*Gov’s convoy attacked, lawmaker killed on same road
By Musa Na Annabi
It used to be the preferred road to travel by many. But not anymore. The once peaceful and safe Sokoto/Gusau Road, which was the major route for motorists travelling to Sokoto, Katsina, Zamfara and the North-western zone of Nigeria, has now become a nightmare. It has since been taken over by criminals variously described as bandits, kidnappers and terrorists, who unleash terror on motorists, farmers and anyone who dares to travel through the road.
In fact, travelling through the road now is like an open invitation to being kidnapped or killed following many incidents of abductions, killings and armed robberies in recent months.
It was on that road that the convoy of the Kano State governor reportedly came under attack by hoodlums on Wednesday,while returning to Kano from Zamfara.
As if that was not enough, a Zamfara State legislator was reportedly shot and killed by bandits on his way to Kano from Gusau the Zamfara State capital.
In the aftermath of such attacks, motorists plying the road, do so with fear and trepidation, not knowing if they would even reach their destinations, depending on where they are coming from due to the fact that the daredevils can strike at any moment without notice from the vast woodlots that dot the vast highway.
The malevolent elements operate with such audacity that they can openly block the highway at any time and start robbing, kidnapping and committing any form of crime without any fear.
Such unplanned blockade of the highway has caused many accidents and deaths of travellers along the road in recent years but there seems to be no end to their attacks.
The incessant attacks by kidnappers and bandits have also stalled the weekly pilgrimage to Sokoto by people from Yobe, Adamawa, Gombe, Taraba, Bauchi and Borno states.
People of the aforementioned states who were mostly Fulani before this time routinely visited the Tomb of the revered Sheikh Usuman bin Fodio in Sokoto to pray for increased wealth or to seek blessings for their families.
But following repeated attacks, some of the pilgrims reportedly died through accidents along the road or fall into the hands of kidnappers who demanded heavy ransom from their families.
The troubled road is the gateway to Abuja, the federal capital territory, for the people of Kebbi, Sokoto and Zamfara states and travelers going to Kano and Katsina states.
While the attacks continue unabated, those who can afford it have since abandoned the road and sought other alternatives like taking advantage of available airlines to embark on their journeys not minding the escalating costs. For instance, airlines which hitherto charged N35,000 per flight from Sokoto to Abuja now collect as much as N55,000 per passenger.
Similarly, the Sultan Abubakar III International Airport Sokoto, which before the attacks on the highway started, operated a single flight per day, now boasts of two to three flights per day with passengers from Kebbi, Sokoto and Zamfara states.
Other airlines, which used to fly the route with a handful of passengers, now struggle to create enough room for passengers as their flights are now fully booked even before midday despite the exorbitant charges.
There was a day when one of the local airlines landed a 500-seate passenger aircraft at Sokoto Airport and in less than 30 minutes the aircraft was filled to capacity with passengers heading for Abuja.
As a result of road attacks, the airport has now become the darling of many airline operators, which before now had been struggling to have one passenger aircraft daily.
The Sokoto/Gusau Highway is virtually abandoned to the indigent road users, who have no option than to travel at the mercy of hoodlums, bandits, kidnappers and terrorists who now control the road.
In fact, it was so bad last Sunday when bandits barricaded the Sokoto/Gusau road resulting in heavy traffic build-up with passengers heading for Gusau, Katsina, Kano, Kaduna, and Abuja stranded for hours.
It was on the same road where the former chief executive of the National Identity management commission, NIMC, was shot dead in the early hours of the day while on his way to Abuja after spending his weekend in Sokoto.
Speaking in an interview with Arewa Voice, a businessman, Aminu Idris Sokoto, lamented that the incessant strikes by bandits and kidnappers on the highway had since forced him to avoid the road and seek for alternatives to avoid being killed or kidnapped by criminals.
A civil servant residing in Sokoto, Umar Danladi Ado, said he used to visit his family in Kano when the road was safe, but had since been compelled to relocate them to Sokoto since the wave of insecurity became unbearable along that highway.
“I have not been able to visit Kano to see my extended family members since the beginning of this year due to the fear of bandits and kidnappers on the highway,” Ado revealed. He said there is urgent need for federal and state government to hasten the deployment of troops along the trunk A road to save lives and properties of the citizens plying it.
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