ABIA State government has warned all northerners living within its borders that it will not hesitate to shut down all the cattle markets in its territory if they continue defying the coronavirus lockdown guidelines by receiving kinsmen from up north.
Over recent weeks, there has been a surge in the number of northerners venturing into southern Nigeria despite the fact that there is a nationwide ban on inter-state travel. There are now fears that this uncontrolled internal migration taking place which the coronavirus is still raging could lead to the spread of the virus.
Chris Ezem, the secretary to the Abia State government and chairman of the state’s inter-ministerial committee on Covid-19, has told northern community leaders that allowing their kinsmen to sneak into the state now puts lives at risk. He warned that government might be compelled to close all the livestock markets operated by members of the northern community in the state if further reports are received of youths being stowed away in trucks.
Mr Ezem said: “We are worried that despite repeated warnings, we continue to receive reports of northern youths stowed away in cattle and Dangote cement trucks bound for our state and other neighbouring states. That is unacceptable to us and must stop forthwith.
“We strongly view these acts as sabotage against the war on Covid-19 which we have invested a lot of state resources on. If things don’t change quickly, we will start with a two-week ban on trucks bringing cows into our state.
“There are also reports that your members are not abiding by our Covid-19 regulations on compulsory wearing of face masks, social distancing, provision of materials for hand washing as well as directives on operation time for markets in the state. That must stop now or we will take drastic measures, within the law, to protect all citizens and residents of the state.”
Alhaji Yaro Danladi, the Sarkin Hausawa of the state and Alhaji Idris Bashir, the chief imam of Aba, both appreciated Governor Okezie Ikpeazu, for his focused efforts to protect the state from Covid-19. They assured that their members would work with the government to ensure that the desired results were achieved.
Alhaji Danladi promised to take necessary measures to stem the tide of migration from the north into the state during this period as well as ensure that members of their community abide by all the guidelines issued by the committee. Most of the northerners travelling southwards are believed to be urchins known as Almajiris, who have recently been released from urban centres.