Military personnel in Kaduna have arrested over 100 Malian and Nigerien illegal immigrants. They were intercepted at Unugwar Kaji, a suburb of Kaduna metropolis, near 1 Division of the Nigerian Army.
The Illegal aliens were brought into the state in six trucks with their wives, children, animals, and other domestic items.
The immigrants had beaten all security checkpoints including those of the men of the Nigerian Immigration Service (NIS) at a post on the Kaduna-Zaria Expressway, but luck ran out on them when they were accosted at the last military checkpoint before entering Kaduna.
The soldiers manning the Unguwar Kaji checkpoint intercepted the illegal immigrants at about 11 pm on Thursday.
Our Correspondent who visited the Unguwar Kaji military checkpoint saw the trucks being guarded by armed military men. The women and children were seen sleeping around and under the trucks.
Attempt by our correspondent to speak to the women and children who looked helpless was frustrated by the soldiers, who ordered him out of the area.
But some residents in the area, who spoke with LEADERSHIP SUNDAY, said, "the people there were arrested on Thursday night by the soldiers. They are over hundred in number. And they have been sleeping under the trucks since Thursday.
"Many of them who prayed in this mosque on Friday told us they are not from Niger Republic and that they were going to Lagos for greener pasture and would return to their country after the dry season.
"One of them told me that he is from Mali, and asked me to help him with something to eat that he was hungry. They are many in number. They include men, women and children including their animals," a resident said.
Efforts to confirm the arrest from the spokesman of the 1 Division Nigerian Army, Col. Sani Usman Kukasheka proved abortive as he did not answer calls put to his telephone line nor responded to the text messages sent to him.
But, the comptroller of Nigeria Immigration Service, NIS Kaduna State Command, Haman Yerima, confirmed the arrest of the illegal immigrants.
According to him, "on Thursday, the 31st of January, the Nigerian Army manning a checkpoint at Unguwar Kaji, stopped three trucks and intercepted 33 suspected illegal immigrants.
"The Army referred them to our office on Friday in the night; we received them and kept them in custody throughout the night. I called my officers the following morning, we interrogated them and we were able to identify 18 Nigeriens and 15 Nigerians out of the 33 that were referred to us. "The 18 illegal immigrants are being repatriated back to their country. I have addressed the 15 Nigerians and apologised to them for wasting their time," he said.
Asked whether he was aware of the influx of illegal immigrants from Mali, he said, "yes, we are very conscious of the fact that there are illegal Malian immigrants in the state because of the crisis in Mali, but we have not arrested any. We are intensifying efforts to check and arrest those illegal immigrants."
He disclosed that a total of 259 illegal immigrants from various neighbouring countries have been arrested and repatriated from January till now.
Britain To Assist Nigeria
Meanwhile, the United Kingdom (UN) has boosted the morale of the Nigerian troops in Mali with a promise to provide logistics and intelligence support to them.
The pledge was made by the Chief of Defence Staff of the United Kingdom, Gen. David Richards when he visited the Chief of Defence Staff (CDS), Admiral Ola Sa'ad Ibrahim in Abuja yesterday.
He said in view of the war against terrorism worldwide, "after Afhganistan, Mali is the immediate imperative. It is important we resolve this threat of Mali especially for the sake of the African continent and the wellbeing of Nigeria. In doing this, I must say transparency should be a key factor."
Describing the relationship between Nigeria and Britain as historical and emotional, Gen. Richards said he was in the country to meet with his counterpart to discuss and identify areas of strength on the part of the Nigerian armed forces and that of Britain so that areas of support particularly regarding the Mali challenge could be agreed on.
In his welcome remarks, Admiral Ola Ibrahim commended the visiting CDS for his interest and expected support of Britain for Nigeria over its crucial in tackling the terrorism in Mali.
"Your prompt decision to identify with us over the troublesome situation in Mali which is a cause for concern to nations in the sub-region, is appreciated and together, the challenge would be surmounted," he said.