Over 60 destitute people were deported to Anambra by the Lagos government.
Governor Peter Obi of Anambra State has threatened to carry out a reprisal following the deportation of beggars and destitute people by the Lagos State Government to the South Eastern state.
On July 24, 72 evictees were dumped, under the cover of darkness, at Upper Iweka Bridge, Onitsha, the commercial hub of Anambra State.
In a strongly worded letter to President Goodluck Jonathan, Mr. Obi described the action as “illegal, unconstitutional, and a blatant violation of the human rights” of the deportees.
“Your Excellency, no amount of offence committed by these people, even if deemed extremely criminal, would justify or warrant such cruel action by a State authority and in a democracy. Even refugees are protected by the law,” Mr. Obi said.
The Anambra governor further urged Mr. Jonathan to direct the Attorney-General of the Federation to investigate the incident.
“Naturally, I have the obligation to protect the interest and welfare of all Nigerians resident in Anambra State irrespective of their states of origin and I would be left no option other than reciprocity or reprisal,” Mr. Obi said.
“I will, however, put any such reaction in abeyance until Your Excellency has had the opportunity to address our concerns,” he added.
A RECURRING INCIDENT
Last week’s deportation was not the first time beggars and destitute people were moved from Nigeria’s commercial capital to Anambra State.
In September 2012, Anambra accused Lagos of “dumping unidentified persons brought in nine buses” at a location in the state, a situation which forced Mr. Obi to swiftly address a press conference alerting security agencies.
The Lagos State government, however, have insisted that it merely “resettled” 67 indigenes of Anambra State who, of their own volition, decided to return to their home towns.
The actual figure of the deportees has, however, continued to vary. While Anambra said 72 persons, Lagos stated 67.
‘RESCUED FROM THE STREETS’
A series of exchanges between the two state governments made available to PREMIUM TIMES indicated that the Lagos State Government notified its Anambra counterpart of its intention to relocate 14 persons.
In a letter dated April 9, 2013, and addressed to the Anambra State Liaison Officer in Victoria Island, Lagos; the state solicited the assistance of Anambra to screen the 14 destitute “rescued” from the streets of Lagos.
“I am to inform you that fourteen (14) persons who claimed to be indigenes of your state are currently in our centre awaiting your response towards evacuation and integration with their families, back in Anambra State,” read the letter signed by O. T Ajao, Special Adviser, Office of Youth and Social Development.
In its April 15 response, Anambra requested the particulars of the 14 alleged indigenes of the state to enable it “make proper enquiry as to finding out their true origin.”
“The above request is of urgent importance, to facilitate their integration with their families if they are from Anambra,” the letter signed by Chukwudum Ucheoma, Senior Special Assistant to the Governor, read.
On April 29, Lagos State responded, forwarding the particulars of the 14 indigenes, and further requesting the presence of Anambra State officials at its Rehabilitation and Training Centre in Ikorodu, to conduct a physical identification through interaction with them.
A review of the document by PREMIUM TIMES revealed that out of the 14 persons, only three correctly stated their places of origin in Anambra State.
One person stated Nkanu in Enugu State; one from Obudu in Cross River State, while three persons stated unrecognisable places of origin.
Six persons could not state their local governments of origin.
The Action Congress of Nigeria, ACN, in a statement berated critics of the Lagos State Government’s action, accusing them of politicising a decision to reunite indigent people with their families.
“We expect that the opposition in Lagos and its array of frustrated politicians will certainly seek to play politics with the decision to move some people that have no tangible business staying in Lagos to their home states,” said the statement signed by Joe Igbokwe, Publicity Secretary, Lagos State chapter of the ACN.
“We expected that the professional ethnic agitators who have wasted public offices in Igboland, pillaging resources that would have served the interests of the people are now cashing further from the plights of their vicious approach to governance on this issue.
“We should note that other states in the South, including South West states have received such people and the Lagos State government has been careful to ensure that the number of people involved in such periodic movements are minimal and are only people who do not have where to stay in Lagos, who don’t have any real engagement in Lagos and who constitute nuisance to other Lagosians.”