Judex Okoro, Calabar
The Cross River State COVID- 19 task force border patrol team has intercepted five truckloads of Almajiris and other passengers from the northern part of the country.
The border patrol team includes Peace Corps members, vigilantes and youth groups.
A witness, Justine Agbor, said the enforcement team had blocked the Bekwarra-Benue Federal Highway at Gakim in a stop-and-search routine check and found that one of the trucks carried so many children hidden under the goods at about 7:00 pm on Wednesday.
On further search, they discovered that about four other trucks were laden with more children suspected to be Almajiris form the far North, and decided to turn all the five trucks back and subsequently blocked all other routes to forestall re-entry.
Abor said the trucks’ drivers tried to plead that they be allowed to pass, claiming they had a pass from higher authorities but the team refused and insisted that they return the children to where they came from.
Border team leader and Youths Commissioner Signor Omang Idiege said the task force is determined to enforce the federal lockdown, adding that it was the result of intensive search and blockade of interstate vehicles that led to the discovery.
“After a thorough check on the five trucks and we discovered that most of the passengers, aside goods, were Almajiris who did not meet COVID-19 protocols, we had to force them to return,” he said.
He appealed to the Chairman of the state’s COVID-19 task force to visit the truck parks in the State and to caution their drivers against conveying Almajiris who have not been isolated.
The Permanent Secretary in charge of security matters in the Governor’s Office, Dr Alfred Mboto, said his officers at the scene have briefed him about the development.
“We got a report from our security and task force team at the Garkem border town yesterday night that trucks carrying a large number of children from the North alleged to be Almajiris were intercepted after a thorough check and have been turned back.
“For now we have beefed up security even at Itu head bridge and Ekureku-Abaomeghe in Ebonyi State to ensure that those who don’t meet the pandemic protocol don’t enter the State. It is a very difficult time but we shall continue to do our best,” he said.