Kaduna-Abuja Highway: The Road to Death

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RingTrue with Yemi Adebowale, yemi.adebowale@thisdaylive.com; 08054699539 (text only)

Ring true
Phone number 08054699539
Email: yemi.adebowale@thisdaylive.com

The unending abductions and killings on the infamous Kaduna-Abuja highway reflect all the trappings of a failed government. This is the main road to death in Nigeria and has remained like this for over two years. The abductors are setting up new camps daily. Hapless people are abducted for ransom. Some pay and still end up being killed. Some are killed on the spot in the process of abduction. Motorists have become increasingly fearful on this highway because of the growth and intensity of kidnappings. Abduction is big business here. These can only happen in a country without a government. The security of the people has evidently been relegated in Nigeria.

This shame of Nigeria is dizzying. It is an open secret that the kidnappers have camps in the bushes around the Kaduna-Abuja highway. All our security agents know this, yet nothing has happened in terms of permanently taming them. I find this extremely disgusting. The use of technology and high caliber equipment by security agents are pertinent here. In sound societies, the kidnappers would have been wiped out with helicopter gunships. To tame the Kaduna-Abuja highway kidnappers, our military must be proactive. They should stop regaling us with imaginary stories of bombing the kidnappers. They have no practical result to show in this regard. The Chairman of the Senate Committee on Army, Ndume was right when he urged security agents to go after the bandits and kidnappers in their various hideouts. They should not wait for them to strike before taking action. Their camps must be persistently located and destroyed.

Just last Sunday, eight students of the Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria, were abducted on this highway. They were among the scores of people abducted same day, with two victims killed. As at press time, the ABU students had not been freed. Their parents are struggling to raise the ransom demanded by the kidnappers. Security agents are also often abducted on this notorious axis and they pay for their freedom. What a country! Last September, an army officer, Colonel S.B Onifade was abducted and killed by the bandits after N10 million ransom was collected. The military could not rescue one of its own. How will they rescue ordinary Nigerians?

Communities located on the Kaduna-Abuja highway are also persistently attacked by the kidnappers. Chikun and Kagarko local government areas are badly affected. Nigerians living in these two local governments persistently pay kidnappers, with unending tales of woes. I remember that Col. Samaila Inusa, serving with the Nigerian Army School of Infantry, Jaji, was kidnapped by gunmen around Kamazo area in Chikun Local Government.

The police, military and other security agencies persistently fail Nigerians on the Kaduna-Abuja highway. These security organisations have largely been grandstanding, without any proactive measures to checkmate the kidnappers. The Inspector-General of Police, Mohammed Adamu, had severally given instruction to his men to end kidnapping on this road, without result. Adamu sits in his office and reels out instructions that are hardly obeyed. I am convinced that he is not in charge of the police and has lost control. All those accusing him of losing control of the police have nothing to prove again. The operational and administrative command and control of the Force must be overhauled. Adamu has to go for a new IG to come in and do this refit.

A retired army general, Garba Wahab, remarked recently: “The IGP May be sitting in Abuja with the paraphernalia of office, but he has lost the control of the police force.” The retired infantry army general was unequivocal that something must be done urgently for the police to regain their morale that has been at the lowest ebb after the attack on barracks and its personnel by hoodlums who hijacked the EndSARS protests. Much as I agree with General Wahab, it is pertinent to add that the problem of the police started before EndSARS. In the last five years, morale has been very low in the Force because the leadership failed the personnel. The various reforms Adamu claims he has been implementing to reposition the Force for greater efficiency are mere cosmetics.

It is a shame that the police struggle to rescue their men when kidnapped. Bandits held six Assistant Superintendents of Police captive in Katsina State for 9 days, until yesterday. They demanded N100 million ransom for their release. The ASPs were among the nine on their way to the Zamfara State Police Command on transfer. They were ambushed in the Dogondaji area of Katsina State and taken into the forest.

When the police are unable to manage crisis, the military comes in to help. This is the global standard. In the case of Nigeria, the military has failed to help on the Kaduna-Abuja highway. On Tuesday, I heard the army chief, Tukur Buratai, saying the military is doing a lot to combat kidnappers and bandits along this notorious highway. “The issues of kidnapping and attacks by bandits are being taken care of. The Nigerian Air Force and the Army are doing a lot in this regard,” remarked Buratai. So, my dear army chief, where are the results of these operations? This is evidently a ruse. Buratai knows that it is still business as usual on this highway.

Where does President Muhammadu Buhari stand in all of these killings and abductions on the Kaduna-Abuja highway? It is an embarrassment that this country’s Chief Security Officer is AWOL. The man that should lead the attack against kidnappers on the Kaduna-Abuja highway is nowhere to be found. Nigeria is in a deep mess.

Buratai was last Tuesday making a case for a special intervention fund for procurement of more equipment, training and provision of accommodation and other infrastructure in the military barracks for his men. He said more money is needed for procurement of hardware equipment and “procurement of platforms for the Armoured Corps also requires special intervention because with 100 per cent equipment capability, tackling insecurity will be enhanced and criminal elements wiped out.”

I am not impressed one bit by the army chief’s request for more funds. I agree that the military needs to be better equipped, but any money pumped into the military under its present leadership will be a waste. What has happened to the billions of Naira pumped into the military in the last five years? This is the big question we should be asking Buratai. A new army chief needs to come and manage the funds.

On the flip side, five days after gunmen killed the District Head of Gidan Zaki village, Haruna Kuye and his son, Destiny, in Zango Kataf Local Government Area of Kaduna State, security agents are yet to arrest anybody in connection with the crime. The deceased were murdered at their residence by men wielding AK-47 rifles and machetes. The late district head’s wife sustained machete wounds on her hand while his daughter had a gunshot wound on her finger. We have been told that soldiers and other security agencies are carrying out investigations and trailing the assailants, but still no result. Governor Nasir El-Rufai should go beyond condemning the killings. He said he had directed the Commissioner of Police and Director of the Department of State Services to team up with the military forces on ground to ensure diligent investigations. El-Rufai has to genuinely follow up. He has to ensure killers of Haruna Kuye and his son are fished out and made to face the law. This is the only way killings and counter-killings can end in Zango Kataf.

Unparalleled Treachery of Dave Umahi
I nearly cracked my ribs with laughter on Tuesday while reading reports that Governor Dave Umahi of Ebonyi State had defected to the All Progressives Congress. This governor spent most of this week dancing naked. For this man and many other Nigerian politicians, it’s just about their personal interest. Umahi’s heart and soul had always been with the APC. He has his eyes on a bigger pie at the federal level and has been told he would get it by defecting to the ruling party. So, Umahi came up with humdrum reasons for dumping the PDP.

He said he abandoned the PDP in protest against the injustice done to the South-east by the party since 1998, adding that the APC would protect the interest of the region in the 2023 presidential election. Haba! Injustice to the South-east by the PDP? PDP has always been South-east and South-east is PDP. This region benefited the most when PDP was in power at the centre. Besides, what has Umahi done for the South-east in all his years in government? When the PDP zoned the position of national vice-chairman to the South-east, Umahi cornered it for his younger brother, Chief Austin Umahi. Is this how to fight for the South-east?

APC will protect the interest of the region in the 2023 presidential election? Is there anything cast in iron in Nigerian politics? By Wednesday, Umahi added that he left the PDP because Governor Nyesom Wike controls the party. These bread and butter politicians never cease to amaze me. Umahi should have looked for a better reason for leaving the PDP instead of opening his mouth to reel out rubbish. Real men don’t unleash such lies.

For the likes of Umahi, it’s not about ideology but the next meal ticket and personal ambition. Politics of ideology took a flight from our dear nation a long time ago. Umahi knows the difference between a Progressive and a Conservative, but his belly and unbridled ambition supersede. Today, he’s a progressive and before you know it, he’s flying the flag of conservatives. It’s all about his stomach and desire. This country can’t make progress with people like these. Obviously, Umahi can’t be trusted. The guys in the APC know this and are apparently having a good laugh. I am surprised that he is the only one unaware of this. This is why he is dreaming of a bigger position at the federal level on the platform of the APC.

Many are clearly enjoying the Umahi soap opera. Let him continue his drive for power, more bread and more butter. This is why Umahi, who was deputy governor for eight years and governor for a second term under PDP, is shifting to APC. He is now stacking heaps of rubbish on the same PDP that gave him fame and power. This is the usual treachery by Nigerian politicians for personal goals. I won’t be surprised to find Umahi back in the PDP in few years.

Skewed DSS Recruitment
The Department of State Service (DSS) under Yusuf Bichi is notorious for disrespecting the federal character law entrenched in the Nigerian Constitution. Several weeks after the last scandalous lopsided recruitment into the agency, those who should call him to order have refused to speak up. This means that Bichi has the support of the Presidency in this barefaced disregard for the Nigerian Constitution. The DSS itself has not denied the tilted recruitment. In the enlistment, Katsina, the state of President Buhari alone has 51 cadets as against 44 cadets for the whole of the five states in the South-east. A deeper probe of the newly commissioned cadet officers on geopolitical zone shows that 165 are from the North-west, while the entire South-south has 42. North-east has 100, North-central, 66 and South-west, 57. The DSS boss allegedly recruited a large number of cadets from Bichi Local Government of Kano State where he is from.

So, what is the relevance of the Federal Character Commission (FCC) established to enforce federal character in recruitment into Ministries, Departments and Agencies of the federal government? The FC is just a lame duck. This is responsible for the consistent abuse of federal character in the MDAs. The Buhari government does it with so much impunity. This is most glaring in appointments into military and paramilitary agencies. A section of the country dominates. Even the FCC was constituted without regard to the federal character principle it is supposed to enforce. So, the FCC is dead on arrival. This is why the likes of Yusuf Bichi can get away with anything.
Civil society groups must rise and challenge this skewed DSS recruitment in court. The exercise must be cancelled.