The Kwara State Commissioner for Police and Chairman of the Presidential Taskforce on free movement of agricultural produce and inputs in Kwara State, CP Kayode Egbetokun Monday warned members of transport unions conveying food items and agricultural products against smuggling passengers into the state.
The CP handed down the warning, while inaugurating the Joint Technical Task Team (JTTT) on Emergency Response to COVID-19 on Challenges of Movement of Food and Agricultural Inputs in the Country at the Police Headquarters, Ilorin.
The CP, who was represented at the event by the Deputy Commissioner of Police (DCP) in-charge of Operations, Abimbola Sokoya said that any vehicle caught conveying passengers with other essential goods would be impounded and the driver arrested and prosecuted accordingly.
He, however, warned transporters to desist from flouting the Federal Government’s orders on restriction of inter-state movement by using their vehicles to convey passengers.
“It is only essential commodities, especially food items and agricultural inputs were exempted from the restriction imposed on free movement across the country by the Federal Government. This exception was to ensure availability of food items in all the nooks and crannies of the country, particularly in this pandemic period.
“Before the inauguration of this committee, that has been the challenge we have in checking inter states travels by persons. You will see transporters conveying smuggled passengers with farm produce and animals in the guise of transporting agriculture products.
Even on Saturday, I was at Jebba …and we are being blamed as security agents for failing to enforce travel ban”, he said.
The CP, who promised that the team would do everything possible to ensure that its terms of reference as provided by the Federal Government were met, charged members to constantly communicate with each order and work together to ensure the success of the assignment.
Earlier, in his welcome address, the Kwara State Coordinator, Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development and the Secretary of the Committee, Mr. Dare A. Oladapo urged members of JTTT to put in their wealth of experience while carrying out this crucial national assignment so as to protect the life and food security for all Nigerians and foreigners.
Oladapo said that Honourable Minister for Agriculture and Rural Development, and Alhaji Muh’d Sabo Nanono in collaboration with his counterpart in the Ministry of Defence, Interior and Police who set up the JTTT in all 36 States and FC, Abuja for the purpose of minimal impact of the unseen virus otherwise called COVID-19 on the current year 2020, Nationwide-faming season in line with the directive of President Mohammed Buhari.
According to him, terms and references of the teams are: working with relevant agencies in the States and Local Government to develop a window that will facilitate free and unhindered movement of food, livestock and agricultural inputs throughout the country without compromising the security and health of the nation.
Issue out clear instructions to all security personnel in the three internal security outfits of Police, Civil Defence and the Army on the need to allow free and unhindered movement of foodstuffs, livestock and agricultural inputs to all part of the Nigeria.
Also to work with NURTW to adequately educate its members in ensuring that vehicles conveying foodstuffs, livestock and Agricultural inputs, excluding passengers all allowed to pass.
The team is expected to ensure that adequate information clarifying the controlled movement of foodstuffs, livestock and agricultural inputs is disseminated by the media to food transporters and security personnel.
Members of the team were drawn from the Nigerian Police Force, NSCDC, All Farmers Association of Nigeria (AFAN), National Union of Road Transport Workers (NURTW) and Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ), Nigeria Association of Road Transport Owners (NARTO) and Federal Ministry of Agriculture And Rural Development (FMARD).