No fewer than 11 trucks carrying Almajiri, Quranic education pupil, at the Gakem-Benue boundary of Cross River state, have been intercepted and sent back by the state government in collaboration with Peace Corps Nigeria.
Gakem is in Bekwarra local government area and it is the boundary post between Cross River and Benue states.
The Head of the taskforce team at the border, Mr Omang-Idiege, on Wednesday, stated that the trucks were returned for carrying large numbers of Almajiri against the inter-state lockdown order.
Idiege, who is the State Commissioner for Youth Development and Skill Acquisition, said that the trucks were sent back to their destination between May 4 and May 17, adding that the taskforce had continued to maintain a steady presence at the boundary.
According to him, it was the desire of the state Governor, Ben Ayade, to ensure that the state remains COVID-19 free, hence the effective boundary surveillance.
“Between May 4 and 17, we have sent back 11 trucks conveying Almajiri in their large numbers back to their destination.
“The President has announced an interstate lockdown of persons not on essential duties. I wonder why we keep being confronted with trucks at the Gakem-Benue border conveying Almajiri.
“We will not succumb to any form of challenge or gratification to allow any passenger vehicle or truck conveying Almajiri entrance into the state,” he said.
He commended Gov. Ayade for his enforcement strategies and directives that have kept the state COVID-19 free since the outbreak of the pandemic in Nigeria.
On his part, the State Commandant of Peace Corps Nigeria, Dr Dominic Okweche, said that the Corps was driven by absolute passion to protect Cross River boundaries against the pandemic.
Okweche said that he has deployed over 100 Peace Corps personnel across the state since the COVID-19 taskforce was inaugurated.
Okweche said the Corps was determine to ensure that the state government directives of total shut down of boundaries was enforced.
According to him, the collaboration between the Corps and the state government had recorded tremendous results at the boundary post.
“The Corps has been steadfast and committed in their duties, rejecting all forms of monetary inducement to allow vehicles conveying passengers into the state.
“Peace Corps personnel have been deployed to all the local government areas across the state irrespective of inadequate funding and welfare packages, the Corps have shown doggedness and resilience in the fight against COVID-19.
“If one person is infected with the virus in Cross River, then no one is said to be safe again, hence the commitment to ensure that the state is Covid-19 free”.
“We are poised to deliver on our mandate. We want the state to remain Covid-19 free and we are determined to doing things the right way,” he said.
He thanked Ayade for the confidence he had reposed on the Peace Corps of Nigeria in the state, assuring that the Corps will always deliver on its mandate.
Okweche called on all residents of Cross River to obey government directives on the compulsory use of face masks, no large gatherings among others.