11 February 2019

Nigeria: Passengers Stranded As Drivers Protest Insecurity On Kaduna-Birnin Gwari Road

Hundreds of passengers, including women, children and the aged, were stranded at the Kawo Motor Park in Kaduna following a protest by commercial drivers plying Kaduna-Birnin Gwari highway over the activities of gunmen and kidnappers on the road.

When our correspondent visited the Kawo Park on Friday many passengers were waiting hopelessly wondering how to reach their destinations.

The Kawo branch Chairman of National Union Road Transport Workers (NURTW) Usman Aliyu told Arewa Trust that some youths had blocked the road to protest ongoing killings and kidnapping of people, adding that his members also joined the protest.

"Gunmen no longer block road with stones or tree branches, they now stationed themselves in the middle of the road armed to the teeth. They open fire to any vehicle passing and don't mind the number of casualties during their attacks on motorists."

Aliyu said that the gunmen killed and wounded commuters with impunity leaving the injured to their fate and those not injured were taken into the bush for ransom.

"Right now we have a total of 20 drivers, plying Birnin Gwari-Kaduna road, in various hospitals battling for their lives. Some have lost their legs or hands from gunshots apart from those killed by these criminals. We still have three drivers in the hands of the kidnappers.

"We call on both federal and state governments to come to our aid and rescue the situation because even today (Friday) these criminals killed and kidnapped many people. They have also now resorted to burning down the vehicle they attacked."

One of the protesting drivers, Abdullahi Adamu, said that they resolved to boycott the road because the gunmen were bent on exterminating them. He said it was unfortunate that government was not doing enough to rescue the situation.

"Almost every day we either lose a colleague or have him kidnapped by these criminals. Many of our colleagues are now in hospitals being treated for gunshots wounds.

"We lost over 20 drivers recently. Just last week, Friday, my friend was killed by these nefarious criminals. Go round and see our vehicles battered with bullets' shots.

"Many of our injured colleagues cannot afford to pay their medical bills, which run into hundreds of thousands of naira. Some cannot even afford to pay for simple X-ray, because they are poor.

"We believe security operatives are not doing the right thing to curtail the activities of these criminals because sometimes the distance between where the gunmen attack commuters is not far and they hardly repel the kidnappers. We observe that government is not concerned with our lives.

"This is the only means of livelihood we have but we will not resume work until government deploys troops into the bush and arrest these criminals," Adamu added.

A 56-year-old passenger, Tanko Ahmadu, said: "I was told that the road has been taken over by criminals. I want to travel to Kungi village through Birnin Gwari but I am stranded here. I feel bad because I did not prepare to sleep here. I don't have enough to even feed myself aside from the transport fare and from all indication I will sleep in the garage which is very sad.

"My other concern is my inability to reach my family in the village so that they will know my condition because there is no network service in the village. I am right now in a dilemma. I pray Almighty Allah to rescue our situation because from all indication authorities may not salvage our condition. I am calling on my fellow passengers to come together and pray for Allah's intervention."

"What worries me most is how people perceive us, we the people of Birnin Gwari, wherever you go now and introduce yourself as someone from Birnin Gwari people look at you as a criminal because these gunmen have already dented our image."

Another passenger Ayuba Hassan told Daily Trust that he was shocked when he arrived at the motor park with his family and was told that drivers plying their road were on strike.

"I came with my family from Calabar on our way back home, Birnin Gwari, and we were told that the drivers are on strike to protest the incessant security challenge along the road. I feel bad because I don't have enough money for pay for accommodation for me and my family and I don't have any relative here in Kaduna.

"We are appealing, in the name Allah, to Governor Nasir El-Rufai to deploy security agents to reopen this road and arrest the gunmen and restore law and order so that road users can pass peacefully," Hassan said.

When contacted the spokesman of the police in the state, ASP Nafiu Habib, said that the command did not received any report of any attack by bandits either from the commercial drivers or members of the public.

"From yesterday (Friday) and today (Saturday) we are yet to receive any official report of attack as regard to the activities of those bandits along Birnin Gwari road. Whenever we received report of attack on any of the highways in Kaduna we quickly send reinforcement team to support the police manning the road."

Habib called on the commercial drivers and members of the public to always report any incident as soon as possible to enable the police take immediate action to tackle the challenge.

He added that the command had since taken drastic measures to address the security challenges of criminal activities along the Birnin Gwari and Kaduna-Abuja highway.

All efforts to get the reaction of the Kaduna state government over the activities of the bandits proved abortive as Special Assistant to Governor El-rufai on Media and Publicity Samuel Aruwan, did not pick several calls made to his mobile phone neither did he reply the text message sent him at the time of filing this report.

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