Armed bandits now control large parts of the Birnin-Gwari – Funtua road linking Kaduna to Katsina State, the National Union of Road Transport Workers NURTW has said.
The union said the bandits now freely mount road blocks along the highway. It said the activities of the bandits forced motorists to desert the road.
NURTW Chairman, Birnin-Gwari branch, Danladi Duniya, said the union is worried over the development.
“As we speak, the Funtua-Birnin Gwari road has been deserted by our drivers because of the bandits that are in control around that axis. Their activities have really affected our business along that axis because there are no police or military checkpoints around that area,” he said
The chairman appealed to the state government for intervention.
”We are living in fear everyday, particularly the people living in villages around that area,” he said.
PREMIUM TIMES learnt from multiple sources that commercial vehicles have since stopped plying the road.
A driver, who declined to mention his name, said the road is ”now a no go area for motorists”.
”I pity villagers living around that axis because we, as commercial drivers have since stopped plying Funtua – Birnin-Gwari road,” he said.
According to him, due to the activities of the bandits, ”villagers now migrate to Birnin-Gwari town”.
PREMIUM TIMES learnt that the bandits recently mounted road blocks unchallenged along Mai Gwari street which is about 30 kilometres from Maganda town.
The bandits have also taken over large swathes from Maganda town to old Birnin-Gwari which is about 50 kilometers to Zirin Gaza, sources also said.
A former chairman of Birnin-Gwari Local Government Area, who did not want his name mentioned for safety reasons confirmed the development.
“If you move from Nachibi, there is another village called Gobirawa. In Gobirawa, there are bandits, they (villagers) have been overpowered by the criminals.
“From there, you come to Kwasakwasa village. In Kwasakwasa village, a soldier was killed and his vehicle set ablaze,” he said.
According to him, ”there are no security personnel along that route until a motorist reaches Kuyello village close to Katsina border.”
He explained that victims abducted by criminals along the highway are usually taken to Funtua – Birnin-Gwari road, ”because security agents hardly raid the communities there.”
He listed forests where the bandits operate as: Maidaro, Ingade, Dogon Dawa, Damari, and Saulawa ”before old Birnin-Gwari forest”.
PREMIUM TIMES also gathered that Nachibi, Sofa and Cibauna are among the villages under the bandits’ control.
“Anybody you see around these villages has a link with them (bandits) because any stranger found around that area will be killed,” he said
Meanwhile, the State Police Command Public Relations Officer, Aliyu Muktar, said the command does not have ”such information of bandits taking over.”
According to him, ”it will be difficult for bandits to take control of the road as claimed by the drivers’ union without the command being informed.”
Mr Muktar said the union’s claims were exaggerated.
“I’m not saying there are no issues around that area but we are trying our best. So, to say that bandits have taken over the whole road will be difficult. This is because we have massive deployment of personnel to that area. The IG and Chief of Army Staff have all visited the area which is part of the strategies to secure the area,” he said.
“Because we deployed personnel to that area doesn’t mean there would not be issues around there. So, It’s not true. Our men are there, attached to the military along the axis, doing their best,” he added.
The Chief of Army Staff, Tukur Burutai, about a week ago commissioned an army battalion at Kanfanin Doka where he gave the soldiers a three-week directive to ”clear the bandits from the bush”.
Also, the Inspector-General of Police, Ibrahim Idris, visited the area and promised to deploy another 200 police officers to secure the area.
Close to 200 people have been killed in Birnin-Gwari in 2018 by armed bandits. The victims are mainly civilians, but include soldiers and police officers.
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