Bandits’ takeover of Kaduna-Abuja highway

IN continuation of their criminal activities, bandits have recently made the Kaduna-Abuja highway virtually impassable for road users. Hardly any day passes without reports of bandits attacking people on the road. The same outlaws had earlier made the railway on the same route a nightmare for commuters when they bombed the rail line, forcing a temporary suspension of travel on the route. By these calculated actions, the outlaws have made commuting on that route extremely dangerous, and it can be said with a degree of certainty that only those who do not care for their lives ply the road.

The siege to the Kaduna/Abuja road by bandits is a national embarrassment. The fact that the bandits could have such temerity to take over a major highway that is only a whisper away from the Federal Capital Territory, the seat of federal power, striking fellow citizens at will, is actually worse than an embarrassment. The Kaduna-Abuja highway is the major point of ingress and egress from Abuja to Kaduna and vice versa, and to other parts of the North. It is strategic to Nigeria and for Nigerians in terms of links and connections. The fact that the assault by bandits has gone on for years on end without a cogent response from the government can only be a pointer to one of two things: that the government is overwhelmed and cannot find a way around this embarrassing menace, or that the lives of the people who ply the road do not matter to it.

More fundamentally, the tendentious exposure of Nigerians to danger at the hands of dare-devil criminals on that road can be said to also indicate the virtual absence of governance in the country, especially judging by the strategic nature of the road to commerce and inter-state relations. This conclusion arises from the government’s seeming indifference to the outcry over the onslaughts by bandits on commuters on the road. Recently, in response to the menace, President Muhammadu Buhari gave the military marching orders, telling them to arrest the situation and get reprieve for road users. However, to the vast majority of the Nigerian people, the president’s so-called marching orders are fast becoming a mere irritation. This is because each time a security calamity befalls Nigerians, the Presidency’s omnibus commiseration and muscle flexing are activated to follow suit, almost like a refrain from a badly encored concert. Experience has taught Nigerians that such presidential refrains often lack grit and bite and are seldom obeyed by the persons and institutions they are addressed to. They can thus not be blamed for thinking that this latest directive by the president is, just like previous directives, effete.

We do not think that the ceremonial muscle-flexing by the Presidency on protection of life and property on the Kaduna-Abuja highway is of any use. The Federal Government should map out concrete and pragmatic strategies to address the menace.   Nigerians are sick and tired of the government’s poor attitude to security of life. They are tired of the impression that the government considers their lives to be worthless. They are justifiably alarmed by the dangers that the road poses to commuters. In this day and age, if indeed the lives of the people matter to the government, nothing stops it from deploying drones, helicopters and allied patrol mechanisms to monitor the road. For a road that is even less than 200 kilometres, the government has no excuse for failing to curb the incessant robberies and kidnappings. It should be seen to be effectively policing the road and making it safe for the people. The way things are now, ordinary Nigerians living on that axis are effectively restrained from commuting to or from Abuja and Kaduna and the adjoining nodal towns. This then effectively makes travelling on the route the exclusive preserve of the rich. Only people of means, who can afford to travel by air, are capable of undertaking travel on the route since similar security challenges have dogged rail transport lately.

All over the world, leadership is about solving problems, not about wailing. Nigerian leaders must rise to the occasion and empathise with the people. When insecurity makes life this miserable, it shows that leadership is absent. It beggars belief that insecurity has become this intractable to the country’s leaders. In other countries where similar problems are encountered, leaders think outside the box and spend less time on frivolities. The time for the government to secure the Abuja-Kaduna road is now.

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