat – Ijaw women leader
President General Ijaw Women Connect IWC-Worldwide, Comrade. (Mrs) Rosemary John-Oduone, asserted: “The influx of persons suspected to be almajiris from the northern region of the country into the Niger Delta and South East is a well-orchestrated action. For me, this development calls for concern as those being transported into the Niger Delta and South East do not seem to me like the conventional almajiris, but herders, because most of the people caught in the trailers coming into the Niger Delta and South Eastern states are not children, but adults. Full grown men, so it calls for worries.”
“I think, there is more to it than meets the eyes, because it has become a trend if you take a careful look at it. This is an invasion of territories and our people from the Niger Delta and South East must be at alert. I see a capturing of territories ongoing.
In Delta, we turn back 5 truckloads of northerners daily- Commissioner Onogba
The number of northerners trying to sneak through the border town of Ologbo, the entry point between Edo and Delta along the Warri – Benin carriageway is not declining despite the huge presence of security team and task force drafted to the point against unauthorized vehicles entering the state in restriction of inter-state movement ordered by President Muhammadu Buhari to stem spread of COVID-19 around the country.
On Monday, Delta State Commissioner of Environment, Mr Chris Onogba and an aide to Delta state Governor Sen Ifeanyi Okowa on Security, Ezekiel Daniel, led a team of security men to uncover 13 people from Kaduna, who had hidden between sacks of maize and they were immediately turned back.
“Every day, we turn back four to five trucks heading from the North to Niger Delta towns, it’s either Warri Sapele, or Ughelli or even Agbarho or any of the towns,” Onogba said.
“Sometimes, I wonder why the sudden crave from these northerners to head south from Kaduna, Yobe, Kano and even Nasarawa, we see them daily, some hide between foodstuffs while some are filled with just people giving stories, no genuine excuse to come to this direction,” the commissioner said.
Dr Vincent Ekariko, a community leader, stated: “I have no doubt that there is a plan on their sudden immigration to the south, I learnt that the number of persons that storm this state from the northern part of the country is huge, this development is worrisome and the government must put an end to it.
Convene security summit- Amechi, Itsekiri forerunner
In Delta state, Itsekiri forerunner, Mr Amechi Ogbitse Ogbonna, said: “The issue of Boko Haram attacking states in South-South – they do not have that combative culture to attack any of the militant states in the South-South. For me, we need a security summit with a delegation of five from each of the ethnic tribes, we must engage Seriki of the Hausa.”
“So many alamajris in Delta state, we are not safe, mostly in our rural areas, a task force must be put in place made of members various interest groups to verify the areas they are occupying and to ascertain who are their leaders. There should be enforcement of the ban on tricycle and motorcycle movements in some places, including illegal motor parks across the states of the South- South,” he said.
How our govs should handle threat – Eyengho
Filmmaker and public commentator, Alex Eyengho, told Saturday Vanguard: “This is quite troubling and seem to me an existential challenge and indeed threat to life. That this is happening during the COVID-19 pandemic lock down nationwide and when there is supposedly no inters-state travels except those on essential duties, makes it more worrisome and scary. Yes, as Nigerians and under the laws of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, Nigerians are free to settle down in any part of the country of their choice, but certainly not when they pose a security threat.”
“I urge Governors from the South-South region and other southern states to rise up to the occasion and protect the lives and property of their citizens and other law- abiding Nigerians living within their states and region.
There’re invisible hands behind the movement – Mulade
National coordinator, Centre for Peace and Environmental Justice, CEPEJ, Comrade Sheriff Mulade, said: “It is worrisome, in spite of the lock down, this influx of Fulanis into Niger Delta cannot be contained by security agents. The question is what is behind this influx at this critical time?
“Some lonely voices have been raising this insecurity situation for some time before now. The South-South governors must be more proactive to curtail the perceived insecurity on board. The efforts of federal and state governments are not enough; they should be more proactive.
Don’t accommodate almajiris for now – Alawowei, CHURAC
President, Centre for Human Rights and Anti- Corruption Crusade, CHURAC, Cleric Alaowei,
Said: “The influx of the almajiri children daily coming to the southern part of the country from the northern part though is a constitutional requirement, but their coming poses a big threat to lives and property in the South -East and South- South regions where a larger contingent of these almajiris do come on a daily basis.
State of things in A’Ibom
The situation in Akwa Ibom is that since the inter-state lockdown, two trailers conveying suspected terrorists from the northern part of the country had been intercepted in the state.
The state governor, Udom Emmanuel, last weekend intimated the people how 13 occupants o who joined a trailer conveying goats and cows into Eket local government area were intercepted and sent out of the state.
Just on Wednesday, another trailer was intercepted with 32 persons in Obot Akara local government area through Abia state.
Activists bemoan N’Delta govs’ alleged clumsiness
Human rights activists in Akwa Ibom state expressed disappointment over the inability of the governors of the Niger Delta region to take proactive step to tackle the invasion of the region by persons suspected to be terrorists.
Reacting to the recent transportation of persons in trailers to the states of the region in spite of the lockdown, Uyo human rights lawyer, Mr. Clifford Thomas, wondered why it appears that only Governor Nyesom Wike of Rivers State was raising alarm over such suspicious development.
Thomas, who is also the Executive Director, Foundation for Civil Education, Human Rights and Development Advancement (FoCEHRaDA) alleged that the incidents in Delta state and some other southern states indicate that the invaders are trained and armed civilians, who usually come disguised as cobblers and hawkers.
“What they are doing in places like southern Kaduna is probably what they are planning to do here. Those men are not almajiris, they are sponsored and trained militia men. I see their movement as invasion of southern Nigeria. Already they have infiltrated the bush in South West states.
“Unfortunately, it is only governor Wike that sets agenda and follows it, others do not want to offend the Federal government. The governors should use their security votes to mobilize the people against the invaders,” he added.
The offensive in C’River
In Cross-River state, the state government intercepted and ordered back to destination hundreds of almajiris trying to sneak into the state in about three batches in one week, mostly at night. Last time was May 10 at Gakem border in Bekwarra local government area, the boundary between the state and Benue.
Saturday Vanguard gathered that the first batch was in five trucks of different cement companies and other logistics company, while the second and third were in trailers and with over 200 persons, mostly children and few adults without luggage, all intercepted by a joint task force of COVID-19 and ordered back to where they were coming from.
Nobody, however, monitors if they returned to their states of origin or detoured into another South-South state.