The Kaduna State Government has confirmed that some persons were unaccounted for after bandits blocked the Abuja-Kaduna highway on Friday.
However, the government said “reports that the bandits kidnapped scores of people” had not been confirmed by security officials.
The government said some gunmen blocked the highway at about 3:30 p.m. “but security agents responded swiftly to distress calls and checked their operation”.
PREMIUM TIMES reported a former senator, Shehu Sani, saying he received a distress call from a traveller that ”the bandits blocked the road between Jere and Katari at about 4 p.m.”
“I have just got a call that bandits have blocked the Kaduna-Abuja road, in between Jere and Katari village in this broad daylight. Scores of people were kidnapped while many have made a fast u-turn in the face of gunshots,” Mr Sani wrote on his Twitter handle.
Also, a traveller @jpjohnson61, said ”he was caught up in the whole thing.”
“I have never been this scared in my life. Situation is calm now. A joint military operation just cleared the road, we literally drove into them, GOD IS GREAT,” he wrote in reply to Mr Sani’s tweet.
A driver who plies the road every day also told a PREMIUM TIMES reporter that ”he saw many cars turning back with their car headlights on, and many were parked at a distance for everything to calm.”
Kaduna govt responds
Kaduna State Commissioner of Internal Security and Home Affairs, Samuel Aruwan, in a statement late Friday, said security agencies had not confirmed the number of those possibly abducted on the highway.
Mr Aruwan said the security agencies manning the highway “were yet to confirm that scores were kidnapped in the incident as reported by a ‘social media enthusiast'”. This was a veiled jab at Mr Sani, a vocal critic of the governor.
Also, the official said the state, “which is known for publicising security developments, will certainly make public feedback received by the military and police as soon as the agencies revert”.
“At around 3:30 p.m., the Security Operations Room, a 24-hour hub, started receiving distress calls of a blockage around Kurmin Kare area of Kaduna-Abuja Road and immediately, contact was established with the Commanding Officer of Operation Thunder Strike (OPTS), a Defence Headquarters outfit, and Operation Puff Adder of the Nigeria Police for immediate counter action.
“The troops and the police operatives swiftly moved to the general area, saw motorists stranded on both lanes, and subsequently cleared the road.
‘”The personnel after clearing the accumulated traffic saw one Honda car with Reg. No. RBC 864BL recovered with broken rear windscreen and another vehicle found empty with some luggage. From preliminary findings, the occupant or occupants may have been unaccounted for.
“Furthermore, beside the Honda vehicle, the following five citizens hidden in the forest appeared with their driver who confirmed they were complete having escaped in the commotion:
BABANGIDA LAWAN ‘M’ (DRIVER)
“As of this moment (9:40pm), the status of the occupant(s) of the Honda cannot be substantiated, and the veracity of the report that scores were kidnapped cannot be confirmed. The public will be briefed as soon as Government of Kaduna State receives operational feedback, Mr Aruwan said in the statement.