The Onitsha South Local Government Area Secretariat Annex, in Anambra State, was built for administrative purposes. Today, it’s occupied quite alright, but not by workers alone. One of the halls in the complex has been turned into a refugee camp.
In the hall are men, women and babies, who were brought to Onitsha by agents of the Lagos State government and figuratively dumped on Anambra State government some weeks ago. Arrested in Lagos and “deported” to Anambra, these people are now refugees in their land. They have been given temporary accommodation and being fed by Anambra State government.
And their security is in the hands of operatives of Nigerian Civil Defence Corps (NCDC). Residents of the commercial city of Onitsha, especially those in Upper Iweka, woke up a few weeks ago to behold about 600 strange persons. It was gathered that they were brought in the dead of the night by a trailer, whose departure point was not known immediately.
The Anambra State government, on its part, had swung into action and took custody of the strange visitors. It was later learnt that they were people picked up from the streets of Lagos and moved to Onitsha. Speaking on this, Anambra State Governor, Mr. Peter Obi, had charged the people to be alert and vigilant at all times. He thanked members of the public for bringing the information to him as soon as the destitute persons were dropped, adding that increased vigilance in all the communities in the state would help forestall this type of incident.
The governor had said he had directed law enforcement agencies to impound the trailer that brought the people as well as take custody of the inmates, pending investigations. Saturday Sun gathered that when investigation revealed that the inmates were ferried from Lagos, Governor Obi expressed sadness that Nigerians could be taken from one state in the country and dumped in another state. He was said to have confronted Lagos State Governor, Mr. Babatunde Fashola, at the Governors’ Forum parley on this.
The Lagos governor was said to have denied knowledge of this. Not satisfied, Governor Obi has written a petition to President Goodluck Jonathan. Giving a hint to this earlier, the governor had said his government would no longer tolerate a situation where people of the state were discriminated against or have their appointments terminated by other state governments, when indigenes of other states are gainfully employed in Anambra.
He said: “Investigations have shown that most of them (those ‘deported’ from Lagos) are not from Anambra State, but were dropped here. I am going to make a report to the Federal Government that Nigerians cannot be refugees in Nigeria. It is a dangerous trend. “We have seen a situation where Anambrarians working in other parts of the country are sent packing, even when they have served faithfully where they were.
We have not been doing the same thing. In schools, we have most of them from other states. Even teachers and students, most of them are in our school system where we offer free education benefit.” Obi said his government would not accept a situation where people were arrested in other states and repatriated to Anambra State. “The wisest thing to do is that they should have been handed over to us to be prosecuted, according to their offences. Most of them are not from Anambra State and we are investigating,” he said.