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Motorists, Communities Flee As Gunmen Take Over Benue Road

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Motorists have carefully avoided the route while daredevils now loom large and have carried out their nefarious activities without challenge from any quarters.

Commuters and motorists have abandoned one of the direct link roads to Makurdi the Benue State capital from the South East, the 55-kilometre Makurdi- Aliade road due to the nefarious activities carried out by criminals.

It is in bad shape and nothing has been done to salvage it thereby leaving the road users to their fate. As a result, motorists heading to and from Makurdi to the Eastern part of the country have carefully avoided it while daredevils now loom large and have carried out their nefarious activities on that route without challenge from any quarters.

In place of the shorter route which has now been left in a deplorable state, commuters now opt for the longer but more motorable Makurdi-Naka-Aondona-Taraku-Otukpo Road.

However, they have suddenly been forced to quit that route by armed men, who pose as kidnappers, terrorists, bandits and armed robbers, who terrorise, kill and maim those who dare to ply it with reckless abandon.

Most of the commercial vehicle operators and road users who spoke on their experiences, recounted how extremely dangerously it could be for anyone to be on that road when it is 9.00pm as the road becomes a killing field by gunmen.

A driver of one the registered commercial transportation companies in Makurdi, who simply identified himself as Jonah, said that two days ago, he was ambushed and robbed alongside his 12 passengers by the criminals while on his way from Enugu.

He said: “We are all aware that in recent times there have been cases of robbery of travellers between Aliade and Ikpayonge, especially from 9.00pm.

So as commercial vehicle operators we know that if we must come into Makurdi through that route it has to be done before 8.00pm because anything after that could be dangerous. Unfortunately on that fateful day, due to the state of the road, I lost two of my tyres shortly after Jato at about 7.00pm.

“I finished fixing the tyres at about 9.00pm because I had to board a commercial vehicle back to Aliade to buy new tyres. We had to continue with our journey but before we got to Igbor, we ran into a checkpoint not knowing that they were robbers and it was too later retreat. Everyone in my vehicle including myself was robbed.

While this was going on any vehicle coming from both ends of the road had to reverse when they sighted from afar how we were dragged down from the vehicle and asked to raise up our hands. After robbing us we were asked to leave.”

Contacted, the Benue state Police Public Relations Officer, Deputy Superintendent, DSP, Catherine Anene in a text message said, “the attention of the Command has been drawn to it and we are working on it.”

“Apart from me, several other commercial vehicles and private vehicles have been robbed on that road by these gangs of robbers who operate with so much ease. We have on several occasions alerted the police and called for decisive action to be taken to end the menace but as I speak with you nothing serious has been done because we are still recording more robberies on that road.”

On his part, Bola Akindele a commercial driver who claimed he has been plying the road for close to 12 years said the recent hike in criminal activities on the stretch of road was a strange development in his years of plying his trade on the road. “I have been running that route for close to 12 years and not until recently we started witnessing cases of robbery on the road especially at night. Before now the challenge on that road was the issue of young men who used to mount road blocks to collect illegal tax from transporters.

“The state government tackled that issue headlong and those behind the act stopped it but we cannot tell if it is the same young men that have now resorted to robbing unsuspecting road users. We all know that we cannot go through the Naka-Makurdi road because of its deplorable state which makes it very easy for armed herdsmen who occasional attack communities on that axis to also attack and in some cases kidnap unsuspecting road users.

So as we speak road user are still being robbed and the police have not deemed it fit to move against these criminals.”

Also, Francis Otima, who claimed he works with a commercial bank in Otukpo while his family resides in Makurdi said he was once a victim of the robbery incidents on the now dreadful road.

It all happened on a Friday after work and I was determined to be in Makurdi with my family that night though oblivious of the robbery incidents on that road. I was heading towards Ikpayonge when I ran into a supposed check point only to discover that it was a road block mounted by these very young men.

“They asked me out of the car, frisked me and search my car and in less than two minutes they were done. They dispossessed me of my phone, money, wristwatch, ring and even cloths and shoes after which they asked me to drive off. It was actually a traumatizing experience and I later leant that several others were also robbed that night.

“These cases were reported to the police but till date, we have not witnessed any form of security patrols on that all important road and the criminals are still having a field day.”
 

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