Legal Nigeria

Return of armed robbers on our highways

BY BONIFACE NWUFOR
Over the last two years or more, the activities of armed robbers on Nigeria’s highways were greatly curtailed. It can be said that the presence of soldiers on the highways helped to checkmate ter­rorists, kidnappers and armed robbers.
With the recent recall of sol­diers to the barracks by the Mu­hammadu Buhari administra­tion, armed robbers have once more started unleashing vio­lence on luxury bus passengers, mostly along the Okene – Abaji highway.
It, therefore, calls to question the desirability or otherwise of total withdrawal of military men from the highways. While the intention of the Federal Government in withdrawing soldiers from the highways and various checkpoints across the country is to restrict them to their conventional duty of se­curing the territorial integrity of Nigeria, it is important for the government to devise other ways to guarantee the security of lives and property of citizens on the highways.
With the reported cases of armed robbery attacks on luxu­ry bus passengers over the last two weeks, it is crystal clear that the men of the underworld are now capitalizing on the re­cent withdrawal of soldiers from the checkpoints to have a field day. Therefore, in order to sus­tain the safety which Nigerians have hitherto enjoyed on the highways during day and night travels, there is the need to quickly put measures in place to arrest the situation before it deteriorates.
It is, indeed, remarkable that President Muhammadu Buhari has undertaken to guarantee the security of lives and prop­erty of all Nigerians. One way of achieving this noble objec­tive is to ensure that night ma­rauders are not allowed to take over the nation’s highways. The Police have a great role to play in this regard. They need to redouble their efforts at restor­ing security at the major flash­points where armed robbers operate on the highways.
Already, the Luxury Bus Op­erators Association of Nigeria has raised the alarm at the high rate of armed robbery attacks on their vehicles and passen­gers, especially during night trips. Obviously, this ugly trend cannot be allowed to continue as it portends great danger to the avowed commitment of the Buhari administration to strengthening the capacity of our security apparatus towards delivery of valuable services to the citizenry. It is too early in the day to allow these undesir­able elements to become a cog in the wheel of progress in the area of security.
It can be recalled that a few years ago, the activities of these hoodlums was on the upsurge until police and military check­points were put in place at some strategic points. This measure greatly helped to ensure that men of the underworld did not have a field day on our high­ways. The present challenge de­mands even tougher measures to nip the ignoble activities of these hoodlums in the bud.
It is apparent that there has been a resurgence of criminal activities along the nation’s highways since the dismantling of army road blocks. For ex­ample, the recent blockade of Okene highway by armed rob­bers led to the collision of a lux­ury bus and a trailer. At least 12 people, including children, lost their lives in the incident.
Similarly, on a daily basis, we are inundated with reports of armed robbery attacks on lux­ury buses along Okene, Ife and Owo federal highways. It will, therefore, amount to insensitiv­ity on the part of government if appropriate measures are not put in place immediately to re­store sanity on these highways.
It has even come to the knowl­edge of all and sundry that the President’s directive to the se­curity services was to remove checkpoints in non-essential areas of the country. In other words, the security services ought not to have contemplated removing checkpoints in areas that pose high security risk to the people.
In truth, what is the ratio­nale in suddenly withdrawing soldiers from all the nation’s checkpoints at this period in our history when criminality is as­suming alarming proportions? Even in the case of combat­ing armed robbery attacks on our highways, common sense demands that the only way to achieve it is by restoring check­points, especially at some desig­nated highways.
The Nigerian Police and other security outfits should be in a position to determine the es­sential areas where these road­blocks must be. The military checkpoints must be reinstated in these places as a matter of ur­gency to restore safety of lives and property on the highways.
Additionally, there ought to be a communication channel es­tablished between the security services and community leaders along these highways to share information that will help check, if not totally eliminate the ac­tivities of these hoodlums. This approach has become necessary as the hoodlums live among the people and community involve­ment in fighting crime has be­come the norm worldwide. Its impact cannot be underesti­mated. Therefore, it is expected that the security services con­cerned will do the needful, and ensure that the good intentions of the Buhari administration are not jeopardized in any way.
The abrupt removal of mili­tary roadblocks cannot serve any good purpose for Nigeri­ans. They should not only be re­stored, their number should be increased to let armed robbers know that there is no room for them on Nigeria’s highways.
There is no arguing the fact that Nigeria is under siege of criminal elements on the high­ways. Apart from frequent armed robbery incidents, pas­sengers are sometimes kid­napped during trips. As things stand now, our people repose more confidence in the military than the police in terms of abil­ity to combat these hoodlums.
As Nigerians await the “change” which the APC administration has prom­ised, there is the need for the “change” to reflect in the secu­rity of lives and property of the people, which is also the pri­mary responsibility of govern­ment. Many Nigerians consider the police incapable of check­mating night marauders. Since the latest attacks appear as if armed robbers have declared war on the people, government owes it a duty to deploy soldiers to fight the battle headlong. Currently, it seems the worst affected areas are the Owo, Akure, Ife, Okene axis, as well as areas where there are thick forests.
Lamenting the ugly trend, former spokesman of Luxury Bus Owners Association of Nigeria (LUBOAN), Chief Eu­gene Ojukwu, described the total withdrawal of soldiers from the highways as a move that will undermine the peace that had hitherto existed on our highways. In his view, it is pos­sible that Mr. President’s direc­tive on removal of army road­blocks was misinterpreted.

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