Commuters plying the Kaduna-Abuja expressway undergo the about two-hour trip in a state of fear, as the usually busy road is plagued by activities of kidnappers. Most times, when their activities are curtailed by security agencies, they resurface, leading to another round of horrendous experiences.
There are growing security concerns on the Kaduna-Abuja highway despite the heavy presence of security agencies. Many commuters who plied the highway regularly have either stopped or opted to use rail transportation for fear of the unknown.
Residents of Sabon Gaya community in Chikun Local Government Area of Kaduna State recently appealed to the federal government to declare a state of emergency on the highway due to the incessant kidnapping of travellers and killing of innocent citizens.
The residents said they wanted the government to deploy more security personnel and helicopters to flush out the bandits from their hideouts.
The traditional ruler of a Gbagyi Chiefdom along the route, Danjuma Barde, said, “We commend the efforts of our security men especially the police. But I want to tell you that most of the killings happen in the bush when our people go to their farms. I want to plead with the Inspector General of Police, Ibrahim Idris if he can help us to monitor the area using a helicopter. That will help us a great deal because the criminals do their evil work more outside the town.”
On November 13, 2017, hundreds of villagers blocked the Kaduna-Abuja highway protesting the killing of the Commander of the Civilian JTF in the area, Haruna Halilu, by suspected kidnappers.
The villagers who were from Sabuwar Gayan, a village along the highway, lamented the failure of government to tackle the kidnappers. The protest caused a grueling 17-kilometre gridlock subjecting commuters to serious pains.
But the worse happened on November 21, 2017, when the Federal Road Safety Corps (FRSC) confirmed the killing of Marshal Inspector 1, Ardo Njiga who was travelling in a commercial bus when armed men suspected to be kidnappers struck at 6.30am at the Sabon-Wuse area along the Kaduna-Abuja highway.
Besides, the Corps’ Public Education Officer, Bisi Kazeem, who confirmed the officer’s death in a statement, said two other marshals were abducted by the gunmen. One of the abductees was Senior Road Marshal Assistant, Garba Bello.
Emotions were high when Mr Kazeem explained that the marshals actually took permission to be with their families in Kaduna at the weekend, and were on their way back to Abuja when the attack took place.
FRSC Corps Marshal, Boboye Oyeyemi, expressed sadness over the incident and commiserated with families of the victims.
Also, that day, many commuters along the route confirmed that kidnappers operated for many hours abducting passengers and forcing them to pay ransom as low as N10, 000.
This was even as the police earlier made many arrests in September including 13 armed robbers and members of notorious kidnap gangs. The police recovered two AK 47 rifles, 16 locally made guns, cutlasses and charms.
Before then, in August, Police Special Forces under “Operation Absolute Sanity” arrested another batch of 40 kidnappers and armed robbers terrorising motorists on the highway.
Commenting on the measures the police are taking in an interview with Daily Trust, the Kaduna State Commissioner of Police, Agyole Abeh, said, “Between Kakau, Gonin Gora and Jere. I have 69 vehicles with over 600 police mobile personnel, the Special Forces”…
However, he made reference to the killing of the member of the vigilante pointing out that it took place in a farmland in the bush and not even within a village.
He expressed corncern with the blocking of the highway, saying it was unfortunate. “What we are doing is to first provide security in some of the villages and some settlements so that when incidences happen, we expect citizens to be able to channel their complaints to the appropriate authorities and not cause more pain and hardship to innocent travellers that are not connected with the issue.
“Do not forget; these same people who were fighting and blocking the road saying that one of them had been killed, also killed an innocent person whom they claimed and believed was an associate of the bandits. This was someone they know that had been in that same village. You are complaining of killing in the farmlands and you killed in the city to avenge a death. Two wrongs cannot make a right. That was not a good thing to do.
“Honestly, we lament the death of the youth leader because he too had been of help. He had been assisting the police. Therefore, we feel the pain too, but the action they took was not the best thing at all.
“We just paraded some suspects recently at Rijana that were arrested from various kidnapping incidences. In most cases, kidnapping suspects cannot be arrested instantly, but certainly we will go after them and we have been picking them. Certainly, the ones that killed the vigilante leader too, the police are on their trail,” the CP said.
Commenting on security on the highway, the CP said, “I want the society to appreciate the police. Honestly, the police should be appreciated for the security on the Kaduna-Abuja highway. We are doing enough. We have patrols. We have officers on visiting rounds, but certainly I tried to look at the rationale that the police can completely exterminate crime.”
On an allegation that the police aided criminals on major highways, the CP said, “The irony of life is that, the same police that aid criminals on the highways are being killed on these highways too. The same police are parading the criminals for you to see. The same police that aid these criminals are arresting them in their numbers. The same police that aid these criminals go to the bush to hunt these criminals. That means the commissioner of police is aiding these bandits because the only person that has the power to tell the police to stop arresting these bandits is the commissioner of police, which is not true. We are laying our lives for people to stay alive and we expect people to appreciate the police force.
“Interestingly, since some of the bandits have been arrested, the Kaduna State Police Command in most cases is not responsible for their investigation and none of the bandits has implicated a single policeman along that highway. Interestingly, they have implicated the youth and indigenes of those communities along the highways. We have arrested them and extracted confessions from them.”
On what percentage crime has been reduced to, the CP said, “Looking at 2015, 2016 and 2017, I can tell you categorically here that in Kaduna city centre, for example, we have been able to successfully get the crime level to a stage that citizens are no longer feeling the impact and effect of crime and criminality. We are now concentrating our resources along the highways which are vast bushes with forests spanning from Kaduna to Zamfara, Zamfara to Niger and Niger to Katsina. Do not forget that we have borders with some states and between us we are linked with Falgoro Forest where the activities of these bandits are noticed.”
Despite the efforts of security agencies at checking the activities of these criminals, the last has not been heard about them on the highway.
Therefore, people who ply the road have to be vigilant and use the roads at safe periods to avoid falling victim.