(Published in June 2019 edition)
By CrimeWorld Editorial Board
IT is no longer news that travelers along the Abuja-Kaduna highways have had to continually hold their hearts in their hands for palpable fears of being attacked and kidnapped by armed gang; neither is it newsy that security operatives are somewhat alive to their responsibility. What is however, disturbing and deserving of attention is the cycle of arrest and the ubiquitous rebound of these marauders. For the past four years, Nigerians and foreigners alike have gone grueling nightmares in the hands of these frail looking but ostensibly angry individuals of Fulani extraction who were previously rustling cattle but have chosen a different narrative to fight back the society that created them. Thus, both the low and the high have had bitter dose of this emerging and unremitting ghoulish revolution. In 2016, the Sierra Leonean High Commissioner to Nigeria, Alfred Nelson was among those kidnapped along this Abuja-Kaduna highway. Whereas, the foreigner survived the same could not said of an officer of the Nigerian army and his daughter, a Police officer and a former Commissioner for Education in Katsina State, Halimatu Idris who were waylaid and attacked near Gidan Busa village at the launch of this rebellion on the highway in 2017. Several other unlucky Nigerians who dared this route are still missing till date. And just recently, the Chairman, Universal Basic Education Commission, Muhammad Abubakar and his daughter were kidnapped while his driver was shot dead. Both father and daughter were later released after unspecified ransom was paid for their freedom. A month ago, in the month of March to be precise, Governor Nasir el-Rufai of Kaduna State rescued hundreds of motorists held hostage on the road on his way to Abuja. Reports say, the hoodlums had at 3.45pm, blocked the highway but fled at the approach of the governor’s convoy to the scene. The situation has assumed fever-height crescendo with not a few travelers, including security operatives choosing alternative route. Suffice to say that this is an indication of a daunting insecurity in the country. While in office, the immediate past Inspector-General of Police IGP Ibrahim Kpotum Idris deployed over 510 Policemen including operatives of the Intelligence Response Team IRT, Special Tactical Squad, Special Anti-Robbery Squad SARS, Anti-Kidnapping Squad and 50 patrol vehicles to Kaduna and environs in an instituted Operation Maximum Safety. The Operation Maximum Safety coincided with the period when domestic flight to Abuja were diverted to Abuja while the Abuja airport runway was undergoing repairs during which about 300 Police officers were also deployed on the highway to forestall possible attack on passengers with helicopters doing the aerial surveillance. The move neither failed nor fully succeeded. Faced with this hydra-headed monster and the interminable cycle of nightmares suffered on this highway, the present helmsman of the Police, Acting IGP Muhammed Adamu an uptick in general insecurity but assured that the Police would go all hog to rout the menace. He had informed while giving the year’s quarterly statics that “685 persons were kidnapped and 1,071 persons were killed across the country.” According to the number one Police officer in the country, in Kaduna State alone, 112 people were killed while in Zamfara, 203 deaths were recorded. Curiously, IGP Adamu was quick to confess that the Police was being starved of funds enough for it to tackle the general cases of insecurity. Just last month, he launched the Operation Puff Adder, ostensibly to tackle incidents of kidnapping headlong on this Kaduna highway. No doubt, Operation Puff Adder has been recording impressive successes with the arrest of kidnappers and recovery of cache of arms and ammunition. In one fell swoop in the month of May alone, 93 of such kidnappers were arrested at the various hideouts while cache of arms and ammunition huge enough to prosecute a war situation were recovered. Sad enough, none of the measures emplaced by these Police chiefs seemed to be recording the desired of secured highways. In the emerging scenario, it becomes imperative for the Police to go back to the drawing board and come out with a holistic approach, excavate the root cause of general insecurity in the country and seal off the cracks in our crime fighting policy. There is need to resuscitate the firearms Act 2004 which forbids unauthorized possession of certain categories of arms or illegal acquisition of lethal weapons. The mop exercise of firearms in the hands of unauthorized persons embarked upon by the successive Police chiefs was no less a smokescreen. Yes, some spirited Nigerians voluntarily surrendered their guns but findings at the various Police formations nationwide have shown that no sooner these guns were surrendered that they found their way back to the hands of their original owners. The dismal enforcement of this all important security policy is a pointer to the fact that Nigeria is a faulty country operating faulty policies.
Recall that in 2107, a 40 feet container laden with661 pump action guns which content was earlier declared as ‘steel doors’ and was cleared at the Tin Can Port but was later intercepted by Customs operatives of the Federal Operation Unit Zone ‘A’ Ikeja Lagos. One of the suspects, Hassam Mahmud had told Journalists that he paid N1million naira to an unnamed SSS operative for a smooth sail. In the same year, another contraband of 1,100 riffles equally found its way into the country through Lagos Ports. In both cases, arrests were made and the suspects paraded before newsmen. But that was the end of the story. No need to probe further for those behind the illegal importation or concerted efforts made to prosecute the matters. Reports given by the Nigeria Immigration Service NIS indicated that the country operates 84 official routes and 1400 illegal ones through all manners of arms and ammunition find their way into the country. Referencing this and the interceptions of containers loaded with arms and ammunition, how much more of such prohibitive arms and goods could have crept into the country through these illegal routes unnoticed? Nigeria needs to tightens her porous borders and borrow a leaf from other advanced and sane climes like Japan, UK, Australia and the US which policies on border boundaries and armament are knitted in watertight compartment. Above all, we need to severely punish offenders of extant laws especially, those involved in illegal importation of arms into the country. This is the only antidote to the escalating armed banditry that has become commonplace across the country particularly, in Northern Nigeria.
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