By Our Editors
On Sunday, eight students of the Ahmadu Bello University (ABU), Zaria, were kidnapped by bandits along the Kaduna-Abuja road. Reports claim that the students all of the Department of French, were traveling to Lagos for a programme at the Nigerian French Language Village (NFLV), when the bandits struck. The bandits demanded a cumulative sum of N270 million as ransom.
Similarly, gunmen suspected to be bandits recently abducted 12 Assistant Superintendents of Police on their way to Zamfara from Borno State. The police officers were going for a special operation when the incident took place.
Also in June, gunmen killed two people and reportedly abducted several others along the Lokoja – Abuja expressway. The incident occurred at about 7:00 a.m. between Acheni and Gegu villages in Kogi State. The list of kidnappings on the roads is endless.
As the situation is, to say that the nation’s highways are unsafe is an understatement. Traveling by road to any part of the country is now considered a suicide mission as the chances of being kidnapped, killed or maimed are high. It ought not to be so .The kidnap of police officers is particularly humiliating as it shows nobody is even safe anymore.
The high incidences of kidnapping in the rural areas, farms and highways have been adduced as reason for the high cost of food items. And as at today, there is simply no alternative to travelling by road as the railways are yet to acquire the necessary capacity as a reliable means for transporting goods, animals and humans.
This Newspaper, however, commends the aggressive drive of the President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration in the construction of railway lines across the country. We believe that when the subsisting rail infrastructure contracts are fully delivered, the roads will be free from the activities of criminal elements as more people will be inclined to travel by rail.
It is suspected that the concentration of forests along some of the highways contribute to the high rate of kidnappings. This Newspaper recalls that President Muhammadu Buhari had told traditional rulers from the south west last year that the government will fast-track very rapid monitoring of the forests by using technology of modern standard, drones and also install CCTV along the highways. Though we cannot say for sure how much progress has been made in that direction, we believe that it is the way to go.
It is also gratifying to note that recently the Nigerian Air Force launched a major offensive against bandits along the Abuja-Kaduna highway, killing many of the criminals in their camp. The operation followed intelligence reports indicating that a cluster of huts and other structures at the location served as hideout for a notorious bandits’ leader, named ‘Major’ and his fighters.
It is obvious that the police lack the required capacity to completely secure the highways that is why we have been consistently advocating the use of technology to complement the efforts of the security agencies. All over the world the use of technology in crime prevention and law enforcement is rapidly gaining traction.
For instance, according to a report in the New Scientist, academics at Cambridge University have found that police wearing body-cameras received 93 per cent fewer complaints from the public. This has been put down to the camera increasing accountability on both sides. It is an example of how technology can make a difference in modern policing. Also in France, the national Gendarmerie and the National Police are equipping their operational forces with secure, connected tablets and smartphones. Devon and Cornwall Police in the United Kingdom are using drones for everything from missing person investigations to tracking suspects in firearms incidents and counter-terrorism operations. It is also using them to monitor its 900 km of coastline and woodlands to help fight wildlife crime.
We consider pertinent for the government to invest in technology to secure the highways. Drones should be used to monitor the thick forests along the highways which are always the hideouts for the bandits. Additionally, security agencies should carry out constant clearing and bombing of forests on the highways across the country.
Furthermore, we will continue to insist that the time for state police has come. The force when put in place, should be allowed to tackle insecurity in states while the federal police can be used to protect the federal highways. No doubt, local intelligence is needed to clear our forests and rid them of criminal elements.
In our view, traveling from one part of the country to another safely should be the norm rather than the exception. So government, through the security agencies, should ensure that the highways are safe for travellers especially as the Yuletide approaches.