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Abduction for Ransom on Abuja Expressway Exposed!
Abuja-Kaduna expressway is a very important federal road that links North-western Nigeria to the federal capital territory. The Abuja-Kaduna expressway is known to be one of the busiest federal highways in Nigeria, after the Abuja-Lokoja expressway, Lagos-Ibadan expressway, and the Lagos-ore-Benin expressway. It is also known as a major road linking Kano, Kastina, Jigawa, Zamfara, Kebbi and Sokoto states as over thousand car ply the on the very bad road.
However the construction of the road, and its durability became a successful issue under the Administration of former military president, General Ibrahim Babangida (1985-1993). At the completion of the road, Nigeria was rated amongst the fastest growing Nations in the world in terms of infrastructure and development. The Abuja-Kaduna expressway was considered to be the best road in Nigeria after its completion. After the regime of General Ibrahim Babangida, no other administration has been able to run successful road maintenance, apart from the Olusegun Obansanjo administration, where an attempt was made to cover some pot holes. The road in recent years in filled with cracks, bumps, gullies, potholes and decays, which recurrently lead to blood, bones and brains littered on the raggedy, unmaintained road. The road that was known to be one of the best Federal roads in the country; that also put Nigeria on the map internationally to be a fast developing country has metamorphosed to a death zone, lives are lost week in week out. FRSC officials and even the police located at Sabon-Wuse area are very active, as they do much of the clearing of carnages when there is an accident. The decay is so bad that sometimes motorist drive on just laterite. The increasing death toll on this particular federal highway, has failed to draw the attention from the corridors of power. Let’s not forget that, that same road claimed the life of a former minister of state for Labour, (SAN) James Ocholi in the year 2016.
The reign of terror began a couple years when clumps of armed bandits started to trouble commuters on daily basis sometimes in broad daylight. Even with the several military check points along the express way, armed robbers carried out their operations successfully. These armed bandits would block the highway with huge chucks rocks, logs of woods, there were occasion where they use tire spikes, their timing are between 7pm and 9pm, in the early am’s and sometimes in broad daylight. Their victims are mostly Traders, government workers who sometimes return home from Abuja to see their families in Kaduna. Owing to the increasing robbery cases and armed bandits on the express way the Kaduna state government saddled ‘Operation Yaki’, it was a special task force that played major role in cubing robbery cases on the highway. With the deployment of other special forces especially from the Nigerian police, lots of criminals have been apprehended, a few were killed. In recent past members of the NPF arrested 14 armed robbers whose speciality is operating on the Abuja-Kaduna- Zaria expressway. The armed group in an attempted robbery shot one Dr Mailafia a senior lecturer at Nassarawa State University; he was on his way to visit family in Kano after obtaining a doctorate degree on Artificial intelligence from United Kingdom. These dare devil robbers mostly operate at night time, making drivers especially luxurious bus drivers unwilling to obey traffic rules, making them use dangerous driving tactics which sometimes leads to accident. There are several incidents of tyre burst due to the bad condition of the roads. Residues of accidental car parts are sometimes left on the road or side of the road, which may sometimes puncture tyres of moving vehicles and lead to yet another accident. We recorded a case where a fast running vehicle suffered a tyre burst running into the home of a family and killing them all right inside their home, which is supposed to be their safe place. All passengers in the bus survived but everybody in the house was killed. This tragic happening was an eye opener for impatient drivers; but looking at it again, we rather blame the Federal Government that have failed to rehabilitate old roads and also failed for to provide security for its citizens. The newly constructed railroad from Abuja, to Kaduna has given travellers a little hope of safety, but then are the trains enough for the travellers?
The real sense of danger came up a few years ago, when travellers began to go missing. The end chain of insecurity; kidnapping, which is perceived to be more profitable than robbery. Hapless drivers and passengers began to pay heavy tolls in ransom, humiliation and deaths. Several people were held in hugger-mugger, with perpetuators demanding for huge amounts from the families for them to be released. Most of the victims of kidnap along this route are mostly people on the bottom of the social pyramid, some from average homes and a few wealthy and rich. The bulk of the kidnap victims are unknown faces, without any public status. The media is only flooded when an influential or rich person is kidnapped.
The Sierra Leone Deputy High Commissioner to Nigeria, Major General Nelson Williams was kidnapped on the 1st of July 2016 along the same Abuja – Kaduna Expressway. There were unconfirmed and conflicting reports about the kidnappers contacting the Sierra Leone embassy in Abuja demanding a whooping sum of $40 million ransom in exchange for his release. This news made headlines and was on every Nigerian Dailies. Other high profile kidnapping cases along the road include that of a colonel in the Nigerian army, Samaila Inusa, was reportedly killed by some abductors a few hours after he was held on March 25, 2016. Rev. Iliya Anthony, vice president, united church of Christ in Nigeria, died in the same manner at the hands of his abductors. He was kidnapped with men of God who were later released. Also a member of the House of Representatives, Mr Garba Umar-Durbunde, was also abducted by gun-men and held for a few days until ransom was paid. Another member of the house representing Sumaila/Takai Kano constituency was also held by heavily armed Gun-men.
Also, a former executive director, NNPC, and now a director in Dangote Group, Mansur Ahmed was reportedly kidnapped along the route but later regained freedom. Several prominent people were abducted, a few released, a couple died at the hands of their abductors. There are so many undocumented, under-profiled people who have been kidnapped, and so much more who died at the hands of their adductors, just because their families isn’t financially buoyant enough to meet the needs of their abductors.
Findings revealed that the network of the kidnappers is so good that they evade all eyes then do a clean job, even with security operatives at strategic points. Sources claim that the kidnappers often ambush vehicles with motorbikes by blocking the road. After taking their targets, they move towards outskirts of Kaduna, heading to Niger state along the Birnin Gwari Forest. They also stay at the beginning of a slope, far away from security men. The kidnappers have informants in villages and communities along the expressway. The informant tells them when there is faulty vehicle, or drivers who may have stopped to receive or make calls. The victims are shouted down on, and threatened with Guns and machete. Often times they’ll take the victims personal belongs and go through their phones to see their last bank debit alert to know who amongst them is financially stable. They then pick their victims and take them into the bushes. A lot of business men were kidnapped during the period when the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport was under construction, and people had to travel by road to Kaduna Airport to take flights.
Reports by the Nigeria’s street journal say the rate of kidnapping has risen in the last ten years. The journal says that not less than 1,500 people are kidnapped on an annual basis in the country, thus making kidnapping more or less a new ‘cottage industry’. The increasing growth of kidnapping in Nigeria has become a strong threat to national peace and security. It has affected us and eaten deep into region and segment of the Nation. It first started in the Niger-Delta region, when aggrieved Niger-Deltans began to kidnap foreign oil workers, for ransom, owing to the fact that they were marginalized and their environment polluted by foreign oil companies. The luxury lifestyle of kidnap kingpins from this region of the Nation (Niger-Delta), made it seem the kidnapping business was a lucrative one, at such kidnapping for ransom became a national issue as many kidnap cases are been recorded on daily basis in different region of the country. According to those that were released from kidnapping dens, the kidnappers use starvation as a tool for torturing their victims. They also scare their victims by taking long-winding walks and shooting randomly in the air.
Nigerians would rather delay their journey with a day or two to get on the train, that guarantees safety, than hastily get on a vehicle that’ll make them vulnerable to the ‘Triple Threat’ of kidnapping, robbery and accident due to the old dilapidated road.
This piece provides adequate public information process, change messages and line of actions that can be taken to return the mind-set of kidnapping into the life of law and coexistence. It makes it obvious the network of organized crime used by kidnappers to carry out its evil acts. Eradicating kidnapping and kidnappers will bring restored clime for establishment of democratic culture, promotion of national development, and foreign investment.
BY OKOTETE HAPPINESS JOEL