By Ikhili Monday EBALU, Benin City
No fewer than 400 persons have been arrested by the Edo State Command of the Nigeria Immigration Service for alleged illegal entry into the country.
The suspects were said to have been arrested during a mop-up exercise which begun at about 4am on Wednesday across the 18 local government areas of the state.
It was learnt that some of them, who were nabbed in Oredo, Ikpoba-Okha, Esan West and Uhunmwode local government areas, had forced their way into Nigeria from neighbouring countries like Niger Republic, Mali and Chad.
Three officers of the agency were said to have sustained injuries when they were attacked during the operation.
The State Comptroller, Mr. David Adi, confirmed the arrest.
Adi said that the exercise became necessary following intelligence reports that many irregular immigrants had relocated to the state, without any means of livelihood.
He stated that though citizens of ECOWAS member-countries had the privilege of free movement, such persons should possess the right documents and travel through approved routes.
He explained, “There are specific laws that specify how they (immigrants) should come in. Our law says that they should come in with proper travel documents and through approved entry points.
“But the security reports available to us indicated that many of them are in Edo State and they came in through illegal routes. If we do not ease them out, they will constitute serious security threats to this country. All of us know the security situation in this country.”
One of the suspects, who identified himself as Awal Saidu, said that he was arrested along with 30 others, after entering Nigeria through Niger on Sunday.
The 30-year-old man also explained that he had left Yame, his hometown, in search of employment.
“I came in three days ago, through Katsina, in search of a job. There is no job in my country.
“We were about 30 who came into the country. But I was arrested at Ugbiyokho, where I work as a cleaner.
But the state comptroller noted that those found without proper travel documents would be deported to their home countries after undergoing a screening process to ascertain their nationalities.
Adi added”Those of them who are Nigerians will be released to go home. Then, we will take those of them who are foreigners without proper documents back to their countries
“Some of them claim that they are from Sokoto, Katsina, Jigawa or Kebbi. But we, as professionals, always fish them out.”