Between Sunday and Wednesday this week, terror bandits occupied and launched daring attacks on the Kaduna-Abuja Highway and Kaduna-Birnin Gwari Road, killing three people and abducting dozens of persons.
This made commuting on the Abuja-Kaduna Highway very risky as the heavily armed bandits terrorised road users, scared away a lot of people from the road which links many travellers to and from Abuja and the Southern part of the country with States in the North West and other parts of the North.
While the road is essential for travellers to or from Kaduna, Katsina, Zamfara, Sokoto, Kebbi, Kano and Jigawa, it also serves as an alternate route for travellers to or from Plateau, Bauchi, Gombe, Yobe and Borno States.
It was the spate of the attacks that forced President Muhammadu Buhari on Thursday to direct the nation’s security chiefs to eliminate the threats of bandits and kidnappers along the 200-kilometre road in particular and other places across the country.
The bandits, after their Sunday’s attack along the Kaduna-Abuja Highway which claimed the life of a former governorship aspirant in Zamfara State, Sagir Hamidu, they killed a soldier and a commercial driver along the Kaduna-Birnin Gwari Road on Tuesday.
Hours after the state’s Commissioner of Police, Mudassiru Abdullahi and the Kaduna State Commissioner of Internal Security and Home Affairs, Samuel Aruwan, visited the scene of the Sunday’s attack on Monday, the bandits returned to the highway unchallenged and abducted more people.
On Tuesday, the bandits launched another attack on the road but were engaged by some police officers in a shootout.
A video in circulation also showed scenes from the fourth attack on the road, which was said to have occurred on Wednesday afternoon.
Security agents and the Kaduna State Ministry of Internal Security and Home Affairs, however, only confirmed Sunday’s attack.
Eyewitnesses confirmed to our correspondents that the bandits had also burnt a military vehicle and absconded with a military rifle after the attack along the Kaduna-Birnin Gwari Road on Tuesday.
The source told our correspondent that the ambush took place at a place called Masallaci, close to Buruku town, in Chikun LGA.
A community leader, Mohammad Umaru who was in the convoy of commercial vehicles said the attackers did not pay attention to the travellers as they made it clear they were after the security men. “People had to abandon their cars and fled on foot because there were many travellers in about 30 vehicles,” he said.
Members of the Nigerian Union of Road Transport Workers (NURTW), told Daily Trust that the bandits had broken a convoy of about 30 vehicles being escorted by soldiers to Birnin Gwari.
At the Mando motor park, Daily Trust gathered from the Chairman of the Bus section of the park, Suleiman Gora, that one of their drivers had been abducted along the Kaduna-Abuja Road on Monday while another was killed along the Birnin Gwari Road on Tuesday.
Another driver at the Kawo motor park also said a driver from the park had been abducted during Sunday’s attack along the Kaduna-Abuja Road.
But security sources confirmed that the bandit ring leader who allegedly led Sunday’s attack along the Kaduna-Abuja Road was killed in an encounter with the police.
Our correspondent gathered from sources that security agents had laid an ambush on five bandits around Kaduna South Local Government Area where the bandits had gone to buy alcohol and pentazocine; an opioid pain medication.
A motorcycle and a rifle, said to belong to the ring leader, called Yellow Baba Arusa, were recovered.
And to help contain the spate of bandits’ killings, kidnappings and violence, the Armed Forces of Nigeria embarked on massive deployment of personnel to the Abuja-Kaduna highway as at Thursday. But no such deployment was made to the Kaduna-Birnin Gwari Road where residents and security personnel are attacked and killed almost on daily basis.
Meanwhile, eight of the victims abducted on Abuja-Kaduna Expressway during the Sunday attack have regained their freedom on Wednesday.
A member of the vigilante in the State had told Daily Trust of the victims’ escape on Wednesday but gave no further details.
But the Police Public Relations Officer in Niger State, DSP Wasiu Abiodun said Police operatives attached to Sarkin-Pawa Division while on patrol and clearance operation along Lukuma/Shafe Road of Sarkin Pawa rescued eight persons from Mangoro forest who were abandoned by their captors.
Abiodun said preliminary investigation revealed that the victims took off from Kankia town, Katsina State on Sunday heading to Abuja and were among the victims of kidnapping incident on the same date along Kaduna/Abuja Expressway. He said seven of the rescued victims are from Kankia LGA of Katsina State while one is from Ikara LGA of Kaduna State.
Concerns continue to rise in Niger State as armed gangs extended their killing spree to more communities in Munya Local Government Area.
A local vigilante who spoke in confidence from the area said the attacks took place in Luwi, Kamace and Ikwa communities on Wednesday, though the Niger State Police Command said it had no record of the latest incidents.
“They have been operating since Wednesday morning. They kidnapped people and took 13 new motorcycles away, belonging to the villagers. But for now, we cannot give the exact number of people kidnapped until when the situation calms down and people start returning home,” the vigilante said.
He said while residents fled their homes, the bandits were taking possession of the villages, from their base in a forest between Niger and Kaduna States.
“People have fled Luwi. Bandits operated in the village freely; they cook food, slaughtered chickens and other livestock belonging to the villagers. And they were in the village until night unchallenged,” he said.
Originally published in Daily Trust