Nigeria has been grappling with a myriad of security issues for over a decade. From the Boko Haram insurgency to banditry, farmer/herder crisis to kidnapping for ransom — it appears the country and its military are overwhelmed by these challenges.
Education, health, economy and most importantly, human lives have been greatly affected by these challenges, especially at a time when inflation, rising fuel and gas prices are biting hard on Nigerians.
Arguably all states in the country have had their fair share of security challenges but some states, especially those in the northern region, have had it worse. Kaduna is one of such states that have been grounded and left without any safe means of interstate travel given the recent developments.
It first started with the roads — Abuja-Kaduna route — notorious for being a flash-point of kidnappings. In August 2019, three final-year students of the faculty of law, Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria, were kidnapped on Abuja-Kaduna expressway.
Four months earlier, in April, Mahmood Abubakar, chairman of the Universal Basic Education Commission (UBEC), and his daughter were kidnapped on the road.
In another instance, eight students of ABU were abducted during an attack on motorists along the road in November 2020.
The students, from the department of French, were travelling to Lagos for a programme at the Nigerian French Language Village (NFLV), Badagry, when the suspected bandits struck.
Sagir Hamida, Zamfara governorship aspirant in the 2019 election, was killed by gunmen in November 2021 during an attack on Abuja-Kaduna highway where several travellers were abducted.
In November 2021, the house of representatives asked Faruk Yahaya, chief of army staff, and Alkali Baba, inspector-general of police (IGP), to “take speedy action” to curb attacks on Abuja-Kaduna highway. Then the rail attacks began.
President Muhammadu Buhari inaugurated the Abuja-Kaduna train service in July 2016 but its patronage was low until 2018 when activities of kidnappers surged on the expressway.
It appeared that travellers had finally found succour as both the rich, the middle class and poor Nigerians abandoned the roads for the bandits and boarded the trains for their safety.
Accordle to a report by TheCable newspapers, kidnappers had some point made the elite abandon their cars for Abuja-Kaduna trains.
In 2019, Rotimi Amaechi, minister of transportation, said the daily passenger traffic on the Abuja-Kaduna rail line had tripled.
However, it was only a matter of time before the attackers evolved their tactics and began attacking the trains and rail tracks.
In October 2021, suspected bandits damaged a section of the track and shattered the window of the driver’s compartment on the train which took off from the Idu station at 6 pm and was en route to Kaduna.
A similar incident was said to have played out the next day and Shehu Sani, former senator representing Kaduna central, said it “took a miracle” for them to escape.
“Yesterday, terrorists attacked the Kaduna Abuja railway with an explosive & opened fire on the train, targeting the Engine Driver & the Tank,” Sani had tweeted.
Following the development, the Nigerian Railway Corporation (NRC) shut down services on the Abuja-Kaduna route.
On March 28, 2022, suspected gunmen attacked a train around Kateri-Rijana area of Kaduna. The assailants were said to have blown up the rail track after which they launched an attack on the passengers.
The locomotive was said to have over 900 passengers on board.
Several travellers were injured during the attack and there are unconfirmed reports of casualties.
The UK’s travel advice lists Abuja-Kaduna highway as “particularly prevalent” for criminal activities. The US also lists Kaduna as a high-risk area owing to kidnapping.
The NRC has again, suspended train operations on the route. Even air travel is not safe
Transportation by air is dubbed the safest form of transportation but that may not be the case for Kaduna travellers. Having been chased from the roads and railway by bandits, those who can afford to travel by air are not assured of safety.
On Saturday, gunmen attacked the Kaduna international airport and killed a security guard.
The attack came hours after gunmen reportedly killed several residents across nine communities in Giwa LGA on Friday.
According to Amina Salami, the airport manager, the gunmen fired shots into the runway from the fence area.
Subsequently, the Nigerian Army said 12 of the gunmen that attacked the airport were killed in an airstrike.
Meanwhile, Azman Air has announced the suspension of flights to Kaduna over the recent attack on the airport.
An Azman Air flight was said to have been delayed for 44 minutes as a result of the incident, but passengers on the aircraft flew safely from Kaduna to Lagos.
About an hour before news of the attack on the Abuja-Kaduna train broke, Lai Mohammed, minister of information, said the government is proud that Nigerians can travel safely by rail.
So, is the military still winning the war against insecurity?
The Nigerian military has claimed in several instances that it is on top of the situation and it is winning the war against insecurity in the country — even though day-to-day realities show otherwise.
On March 5, Lucky Irabor, chief of defence staff, assured Nigerians that peace will return to troubled parts of the nation this year.
“Never again will we have the level of insecurity that we have had in the past and this is an assurance,” Irabor said.
The information minister also said in August 2021 the government is winning the war against insurgents.
“This is what people should appreciate about fighting terrorism. The good news is that insurgents today are surrendering in droves and we are going after them. The truth of the matter is that the Nigerian government is winning the war against insurgents,” had Mohammed said. But Nigerians know better.