Travel ban: ‘Infiltrators will be sent back home, won’t be allowed to escape’

•Afenifere, Akintoye react •Human-animal transportation: Meat consumers in great danger —Health experts

BOLA BADMUS, TUNBOSUN OGUNDARE, OLALEKAN OLABULO, and KEHINDE AKINSEHINDE-JAYEOBA, dug into the controversial influx of Northern youth into Lagos, and the implications of such movement in the midst of a deadly epidemic.

THE security situation in Lagos State is reportedly being reviewed following the incessant influx of youths from the Northern part of the country into the state, despite the ban on inter-state movement, with the police saying they have designed new ways of stopping the violators.

Weeks into the lockdown in the state over the coronavirus pandemic, the violation of the ban has suddenly witnessed a spike, with trucks moving essential goods, especially farm produce, being caught regularly hiding the young men in their numbers inside their consignments.

The uproar generated by the discovery of such young men being hidden inside trucks moving tomato and other fruits from the North to Lagos, further escalated with the recent arrest of another truck at the Berger area of the state hiding the youths among cows for consumption in the state.

The possibility of a COVID-19 carrier travelling with the animals and infecting them through droplet is now getting many worried in the state which is currently with the highest number of COVID-19 infection as well as the highest number of recovered patients, unlike many states where the passengers are coming from, which have high infection rate and very low recovery rate.

Although a link between animal and human transmission is yet to be scientifically established, medical personnel who spoke with Saturday Tribune said such human-cow movements portend serious danger in the event of carriers being a part of such trips.

While the police have been consistently knocked for not doing enough to checkmate the violation and the dangers that come with it, the Lagos State police command acknowledged the infraction to Saturday Tribune, while giving the assurance of a new strategy to stem the tide.

The command’s spokesperson, Bala Elkana, told Saturday Tribune that instead of arresting the violators and releasing them after the mandatory 14-day isolation, they would now be sent back and their return journey handled in a way that there would be no escape route for them.

There have been fears that if released, the violators could use other states’ boundaries with Lagos to still access the state, which is their original destination.

Saturday Tribune investigation showed that Ogun State’s boundary with Lagos State at Sango/Ota axis is being explored to violate the ban.

Elkana, however, gave the assurance that such an infraction would not be again. According to him, the state Commissioner of Police, Hakeem Odumosu, has not only visited  the different border points in the state to assess the  situation, but has also deployed policemen and patrol teams to those places.

He also said that the state police command was working with other commands in the south-western part and other commands in the country to ensure that intending travellers to Lagos State are prevented from doing so for now.

He said: “The CP has not only deployed personnel in all the entry and exit points, he mandated them to ensure thorough checks of all the trucks and vehicles that will be allowed into the state. That is why you see heavy traffic in some of the entry points into the state. Our men ensure thorough checks of all the vehicles that are coming into the state. They mandate the truck drivers to offload their goods for easy access to their trucks for proper check.”

The spokesperson pointed out that the CP and his counterpart in neigbouring Ogun State had visited checkpoints jointly manned  by the states at boundary communitiues to replicate the measures adopted for easy movement of essential service providers, adding that security has also been tightened around the boundary communities to prevent unnecessary interstate  movements.

“All the commands are working towards ensuring that movements of non-essential service providers into the different states are prevented. Once we discover them, we hand them over to the checkpoint of the next state till they return to where they are  coming from,” Elkana noted.

On the decision of the police not to be arresting the culprits, the police image maker said arreseting them would help them fulfil their determination of coming into Lagos. “We are not helpless by not arresting them. What we do is to send them back. If we arrest them, they will only be isolated and after 14 days, they will be released and they will remain in Lagos but when the drivers consider the amount of money that they use in buying wasted fuel and the stress involved, it will certainly pain them more,” he said.

 

‘Punish them’

A former president of the Nigerian Union of Allied Health Professionals (NUAHP), Dr Kayode Faniran, called for caution, saying a close contact between animals and an infected person poses a danger. Speaking to Saturday Tribune, the medical expert called for punishment for violators of the cross-border movement ban.

“There have been reports from other countries that animals contract the virus from humans but we have not got any report that humans get the virus from animals. Since it is a new disease, research is still going on. However, there has been no report of animals infected by COVID-19.

“Since the virus is spread through droplet, close contact between an animal and a carrier poses a lot of danger. The traveller is exposing the country to a wide spread of the dangerous disease. The law says there should be no cross-border travels. Anybody caught should be punished. The law enforcement agents must be firm in preventing these travellers from entering the state as they pose great danger to animals and  humans alike,” Dr Faniran submitted.

Another medical expert, Dr Lami Mohammed, said: “A potential virus carrier travelling with animals poses danger to the lives of the livestock as well as humans since the virus can be transmitted to animals. This should be discouraged and offenders should be punished.

“For consumable goods, there is no way we can prevent people from travelling with vegetables and fruits that are transported into the state because there is the need for a handler and a supervisor to follow such consumables. Individuals need to make sure that they are healthy before embarking on the transportation of edibles. Everyone should make sure that whatever consumables that are bought from the market are adequately sanitised before they are brought into the house. Fruits should be washed thoroughly with vinegar. If you don’t have vinegar, the fruits should be washed with salt and water. And vegetables should be washed with hot water.”

 

How to handle raw meat during COVID-19 crisis –Expert

The chief executive of Lagos’ leading butchery outfit, Charm Butchery, Adegboyega Adesida, provided an outline for the handling of raw meat for consumption during an epidemic, even as he noted that nothing is yet scientifically conclusive on human-to-animal transmission of the deadly virus.

Adesida, whose firm is into partnership with the Lagos State Ministry of Agriculture and occupies a central space within Alausa, the seat of government, said consumers need to know the source of the meat they are procuring and the health status of the animals being butchered for their consumption.

He said: “Since the beginning of the global outbreak of COVID-19, the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) has been collaborating closely with the World Health Organisation (WHO) and the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) to assist member countries identify potential animal hosts of this virus and reduce spillover events to humans.

“Investigations to understand the epidemiology of COVID-19 and the involvement of animals as a virus reservoir or intermediate hosts are ongoing. At this point in time, however, the highest risk of COVID-19 spread is through human-to-human transmission, according to WHO, which is the authority and primary source of information regarding the human health aspects of this outbreak.

“Since the start of the COVID-19 outbreak, FAO has been actively promoting hygiene practices and epidemic updates through its communication channels globally, and strongly advises the public and particularly the slaughterhouses and abattoir facilities to take the following practices into account as there are speculations and rumors that coronavirus could be found in some animals – cattle, goat etc – though not validated scientifically yet.

“There is no current evidence of dogs playing a role in the spread of COVID-19. As a general practice, when caring for any kind of animals, always wash your hands before and after you interact with them. People should not handle, slaughter, sell, prepare or consume meat that originates from wild animals or livestock that are sick or that have died from unknown causes.

“Raw wild meat or uncooked dishes based on the blood of wild animals should not be consumed. These practices place people at high risk of contracting a number of infections. Any unusual morbidity or mortality of animals should be reported to the animal health authorities.

“Aside from embracing the FAO guidelines stated above, we provide end-to-end visibility of meat processing and meat product supply chain, towards transparency and traceability from slaughterhouse to fork. Our model is supported by a cloud-based technology (Blockchain) that allows customers with a traceability tool via USSD code or QR scanning process using their mobile device at their convenience, to verify health status of our fresh meat cuts, purchased for consumption at our designated market outfits.”

 

Every state should care for its redundant citizens –Afenifere

Reacting to the development, the pan-Yoruba socio-political group, Afenifere, expressed concern about the productivity of the youths smuggling themselves into Lagos State.

The organisation’s National Publicity Secretary, Mr Yinka Odumakin, said: “We have passed that stage now, a stage where no section of the country has the pleasure of loading its citizens as a burden to any other section of the country. If the citizens from any section of the country have the skills that can benefit another section of the country, which they can hire, that is okay. But for one to be loading citizens who are not economically useful, we have passed that era.

“And if Kaduna can be loading Almajiris to other states within the North, that tells you it is not about ethnic animosity, it is about reality on the ground, showing that only productive citizens would be useful post COVID-19 Nigeria.

“And, therefore, every section of the country now should take care of its redundant citizens and make them productive citizens which is what we have been talking about all these years, that when we say we have high-level unemployment in Nigeria, how many of them are productive citizens? How many of them have generative capacity? That’s the functional citizens that post COVID- 19 Nigeria needs now.

“Well, clearly, like I told you, every state in Nigeria now, every part of the country would need productive citizens who can generate income, who have productive capacity for the economy. I do not see how any state now would say that it wants to build a secretariat for the unemployed citizens. Therefore, we cannot in the name of one Nigeria say people should open up and make their states the secretariats of liabilities.”

 

Northern govs have shown what to do with them –Akintoye

A prominent Yoruba leader and celebrated historian, Professor Banji Akintoye, also made his view known on the matter.

Professor Akintoye, who is the president-general and leader of the Yoruba World Congress (YWC), said what the Northern governors have been doing concerning the problem should apply everywhere. He said: “My comment is that the Northern governors have shown us what to do. They have shown us what to do and what they showed us to do is that they have sent the Almajiris back to their states even in the North. I don’t think our governors have any difficulty doing the same thing.

“As citizens from this part of the country, our governors should please protect us as and do the same thing: send them back to their places of origin. Yes, that is what the Northern governors are doing. Why should we not be able to do that?

“We are hearing that our governors are doing the same thing, now we are happy with that, we are very very grateful to our governors. They just need to up the scale and be sure to put in place strong border patrol that would send every group that wants to come to Yorubaland back to where they are coming from in the North. This is their duty to us now and we would be very grateful if they would do that because it would protect our lives.

“This is no longer a question of Nigerian politics, this is a matter of life and death. Our people should know that we can’t see this as politics, we in the South-West can’t see this as politics, it is a matter of life and death to us and so our governors must stand up and do it for us and protect our lives.”

 

There is fire on the mountain –Security expert

Seasoned journalist and security expert, Juliana Francis, raised posers, responding to the development.

She said: “There is serious danger or should I say fire on the mountain? Let’s first ask ourselves, what are these people and their children running away from? Why are they suddenly sneaking into the South-West and the South-East like thieves in the night?

“The northern governors came together and agreed to disband the Almariji system and asked everyone to return to their respective northern states, but they didn’t return to their states, rather they are running to the South-West and the South-East.”

She added: “They are running because something is chasing them. Death is chasing them. Indeed, since the outbreak of COVID-19, mysterious deaths have been visiting some northern states. People are dying like flies and still the governors keep saying that the deaths are not related to the pandemic. What is causing these deaths and why are the citizens running away from their beloved northern states? Two reasons for these deaths readily come to mind, and this is my opinion: One, the index COVID-19 case in Kano State, after returning from USA, landed in Abuja and then travelled by road to Kano.

“He then embarked on attending series of events, including mosques and naming ceremonies. He must have spread the virus to people and those infected spread it to others, remember that the virus can be asymptomatic.

“Also, majority of northerners, judging from different videos on social media, showed that they do not believe in the existence of the virus, so are probably not as careful or observe social distance as they should.

“Secondly, Lai Mohammed warned people in the North to stop buying COVID-19 vaccine on the streets. This presupposes that they have been buying vaccines and nobody knows where the so-called vaccine came from. How are we sure that the vaccine is not what is killing them?

“The most important thing right now is that Nigerians deserve to know what is killing people in different northern states and stop shrouding everything in secrecy and politics.

“If as people fear, the virus is responsible for these deaths, it means that the lives of the citizens of the south-western states, where these northerners are running to for solace are not safe. The implication is a health pandemic.

“State governments in the South-West should be vigilant and not be sentimental about tackling this problem. Since these northerners are Nigerians, they have the right to move within Nigeria, but the state governments should invoke the law where they agreed that there shouldn’t be interstate travelling for now.

“The fact that these people sneaked into the states at night means they flouted this law and agreement. Further entrance into the South-West should cease until further notice or until the cause of constant deaths in the Northern region has been determined and checked.

“To further forestall such movements, the governors, who are the commanders-in-chief in their states, should take active interest in those coming into the country. Security agencies should be placed at strategic routes and borders between states to ensure people comply with the no-interstate-travelling rule. Although security agents have been known to collect bribes and allow such entrance into states, this time however, the governments should be serious about this. Any security agent found collecting bribe to mortgage the lives of South-West citizens should be punished and removed from his post and another put in his place. The Commissioners of Police in those South-West states should be held liable for any breach of protocol concerning the states’ directives.

“Beyond the COVID-19 issue, let the South-West also be mindful that Boko Haram might be coming into South-West in the guise of Almajiri.”

 

What we are doing to uphold inter-state travels ban -Lagos govt

Lagos State Commissioner for Information and Strategy, Mr. Gbenga Omotoso:

“We are not arresting anybody now, whether Almajiri or anybody. What we are doing now is that there is total restriction on people coming in, especially in the South-West, as the governors in the region have banned inter-state travels and that’s exactly what we are following.

“We are not allowing vehicles carrying people to come into the state and those ones that are not restricted, they must not carry more than seven people who would offload the goods and they must return with the vehicles. That’s all we are doing.

“Security agents are at the boundary points and we have the Neighborhood Watch people to keep watching what is going on, so we are not doing anything to gag anybody, whether they are Almajiris or not.

“On building an Isolation centre at Berger, we don’t have any such plan. We don’t have anything to show that there is a wave of arrivals of such people at the boundary.”

 

 

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