Three Togolese were on Wednesday arrested in Iseyin town in Oyo State, after allegedly bribing their way into Nigeria amidst the coronavirus lockdown, security operatives and sources have said.
The trio according to an indigene of Iseyin who begged not to be named, entered Nigeria through Saki town, though the Nigeria Immigration Service in Oyo State said they came through Ilesha Baruba, a border town in Kwara State.
PREMIUM TIMES gathered that the Togolese, who are labourers, were intercepted at Odo-Omu area of Iseyin local government on Wednesday.
They arrived Iseyin on Tuesday.
Our correspondent gathered that the trio, Commando Kwasi, Eberivie Isiaq and Kemi Terivie, a mother of one, went to Cotonou, Republic of Benin in January.
They, however, returned to Nigeria on Tuesday after several weeks of the closure of Nigerian borders.
The federal government had announced the closure of its borders due to the outbreak of coronavirus also known as COVID-19.
Bribing way through?
Our correspondent gathered from an indigene of Iseyin that each of the Togolese allegedly paid N2,000 to officers of the Nigeria Immigration Service in Saki to enter Nigeria.
The source said, “Some people from Benin Republic came into Nigeria today through Saki. They arrived at our area this evening. They said the officials at the border collected 2,000 naira per person as bribe to gain entrance to Saki.
“I know this can be very risky for our state. I spoke with them one on one. Without being tested for that matter. So, I don’t know if you have any means to alert the government to caution those officials there. Some of them are ‘scattered’ to their various houses in Iseyin here.
“I am trying to be careful of my head as well because I know them and if I mention them plainly, they will know it came from me. Some alighted at some villages in Saki while others at Iseyin. They are Béninois and Togolese who help people in farming, making of ridges and hoe. They also have their personal farms as well. They traveled to their country for brief holiday but (some) were caught in the lockdown.”
It was gathered that some of the residents alerted the security agencies and drew the attention of the Iseyin local government authority.
The source noted that this led to the arrest of the trio on Wednesday.
Chairman, Iseyin local government, Mufutau Abilawon, alongside representatives of Aseyin of Iseyin, Ikolaba of Iseyin, Ismahil Odubiyi and members of COVID-19 local committee visited the residence of the foreigners to ascertain their travel history and medical condition on Wednesday.
Mr Abilawon said “We rushed here when we heard of the information to ascertain its veracity and quickly nip the spread in the bud. As directed by Oyo State governor, we are not to cover any case of illegal incursion of foreigners or COVID-19 case as the government is working day and night to stop the spread of this deadly disease.
“Members of the COVID-19 committee are here with us and they have questioned the individuals to know their health status and travel history, but we are not stopping at this, we need to have an emergency meeting with all community chiefs (Baales) tomorrow morning to warn them from harbouring foreigners that just came in till this crisis is over.
“These arrived agrarian communities to assist farmers during planting season which we are, but we have to face the reality, our lives are more valuable than any other thing, we must curtail their influx.”
Meanwhile, the public relations officer, Nigerian Immigration Service (NIS) Oyo State Command, Olufemi Adetunji, confirmed the arrest of the trio Wednesday night.
Mr Adetunji in a telephone interview, noted that the trio did not pass through Saki as being speculated.
He said that the trio passed through Ilesha-Baruba in Kwara State and that none of the immigration officers were bribed as alleged.
“Yes. Because, I have been briefed. They said that they passed through Ilesha Baruba in Kwara State and not Saki in Oyo. Saki is not really a border town, there are some villages there but, they did not pass through Saki. They passed through Ilesha Baruba in Kwara.
“Based on the information I have, none of our officers collected anything from them to enter the country.
“But, they have been arrested and they are not with us. The state task force on COVID-19 will speak on that. But, I learnt that they had carried some elementary tests on COVID-19 on them but they are negative.”