Close to 150 travelers may have sneaked into Plateau State from Kano and other far Northern Nigerian States, despite a nationwide interstate border lockdown to guard against the Coronavirus disease.
Just as Officials were battling to calm frightened citizens following the discovery of an index Kano imported coronavirus case on Thursday, 17 border trespassers were arrested in Bokkos, Friday.
The 17 persons came in from Kano, Bauchi, Gombe and Yobe states, Chairman of Bokkos Local Government Area, Yusuf Machen said in a press statement.
Upon interrogation, the suspects said they were in the State to purchase food supplies.
Food sales and transportation is not restricted during lockdown in Nigeria, but all the aforementioned States, Kano particularly have recorded coronavirus cases.
Their entry through the closed borders without permit, adequate screening and decontamination raised suspicions, forcing authorities to detain them in a local isolation center.
On Thursday, April 23, 2020, few hours to the end of a four-day lockdown which started Monday April 20, 2020, 43 people were arrested, covered in cargo trucks with food supplies. Their destination was unknown but investigations reveal they came from Lafiya, Nasarawa State.
Two days earlier, on Tuesday, April 21, 2020, 48 travelers said to be from Lagos, the epicenter of the coronavirus disease were arrested in Shendam having sneaked in through a Lafiya-Plateau bypass.
Another set of 11 travelers from Lagos were arrested on Wednesday, April 22, 2020 along Kaduna-Jos North road. Same day and on same route, about 20 Kaduna-Bauchi bound cargo trucks were intercepted, but released on claims of carrying food supplies.
Aside from five Lagos travelers who escaped arrest on Tuesday in Lafia according to Nasarawa State officials, a bus carrying over a dozen passengers, escorted by military trucks drove in from the Northeast.
A security source said the bus was trailed to Bukuru town in Jos South Local Government Area but it disappeared around a road intersection linking Rayfield, the home of the State Government House, Kugiya Bukuru market, Jos-Abuja road and Angwan Doki Bukuru residential area.
Officials had planted CCTV cameras at borders to monitor movements, but security at the border stations might be compromised, said a State Official.
“Earlier intelligence suggested they were collecting bribe and letting travelers in. But what we just found out now is that they have shifted their checkpoints to the back of the CCTV cameras so we cannot see what they are doing,” the source said.
According to findings, there are about 13 entry routes in Kanam, a Southern Plateau LGA, linking Bauchi and other Northeastern States. Others exist in Kanke, Mangu, Bokkos, Barkin Ladi, Bassa, Shendam, Wase, Langtang South, Jos North, Jos East, Jos South and Barkin Ladi, linking different Northwestern, North central and Northeastern States.
However, only four routes in the Northern part of the State are guarded with only one, having CCTV. Trespassers aware of the CCTV surveillance at Riyom, the main entry point to the State have resorted to these mostly unguarded border routes.
The State had contemplated setting up security checkpoints at all border routes to check illegal entry during the pandemic. With the suspected compromise however, our official source said camera drones might be deployed at the borders.
Whether the State has the resources to deploy drones to all of these entry routes however, only time will tell.