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Kaduna-Abuja expressway: Haven of outlaws

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The governor of Kaduna State, Mallam Nasiru El-Rufai, last week, precisely on April 3, allegedly foiled a planned kidnap of motorists along the dreaded Kaduna-Abuja expressway by criminals. The governor who was reportedly on his way to Abuja when he sighted dozens of vehicles parked by citizens around Akilubu village who were alarmed that kidnappers were ahead, ordered his security details to advance and clear the road, upon which the criminals fled into the bush.
After clearing the road of the criminals, the governor himself alighted and began redirecting wounded travelers to nearby hospitals for treatment. He again ordered security agencies to increase it’s presence in the area.

The situation along the Kaduna-Abuja expressway is worrisome, especially when one remembers that the state is home to the Nigerian Armed Forces Command and Staff College. The facility which is located in Jaji, is meant for training for Army, Air Force and Navy personnel. Kaduna is also home to the Nigerian Defence Academy, NDA. Ordinarily, Criminal minds should be scared of making trouble in the state and security presence should be at its peak.

Unfortunately, the criminals seem to operate with audacity. A civil servant with meteorological society who was kidnapped recently along the area had in a telephone conversation with his family said: “Since you are able to raise N6million, there is N2million in my account. You can go to the bank and withdraw it. If you reached agreement with them [Kidnappers] fine. If they didn’t agree, go and sell that my (Toyota) Rav 4 car”.

Despite the heavy presence of security along the area, activities of the criminals still go on unchecked and unnoticed. The 160 kilometers road which was constructed during the military administration of General Ibrahim Babangida, is now in a bad shape and has become a den of criminal elements.

Being that Kaduna state already has a long history of religious intolerance between the southern and northern part, it would be more disaster for the state if these kidnapping lords are not tamed and brought to a standstill.
Lawrence Alobi, a former Inspector General of Police, during a live TV show last week, had lamented that the Nigerian Police Force is already overwhelmed with numerous security challenges bedevilling the country. “We have just 400,000 men policing over 200 million Nigerians. This is largely undersized. The citizens too have a duty in security. They should share information with security agencies,” he said.

A former kidnap victim and former Director General of the Department of State Security, DSS, Mr. Mike Ejiofor, who sat side by side with the erswhile IGP, said there is need to create additional checkpoints to the already existing ones. “The closest police checkpoint to where I was kidnapped was 100km. The problem with this group is that it is not well organized like Boko Haram, so it is difficult to handle,” he said.

The Kaduna state Commissioner of Police has countlessly promised to dislodge the criminals. Heavy security presence comprising of Army, Police and Civil defence were even deployed. A police post was even set up in the troubled area. But the activities of these bandits are still on the high.

Unlike other volatile areas where the victims are largely ordinary Nigerians, the Kaduna-Abuja highway has claimed the lives of some prominent Nigerians, one of which is Late Minister of State for Labour, Simon Ocholi, who was travelling and in an attempt to avoid a pothole, his sport utility vehicle, SUV, somersaulted several times leading to his death.

Also, four persons, including a professor in the University of Abuja and a former Commissioner of Education in Katsina State, were killed in 2017 by armed bandits along the Abuja-Kaduna highway. The Professor, Halima Idris, was killed while travelling to Abuja between Jere and Kateri, about 85 kilometers between Abuja and Kaduna.

In the same year also, a Kaduna-based businessman, Alhaji Sheriff Abidu Yazid was shot dead by gunmen on the Kaduna-Abuja expressway, while his wife was taken away. The killing occurred at Kakau village, about 200 metres away from the Kaduna Toll gate. Reports indicated that he was driving from Abuja and was just a kilometer to Kaduna metropolis when the deceased was shot at the neck by the kidnappers.

On October 3, 2016, unknown gunmen kidnapped former Minister of Environment, Mrs. Laurentia Laraba Malam and her husband Paul Malam along Bwari axis of Abuja-Kaduna highway. Laraba, who served during the administration of former President Goodluck Jonathan, was abducted on their way to Kaduna from Abuja. A ransom of around N10 million was reportedly paid for their release.

On June 30, 2016, Sierra Leonean Deputy High Commissioner to Nigeria, Major General Alfred Claude-Nelson was abducted along the Kaduna-Abuja expressway. He was later released after the ransom of about N1.5 million was allegedly paid.

There is a new trend however, as the bandits have now moved away from their earlier mode of disguise as beggars, to putting on military uniforms to unleash their dastard act.

The big question now is why have the activities of these bandits continue to thrive despite the huge presence of security personnel. Austin Iwar, the Commissioner of Police in Kaduna state in furtherance of his resolve to clear the bandits from the area, said members of the surrounding communities will be involved in terms of information and intelligence gathering. But despite his strong declaration, the boys are still basking in the business. Killing, kidnapping and demanding exorbitant ransom at will.

In the heat of the activities of the bandits in 2017, the Police High Command had deployed 600 men and 90 security vans to arrest the situation. The exercise recorded early successes, with about 32 suspects arrested within a week. But shortly after it was discontinued, the criminals returned to full-scale operation.

Apart from motorists who ply the road, residents of the surrounding communities who divulge information to security operatives are often visited with mayhem. Last year when the Minister of Interior, Lt-Gen. Abdulrahman Dambazzau (rtd), led former Police Inspector General Ibrahim Idris and other police officers to Rijana, the villagers lamented that they had lost 18 people who were providing information to the police. They said the killings has demoralized them from providing further information to the police, thus making intelligence gathering more cumbersome for security agencies.

QUOTE
Apart from motorists who ply the road, residents of the surrounding communities who divulge information to security operatives are often visited with mayhem. Last year when the Minister of Interior, Lt-Gen. Abdulrahman Dambazzau (rtd), led former Police Inspector General Ibrahim Idris and other police officers to Rijana, the villagers lamented that they had lost 18 people who were providing information to the police. They said the killings has demoralized them from providing further information to the police

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