Commuters and users of major roads in Katsina State, North-west Nigeria now dread travelling to conduct their businesses as terrorists, locally referred to as bandits are laying siege on the roads, killing and abducting travellers and motorists.
Naturally, the activities of these criminals on highways are taking a toll on transportation and other businesses in the state.
Commercial drivers and officials of commercial motor parks are lamenting the regularity of the ambushes and how helpless they are.
Already, due to the volatility of the attacks in certain areas, commercial bus operations have been stopped.
Traders especially in the central and southern parts of the state, where road ambushes are constant said attacks are making a mess of business.
“For me, it’s been over two years since I’ve gone to Sheme market. Things are hard because accessing Sheme is always hard for me but I also find it hard to access Danja market because following the routes is a task next to impossible,” Sule Mamman, a Dutsin Ma-based local trader dealing in assorted grains lamented.
For over a decade, terrorists have been operating in the northwestern part of the country. Their activities snowballed after the 2019 general election when they began attacking travellers on major highways in the region, especially on the Abuja-Kaduna Expressway.
The intensity and frequency of their attacks on rural communities in the region increased. Livestock rustling, abductions and mass killings sometimes of entire communities – were reported almost daily.
PREMIUM TIMES found out that several roads are now completely abandoned or being plied by a few motorists with extra caution.
Motorists said cases of ambush, abduction and killing on major roads in the state are on the increase.
“About 80 per cent of our operations are now hampered by insecurity. You can see it yourself. There are vehicles parked everywhere in the park. There are places our members don’t go to anymore because of insecurity,” Rilwanu Sulaiman, the Secretary of the National Association of Road Transport Owners in Katsina, told PREMIUM TIMES.
After speaking to motorists, travellers and traders, they unanimously agreed that the most dangerous highway in the state is the 67-kilometre road from Jibia (in Katsina State) to Zurmi (in Zamfara State) which was closed in 2022 due to the incessant ambushes by terrorists. The road recorded the highest among of attacks possibly due it its closeness to the Rugu forest, a known hideout of terrorists and the expansive forest on the Nigeria – Niger Republic border.
Batsari – Jibia road was also closed in 2022 following incessant attacks by terrorists. The state government said it was closed to curtail persistent abductions of motorists.
The 48-kilometre Kankara to Sheme road is notorious for deadly ambushes. It runs through the Rugu forest, which links the state to Zamfara State. This reporter escaped death by whiskers last year on the road.
Abduction and killing of motorists have almost become a daily occurrence on the 101-kilometre Funtua (Katsina) Tsafe (in Zamfara State) highway.
The usual Flashpoints on the roads include Mai Ruwa, Sheme, Yankara, and Kucheri.
The 51-kilometre Katsina to Jibia road is notorious for dangerous attacks on road users despite the presence of multiple security checkpoints.
Yantumaki to Danmusa road is also volatile. Danmusa is also near Rugu forest and some communities in Zamfara State. In 2022, five passengers were killed at once when terrorists opened fire on a moving vehicle. Several passengers were either killed or abducted in several attacks.
“The problem is the bandits are becoming daring by the day because they strike at will. Once it’s 4 O’clock, we find it difficult to ply the Katsina-Jibia road because they (terrorists) can strike at any time,” a student union leader who is from Jibia told PREMIUM TIMES. He sought anonymity for security reasons.
A commercial vehicle driver who plied the Katsina – Kankara – Funtua road, Muntari Mai Maciji said the road has become a death trap in the last few months.
“Anytime we’ll be passing through the road, especially around Marabar Kankara or around Yantumaki, passengers will be praying earnestly because anything can happen. I can’t imagine how a highway like that one could be allowed to be taken over by bandits,” he said.
When reached for comments, the police spokesperson in the state, Abubakar Sadik, said the command and other security agencies are intensifying efforts to protect people of the state.
“In conjunction with the State government and other security agencies in the state, we’re doing our best to tackle the security situation. We’re making some arrangements that are exclusively for now. Local communities are seeing the efforts we’re making especially with the help of intelligence information we’re getting from the residents. The command will not relent in its efforts to rid the state of terrorists and other criminals,” Mr Aliyu said.
The state’s commissioner for internal security and home affairs, Nasiru Danmusa, said the state government is making efforts to curtail the attacks.
“I want to assure you that Government is doing a lot to address security challenges in the State…,” Mr Danmusa said in an SMS sent to this reporter.
Oliza Ethinlaiye, the spokesperson of the 17 Brigade Nigerian Army, which is stationed in Katsina and is involved in the fight against terrorism in the state, promised to get back to this reporter but was yet to do so as at the time is sending this report.
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