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People armed with bags were seen on motorcycles in Idi-iroko, the border area of Ogun state taking different routes to come into Nigeria or get out of the country. Although, it is believed that the border has been shut and no one is allowed to come or go out of the country via the border line, but findings by our correspondent showed that people were taking all the illegal routes to go and come to the country with disregard to Covid-19 protocol.
Getting to the Idi-iroko border area on a sunny Wednesday which fell to the first holiday of the Eid-el-Fitr (the Muslim festive after 30 days fasting), our correspondent was bombarded by the Motorcyclists who expressed readiness to take him to wherever he is going to either within Nigeria or outside the country.
When our reporter told them he is going to the border, he was told the border has been shut, except if he is ready to take illegal routes. Our correspondent however insisted that he is going to the border one of them who identified himself as Arogidigba offered to do the job.
On getting to the border it was observed that there is a fence that demarcates the border between Nigeria and Benin Republic, it was further discovered that there were no serious activities there except for people coming to renew their passports. Our correspondent who monitored the environment discovered that people were not allowed to take the route either to Benin Republic or to come into Nigeria.
When our reporter approached one of the immigration officers standing around the premises to ask how he can get to Benin Republic via the official border line, he was told that the border has been shut.
The immigration officer disclosed that there is no present activities going on in the border area.
He said, “you can’t take this route to either go out or come into Nigeria. The border has been shut, except people go and take any illegal routes, but this place is a no go area. You can see that there is no really activities here and that is because the border is not open for now”.
When efforts to go beyond the entrance prove abortive, our correspondent resulted to going to some of the illegal routes to observe how people who were coming in and going out of the country obey the covid-19 protocols.
The motorcyclist while taking our reporter through some of the illegal routes however said, “there are over 30 illegal routes you can take to Benin Republic. We take no fewer than 30 people there daily, this is what we do and it is not new to us.
“Although crossing the border via illegal routes is difficult in the past, but things have changed now. The Joint Border patrol now understand how it works here and they allow us to go in and come back so far you can greese their palms.”
Our reporter told the Okada rider to take him to some of the routes to observe how things are.
…no face mask needed, “pay and get out” of Nigeria
On getting to more than seven illegal routes to leave Nigeria, it was observed that despite having the presence of the Joint Border Patrol, there is a total disregard to Covid-19 protocol. It was also discovered that officers were more concern about the money they are geetting than ensuring that the people comply with protocol.
From observation, not even one out of numerous people on the motorcycles trooping in and out of the Nigeria via the illegal checkpoints were seen using face mask. Our correspondent who was curious was forced to ask the motorcyclist taking him around why there was no disregard to Covid-19 protocol.
He however disclosed that the border officers were carrying out temperature testing and ensuring that the people use face mask some months back when Covid-19 was at the peak in the country.
He further noted that COVID-19 testing were done to illegal immigrants in some of the prominent illegal entry points.
According to him, the guideline changed about two months ago as the security officers were not concerned about how you protect yourself from the virus, but what you can offer them.
He added, “they don’t allow people without nose masks to enter or go out of the country some few months back when Covid-19 is at its peak. They carried out testing in some of the prominent illegal check points.
“But things have changed now, it is none of their business if you use face mask or not, all they are concerned about is that you pay them before you can be allowed to go or come into the country.”
When asked how much they collect, the motorcyclist explained that this is based on what you are carrying. He further explained that the amount the border patrol charge people going or coming into the country holding traveling bags is different from what they charge people going without bags.
He added, “If you are holding a bag, we will charge you N1,500 and we pay them half of it, but if you are not holding bag, we will charge you N1,000 and we pay the security operatives at the illegal entry half of it.”
He also told our correspondent that the people at the illegal entry points are boys of the border patrol officers who reportedly deliver the money made via the routes to them
He noted,” You will discover that those guys at the illegal points are not putting on uniform, that is because it is their boys that are here. They put those guys in almost all the illegal entry points to be collecting money from us, those guys deliver to them.
“Although, these officers always come here sometimes, but their boys are the ones that are always here day and night.”
The Public Relations Officer of the Nigeria Customs Service ,Ogun Command 1 ,Ahmed Oloyede could not be reached as of the time of filing this report .