After some months of relative peace on the ever-busy Abuja-Kaduna highway, during which there were little or no records of attacks, the tide changed in the last two weeks, raising concerns among commuters and motorists.
Latest reports of incidences of attacks and kidnapping of commuters indicate that the criminal elements who had laid siege to the highway had resumed their nefarious activities. The incident last week involving the kidnapping of the Emir of Bungudu, Alhaji Alhassan Attahiru, a first-class traditional ruler from Zamfara State, on the highway in what was clearly a co-ordinated action by the attackers as reported by witnesses and confirmed by the Kaduna State police command, should be of great concern to all.
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The attackers had laid ambush for the unsuspecting entourage of the emir as they approached the village of Dutse. In the ensuing attack, a police officer was reported killed and the emir and some members of his entourage were abducted.
From the manner in which the incident was carried out, it is quite clear that the attackers had come in sufficient numbers with a complement of arms to attack and subdue the emir’s convoy. It also indicates that the attackers had the obvious help of accomplices who may have monitored closely and provided information on the movement of the emir along the way and the strength of his convoy to enable those who carried out the attacks to determine when, where and how to strike to great effect. Aside from this incident, there have also been pockets of complaints in that regard along the highway.
These bring back dark memories of not too long ago, when Nigerians were inundated with reports of attacks on the highway almost on a daily basis, so much so that the stretch became too dangerous to ply. Efforts must be made to ensure that we do not return to those days. In fact, more effort must be made now to keep the criminals at bay, especially as it appears the attackers have raised the ante in their method of operation. The co-ordination in the attack carried out on the emir clearly shows that they have become more sophisticated in their operations.
We note that when the attacks on the highway became too frequent and unbearable, the army authorities deployed personnel including an all-women special forces combat team with a mandate to gather intelligence, patrol the entire stretch of the highway, locate and dislodge the attackers from their hideouts and camps, clearing the way for commuters to ply the road. This measure to a large extent helped to restore some level of normalcy to the highway and we commend the forces for that. We urge the authorities to explore the same method again. We call on the authorities to ensure that all those attacked in the latest incidents are rescued and to take urgent steps to prevent a resurgence of the spate of attacks. This call is reinforced by reports that some bandits and other criminal elements have managed to escape the on-going military operations in the North West region of the country that has dislodged them from their camps. It is quite possible that they may have joined their colleagues who operate along the Abuja-Kaduna highway to continue their deadly operations as the military have turned their attention mainly to the Zamfara-Sokoto axis.
The authorities should not only resume the deployment of special forces and joint patrols on the highway, they should be fully prepared to up the ante to meet the increasing sophistication in the operations of the criminals. The locals should not lay down their guard. They must work with traditional rulers to provide the security forces with information that will help the fight.
The importance of the Abuja-Kaduna highway cannot be over-emphasised. It is the main arterial road linking up the entire North West region of the country and movement of persons and goods suffer whenever there is problem on the road. We must not return to those days of anxiety and fear. Conscious efforts must be made to rid that highway of criminals.