Maiduguri to Biu: A journey of no return?

Maiduguri to Biu: A journey of no return?

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“As it appears, the murderous group remains unrelenting. About two weeks ago, it took its reign of terror one step further when, according to reports, it seized one of the main routes into Maiduguri, the Borno State capital, forcing a detour on hapless motorists, man who reportedly undertook 12 hours journey for a trip that ordinarily would take two hours. Indeed, for motorists along the 187-kilometre Maiduguri-Damboa –Biu stretch, theirs have become a daily nightmare in the hands of the terrorists. Thes terrorists have since taken over several spots, including abandoned villages, to strike at will, leaving deaths and destruction in their trail.
“By some accounts, some motorists who ventured to undertake the journey through the route were reportedly brought back in body bags. There are reports of nearly a dozen communities along the vast stretch said to have been deserted as a result of the activities of the terrorist group. Mohammed Jidda, Chairman of the Civilian JTF in Molai, a village some 15 kilometres from Maiduguri, was quoted as telling newshounds that about 60 settlements along the entire stretch had been deserted with the residents fleeing to Maiduguri for safety.
“The North East zone of the National Emergency Management Agency has since put the figure of Internally Displaced Persons in Maiduguri and its environ at 130,000.
“Much as we wish that we could agree with the government on its claim to be ‘on top of the situation’, the reality on ground, obliviously paints a contrary picture – one that is hard to ignore.”
The above is the comment of a national daily on the onslaught of the Boko Haram insurgent group in some parts of the country in its edition of July 20, 2014. Three years after, this insurgent group is still on the prowl, and can even now be sighted on the highways and in Borno State in particular.
At the last count, over 100,000 souls have been lost, and two million people displaced. Again, there are over 60,000 widows and 50,000 orphans arising from the mass slaughter carried out by the insurgents. Infrastructure, public buildings, property and others destroyed stood at about $7bn, with Borno taking the lion’s share of the
calamities.
However, since the assumption of office of President Muhammadu Buhari, terrorism has been substantially subdued with Boko Haram degraded and decimated. The sect has been dispossessed of all the hitherto captured Local Government councils in the affected states of Borno, Yobe and Adamawa. Nevertheless, there are still pockets or clusters of terrorists around, who, in a guerilla-war fashion, have been wrecking havoc. They have been killing, maiming, abducting (especially the female ones), looting, and destroying.
The impunity and meteoric speed with which they commit these atrocities, especially on soft targets and on the highways, are becoming worrisome and frightening.

 

Today, the insurgents have reared their ugly heads on the highway, after a short break, killing, maiming, stealing and engaging in outright abduction of passengers through ambush, surprise attack or confrontation. Of recent, there have been reported cases of ambush of the travellers and military escorts resulting in deaths of passengers and military personnel

It is in a bid to check the menace of Boko Haram, especially on Maiduguri-Damboa-Biu road, that informed this piece, prompting the army to introduce specially designed motorised cycles as part of the military escorts for daily teeming passengers plying the road. The motorised cycles, fitted with guns and complemented by military personnel and members of the Civilian Joint Task Force had initially moved in a reverse order as passengers are escorted along Maiduguri and Biu road, to and fro. With this security arrangement in place, the terrorists were kept at bay. However, before the shout of Jack Robinson, all the motorised cycles soon disappeared with no notice or information about them to date. This was certainly not a plus for the bewildered passengers who still ply this route out of compelling necessity.
Today, the insurgents have reared their ugly heads on the highway, after a short break, killing, maiming, stealing and engaging in outright abduction of passengers through ambush, surprise attack or confrontation. Of recent, there have been reported cases of ambush of the travellers and military escorts resulting in deaths of passengers and military personnel, leaving others running helter skelter into the bush for safety. The story has not changed and it is now a nightmare for travellers on this route who have become like moving corpses. Only recently, a convoy of vehicles, with one conveying the corpse of a policewoman along the route to her hometown, was attacked by the terrorists who abducted some women, who included policewomen.
Not to travel on this road presently appears the beginning of wisdom, as most travellers now choose alternative routes, which entails additional 10 to 12 hours of journey, instead of only three hours’ from the southern part of the state, to Maiduguri. And for some who must travel on the road, it might be a journey of no return.
Maiduguri-Damboa-Biu road is about 190 kilometers in length and it links the southern part of the state with the capital. The road, which is a Federal one, veers into other parts of the states, like Gombe and Adamawa.
Security experts are unanimous in the opinion that the concerned road has now become a ‘walking grave’ as it is not properly dominated by the military, as expected. According to them, to bring the insurgents to effective check, there is the need for the establishment of well-manned military posts at the various points of the highway.
This, according to the experts, should apply to major roads within the terrorists’ operational zone. With effective domination of the soldiers and communication among the military units in the concerned areas, experts explained that the activities of the terrorists would be effectively monitored and checked as they would now be
confined.
They further argued that the present arrangement where passengers travelling daily along Maiduguri-Damboa-Biu road under military escorts is fraught with security lapses, as the insurgents have mastered the entire modus operandi of the existing system, and are cashing in on the loopholes to strike and ambush. The military must be dynamic and proactive by putting in motion always, steps to pre-empt possible attacks or incursions of the enemy. Above all, it must keep its eyes wide open and ears to the ground.

*Izekor, a journalist, public affairs analyst, is a member of the Board of Advisers of The Point.

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