North-Central: Insecurity abates in some states, persists in others

Security of lives and property has significantly improved in some parts of the North-Central and Taraba with the residents now conducting their activities in a relatively peaceful atmosphere, a News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) survey has revealed.

Part of the survey was conducted in Nasarawa, Plateau and Taraba, among other states, and it found that travelers and other road users in the zone were now moving around with less fear, courtesy of the improvement of the security situation there.

In Nasarawa State, to begin with, Salihu Adamu, Chairman, National Union of Road Transport Workers (NURTW), Nasarawa State branch, told NAN that there was a decline in the attack on his members when compared with the second and third quarter of the year.

“The security situation on our roads is improving. Before now, in a week, I used to receive reports of two to three attacks by armed robbers and kidnappers. I have not received report of any attack in recent times,” Adamu said.

He said that there had been an increase in passenger traffic in most of the parks in the state because of the improvement of the security situation in the state, and prayed for its sustenance.

He commended security agencies for “dealing decisively with the criminal elements on our high ways”.

Similarly, Mr Peter Ahemba, who was at the New Park, Lafia to board a vehicle to Akwanga, noted that kidnapping, robbery and other forms of attacks on Lafia – Akwanga road had reduced when compared to the early part of the year.

Ahemba attributed the reduction of insecurity in Nasarawa state roads to the onslaught against criminal elements and constant surveillance by security agencies.

He commended the government and security agencies for their efforts, but appealed for sustenance of the gesture by way of stepping up efforts to curtail the activities of marauders in the high ways.

In Taraba also, residents of the state affirmed the reduction in armed  robbery, kidnappings and other forms of insecurity on the roads within the state when compared to the beginning of the year.

They told NAN in Jalingo that many routes in the state such as Wukari- Takum and Danacha-  Bornu Kurukuru which were impassable at the beginning of the year due to armed robbery and kidnapping were now safe for motorists.

One of them, Alhaji Abdullahi  Suleiman, a businessman, said  he could  now pass through some routes that were considered “danger areas” at the beginning of the year.

“As a businessman who moves round the state, the last few years through to the beginning of 2021 were terrible for me as a lot of routes in the state were impassable due to armed robbery, kidnappings and communal crisis.

“Thank God there is noticeable reduction at the moment because I personally pass through such routes like Takum- Chanchaji- Wukari, Mutum Biyu – Garba Chede roads among others for businesses,” he said.

Mrs Helen Matsonde, a resident of Jalingo, also noted that the rate of insecurity on the roads in the state had significantly reduced.

According to Matsonde, almost all roads in the state were not safe both during the day and in the night at the beginning of year 2021 with daily reports of armed robberies and kidnappings.

Alhaji Sani Hamamgabdo, the Taraba Chairman, National Union of Road Transport Workers (NURTW), also confirmed that the roads in the state were safer now compared to the beginning of the year.

Hamamgabdo also said that there was a gradual increase in passenger traffic at the parks as the Christmas and New Year celebrations period drew nearer.

Similarly, an official of the National Union of Road Transport Workers (NURTW),Farin Gada Motor Park, Jos,Plateau, said security on the Jengre, Saminaka and Zaria road had improved.

He attributed the improvement to the inclusion of neighbourhood watch and vigilante in the patrol of highways in the area.

He said kidnapping which used to happen almost on a daily basis on that route was now a thing of the past.

He, however, advised the government to allow civil security outfits to take part in highway patrol to reduce attacks on the nation’s roads.

Some drivers spoken to also said that security on the highways within and outside the state had improved.

One of them is Sani Mohammed, who operates at the Plateau state motor park.

He told NAN that security on the Yobe-Maiduguri highway had improved in the last months.

Mohammed, who plies the Yobe-Maiduguri road through Jos, attributed the improvement to more presence of security personnel on the highway.

“Security on the Yobe, Maiduguri highway has improved in the last months and we are very grateful for that.

“In the past, the Boko Haram insurgents would come out to attack people on the highway on a daily basis, sometimes three times in a day.

“It has reduced drastically in the last three months.There are more security men on the highway who are on patrol all through the day, this is the reason for the reduction of the attacks,” he said.

Mr Joe Etuk, a luxurious bus driver, who drives to Lagos and Ibadan from Jos,also said the security on the highway had improved of recent.

Etuk,however, decried the poor state of the the roads,which he said, was causing road traffic crashes.

In Niger, however, the State branch of the National Union of Road Transport Workers (NURTW), said the security situation in the state had worsened with residents and drivers of the association afraid to travel to certain parts of the state.

Alhaji  Idris Adamu, the State Secretary of NURTW, who disclosed this said.

the association had recorded decrease in the number of passengers that traveled because of consistent kidnapping of travellers by bandits on the major roads of the state.

Adamu said that at the beginning of the year, many passengers and drivers were traveling without fear, but that the situation had now changed as many people were afraid to travel due to fear of being kidnapped.

He said that the situation was now worst compared to the beginning of the year as passengers and drivers were being kidnapped on daily basis.

“Before now, we only had one or two cases of kidnapping, only few of our members were being whisked away by these hoodlums, but recently, we have had many cases of attacks on commercial vehicles.

“This experience scares many people from traveling, especially to axis like  Zungeru, Kontagora, Kagara, Rafi, Mashegu, Mariga, Wushishi, Babana, Rijaw Nasko that are volatile.

“There is a decrease in the number of persons that travel now, except during festive periods like Christmas and Sallah where large number of people travels,” he said.

The secretary said that some of the kidnapped passengers and drivers were rescued, some escaped, some paid ransom before they were released, while some died in captivity.

He noted that attacks by bandits on the roads had increased of recent as a result of the ongoing security operations in neighbouring states of Zamfara, Kaduna and Kastina, which forced most of the bandits to flee to Niger.

He, however, said that the association was working with security agencies to station personnel across motor parks as part of measures to protect passengers and drivers.

In Lokoja, some road transport workers and commuters appealed to the government to intensify efforts at ensuring that the roads were safe for travellers by increasing the level of security patrol.

They told NAN that the security situation on Federal and State roads across Kogi had yet to improve to an appreciable level.

But Long distance drivers and National Union of Road Transport Workers (NURTW) from the major motor parks in Lokoja commended the state government for its efforts at making the roads safe with the support of security agencies.

They, however, said that kidnapping and robbery on the roads had yet to reduce to appreciable level as pockets of criminal activities were being reported daily and could increase with the approaching yuletide.

According to Mr Ajoro Monday, Vice Chairman, Kogi Travellers Bus park at Cemetery, Lokoja, intra-state roads were safer now compared to the rampant cases of robbery and kidnapping recorded before this year.

Monday, however, lamented that kidnappings on Okene-Okpella, Okene-Ibilo and Okene-Adogo-Ajaokuta roads had yet to abate as cases of hostage taking of travellers on the highways had remained a recurring decima, almost on daily basis.

He said that Itobe-Anyigba as well as Idah-Ejule-Anyigba roads which were notorious for criminal activities in the early parts of the year now enjoyed relative peace with an on-and-off reports of hoodlum activities.

Abdulsalam Abubakar, the Secretary of the Ganaja Junction, Lokongoma NURTW Park, said kidnapping was no longer rampant as it used to be but “it is definitely not over and one cannot relax because it is difficult to predict them.

“Between June and October, they kidnapped about four of our drivers between Otukpa Branch and  Ochadamu road and they are still operating. They can take anybody unawares.

“Government should intensify more effort in ensuring that the roads are safe for travellers by increasing the level of patrol by security agencies,” he implored.

According to Mr Nathaniel Abaniwo,  a Human Rights activist and Executive Director, Rehoboth Community Advancement Initiative (RECAN), the roads are not all that safe now.

Abaniwo said that travellers only had the option of prayers when the journey was too important to skip, adding, “you need to pray and ask God to take care so that you will go and come back safely. We are just hoping on God as the Chief Security of everyone.

“We are having more cases now because it is like the kidnappers who went into hiding before are now back on the roads and it is not only the roads now, they are going into people’s homes to pick them.

“The government has to step up the game. Yes, our governor is really doing well in the area of security but I think this is the right time to do more as we are gradually going into the festive period,” he said.

Obabolu Obahopo, a journalist at the Mega Terminal, Lokoja, said the security arrangements were more effective in the night than in the day.

Obahopo said that all the state roads were very safe in the night than during the day, adding that the hoodlums now took advantage of that to carry out their heinous activities in the day.

Mr Emmanuel Abdullahi, a commercial vehicle driver, said the security situation was deteriorating more as “we now have more cases of robbery and kidnapping”.

“We pray government finds solution to this problem by deploying more security personnel to the roads to solve this problem for us to have peace and ease of commutting on our roads,” Abdullahi said.

Meanwhile, passengers at some motor parks in Makurdi, the Benue capital, have decried the rising cases of insecurity on roads in the state of recent.

One of them,Mr Iorwashima Kulenkwagh, who spoke with NAN at Yaman Park, said that most of the roads in the state were not safe as early as 8 p.m.

“Strong men do take charge of most of the Benue roads as from 8 p.m.,” Kulenkwagh said.

Chiangi Aluna, also a passenger in the Makurdi Local Government Area main motor park, agreed with Kulenkwagh that because of insecurity on most of the Benue roads, passengers no longer made night trips.

“The situation is worse on Makurdi-Aliade road.

“Vehicles coming from the South usually sleep in Aliade town and some even sleep in Otukpo until the following day before they continue with their journey.

“Same thing applies to vehicles going to the South from the North. They usually sleep in Makurdi once it is 8 p.m.,” Aluna said.

At New Nyanya park, Mrs Vera Odeh, a passenger said that she plied the Makurdi-Lafia road at least once in a week,but that she did not travel in the night because of insecurity.

“Just last week, to be precise on Thursday, my husband’s brother was coming to Makurdi from Abuja in the night and was attacked by armed robbers at Yelwata.

“They dispossessed him of all his belongings including his clothes. The road is not safe during the night,” she said.

Mr Terngu Fate, an official of the Yaman park said that they cautioned drivers in parks against operating in the night due to the high rate of insecurity on the roads. (NAN)