When will Kaduna/Abuja road be free of kidnappers?
The 160 kilometres Kaduna/Abuja road was constructed during the military administration of General Ibrahim Babangida. It was a cheering news for the people of the North because it was the first of its kind in the region.However, today, the Kaduna /Abuja road has assumed a bad status because people are afraid to travel on the road as they prefer travelling by rail to making journeys by it. The reason is simple,in the last one year, kidnapping has become a lucrative job through the road as it has become a den of kidnappers. Unfortunate motorists plying the road fall victims of the kidnappers antics . Some were lucky to survive the ordeal with ransom paid before they were released, female victims were raped and suffered all forms of humiliation, while some were not lucky as they were killed and dumped in the thick forest by their abductors.
Speaking on the precarious situation on the road, a motorist, Abubakar Kakangi, told the Nigerian Tribune that the Abuja/Kaduna road was a ‘death trap’ for two reasons . First, he said the potholes were an eyesore, saying, the potholes had led to many accidents that claimed many lives. Secondly, he noted that motorists were being kidnapped on the road on a daily basis .
‘Many motorists have lost their tires to these potholes. One of such tragic accidents was the one involving a former Minister of State for Labour, Ocholi, who was travelling and in an attempt to avoid a pothole, his sport utility vehicle (SUV) somersaulted several times leading to his death.
Kakangi noted also that the bad road had also aided the kidnappers to carry out their act unabated. He described the highway as the road of kidnappers.
Findings gathered that the activities of the kidnappers along the road in the last one year had caused so much pains and agonies to many families. One of the most recent ones was the death of a young man, Sheriff Yazid, son of a prominent Northern technocrat Abidu Yazid. The young man, who was in his 30s was kidnapped with his wife last month on a Sunday while travelling along the Kaduna/Abuja road. Findings gathered that the kidnappers killed him on the spot and took his wife into the bush.
According to a family source the kidnappers had initially demanded N20million for the release of the deceased widow, but they later reduced the ransom to N10million.
“I cannot actually say how much ransom was eventually paid, but she was released after payment of millions of naira.
Another high profile kidnapping case was the abduction of an Assistant Commissioner of Police, Emmanuel Agene, his son and wife and the abduction of the senior police officer frightened quite a lot of people. So, when the news of his abduction broke out in the media, the whole nation was shocked. The question was, if a senior police officer could be kidnapped, then there was no security on our highways.
But who are these kidnappers? Speaking in an interview with the Kaduna State Police Commissioner, Mr Agyole Abeh, he remarked that majority of kidnappers were. Fulani herdsmen. According to him, the police hierarchy discovered that they were involved in this act because many of them lost their cattle to rustlers and decided to be kidnapping people. He said ‘most of those we interviewed said kidnapping is a lucrative ‘business’.
“We discovered that most of those involved in this criminal act are Fulani herdsmen who had lost hundreds of their cattle to rustlers. Frustrated, they decided to indulge in it (kidnapping) and when they realised that it is money spinning venture, it became difficult for them to stop.
‘One thing we have discovered now is that even if you give them(herdsmen) hundreds of cattle it will be difficult for them to go back to grazing, that is the challenge we are facing,” he stressed .
Apart from that, findings by the Nigerian Tribune revealed that the alleged complicity by some security operatives makes it extremely difficult to end the menace.
It will be recalled that recently the people of Rijana, a community on Kaduna-Abuja expressway, told the Minister of Interior, Lt-Gen Abdulrahman Dambazzau, who was on a fact finding visit in the area that the persisting kidnapping on the highway was as a result of the failure by the security operatives to protect the identities of the informants.
It was learnt that each time an informant revealed the identity of any kidnapper, the following morning the kidnappers stormed his abode and killed him. The frustrated villagers told the minister that synergy with security personnel in the area could no longer be guaranteed.
Further findings by the Nigerian Tribune also revealed that 18 members of Rijana community who attempted to expose the activities of the deadly kidnappers, were macheted to death. In fact, there are other communities along the Kaduna /Abuja road with similar stories.
Piqued by these revelations, the Inspector General of Police, Ibrahim Idris, it was learnt, ordered for the redeployment of all police officers and men that were stationed on Abuja/Kaduna highway as well as Kaduna/Zaria highway and Zaria/Kano highway.
He also deployed special squads along the highways with the mandate to fish out the hoodlums and bring them to justice. Speaking on the intervention by the police, the state commissioner, Mr Ayodele Abeh, remarked that apart from the IGP squad, the state command also had its own team. He told the Nigerian Tribune that so far, the command had arrested over hundred kidnappers along the Abuja/Kaduna highway,saying that, “the IGP squad was able to arrest about 70 suspected kidnappers,while our team arrested 30.”
He added that police and other security operatives were ready to end kidnapping on the highway. “We are on top gear. I want to tell you this, the Kaduna /Abuja road is my greatest headache as the police commissioner in charge of Kaduna State.
“I will not rest until I see that we bring this disturbing scenario to an end,” he stressed.
A civil servant who works in Abuja and lives with his family in Kaduna, spoke under the condition of anonymity that the present situation was not palatable to him and his family. According to him, “because the road is no longer safe, I have since resolved to be going to Abuja by rail.”
He said that this was a difficult decision for him because he would have preferred to be riding in his car in Abuja to facilitate easy movement for him, saying, “Iam spending a lot on taxi.”
The federal worker then called for a holistic approach to tackling the menace. He was of the view that all the security agencies should be deployed to the road to fight the kidnappers, pointing out that, ‘the police cannot do it alone. You can not expect the police to enter the thick forest. We need the airforce to provide cover and the soldiers too.”
Findings also discovered that the transport sector, especially members of the National Union of Road Transport Workers (NURTW), are also complaining about the state of the Kaduna /Abuja road. A member of the Kawo branch who pleaded for anonymity contended that passengers travelling to Abuja by road had significantly reduced. He said “prior to this time, we used to have over 20 vehicles loading passengers to Abuja everyday. But it is no longer the case. We only have five vehicles going to Abuja as most of the passengers prefer travelling by rail.”
He said life was difficult for him as a family man who had a wife and five children. To this end, his prayer was that the Federal Government should, as a matter of urgency, repair the deplorable road and at the same time make it safe for the travellers plying the Kaduna /Abuja road.