Kaduna has been under siege in the last 10 days. From the attacks and killings of over 50 residents in nine communities of Giwa Local Government Area and the abduction of dozens last Friday, to last Sunday’s killing of one person, and the attempted security breach of the airport in the state, security sources said it appeared that terrorists were regrouping to hold Kaduna to ransom.
Monday’s bombing and killings, as well as abduction of passengers on the Abuja-Kaduna train, are considered as the most daring and well- coordinated attack on the state in recent months. The attack, which derailed an 8pm Kaduna-bound train, which had earlier left Idu train station in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), had claimed nine lives, with a yet to be known number of people still in captivity.
According to the train passenger manifest, 398 passengers had bought tickets for the last batch of Monday’s Abuja-Kaduna trip, although 362 had been validated as having boarded the train.
The attack on the rail line, compounded by the recent temporary withdrawal of air services by Azman and Air Peace, the only two carriers that shuttle Kaduna, has placed the state in what experts call a “closed economy.”
This is already forcing a drop in economic and social activities, as the state government, on Thursday postponed the second edition of its Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs’) summit earlier scheduled for April 5.
Frequent attacks around airport, rail line and roads
In the last few years, terrorist activities have increased around Chikun, Birnin Gwari, Giwa and Igabi local government areas of Kaduna State, considered frontline areas in the state. The 150-kilometer Kaduna-Abuja highway and the 186km standard gauge rail line that link Kaduna to the FCT intersect Chikun and Kachia local government areas from the Kaduna axis and are considered one of the most dangerous routes in northern Nigeria.
Security sources said that due to forest enclaves in Chikun and its border links to other insecurity-prone local government areas in Niger State, bandits freely crisscross both land and rail areas.
“In the past, the attention of these terrorists was on the Kaduna-Abuja Highway because the road remained the cheapest means of transportation. But when people began to rely more on the rail line, the bandits made their first attempt by planting explosives on the track in October 2021. They may not have achieved their aim at that time, but they certainly got our attention,” said a security source in Kaduna.
The Kaduna airport, on the other hand, is located within the vicinity of Afaka and Mando in Igabi Local Government Area, which borders the three frontline areas of Chikun, Birnin Gwari and Giwa.
Multiple attacks have taken place within the vicinity, including the abduction of students of the Federal College of Forestry Mechanisation, Afaka, the attack on the Nigeria Defence Academy (NDA), as well as multiple attacks on the staff quarters of the Federal Airport Authority of Nigeria (FAAN).
A Kaduna-based security analyst, Awwal Abdullahi Aliyu, described the various attacks in the last few days as systematic as the terrorists used the art of guerrilla warfare to attack soft targets.
“With the attack on the airport, security agencies should have known that the rail line would be the next target and should have beefed up security.
“Necessary intelligence gathering technique should have been beefed up. There was a serious lapse, either in terms of getting intelligence or acting on the intelligence provided,” he said.
Why Kaduna-Abuja corridor remains unsafe
The 61-killometer link road between Katari and Rijana, both in Kachia Local Government Area of Kaduna State has become the most notorious point of attacks against road users.
A commercial driver at the Mando park in Kaduna, Muhammad Ibrahim, explained that although commercial drivers who frequented the Kaduna-Abuja route had identified Olam to Rijana, down to Gadan Malam Mamman and Katari as flashpoint areas, the most dangerous spots are found between Rijana and Katari.
“The same axis is equally a dangerous spot for the Abuja-Kaduna train corridor. Remember, from the Abuja-Kaduna road, you can see the rail line, especially once you start to approach Kaduna. It is more visible at night when you can see the lights from the train and hear the sound,” one of the train drivers at Kaduna’s Rigasa railway station said.
Our correspondent reports that although poorly fenced with blocks, several portions of the 186km Kaduna-Abuja track have either been abandoned or the fence collapsed. Several piles of blocks, some broken, were equally seen at some spots where the fence should have been completed.
Daily Trust Saturday reports that this is why there has been clamour for government and security agencies to take steps against the activities of terrorists lurking around the Katari and Rijana axis. Many have accused the communities of either harbouring terrorists or breeding informants.
Awwal Abdullahi Aliyu said although new security strategy and synergy among Nigeria’s security agencies and communities along those corridors were needed, action must be taken on the Katari-Rijana spot.
“There is the need to either site a strong and permanent military formation in that area or bring down the whole of Jere, Katari and Rijana axis since it has become the operational ground for these terrorists in the last six years. Somebody or some groups of people are either accommodating them or giving them information,” he said.
Alhaji Bello Rijana, an elder in Rijana community, told Daily Trust Saturday that the people of those communities were equally victims of attacks and oftentimes suffer the wrath of the terrorists. He said it was not until 2am on Tuesday that word reached the community that the Kaduna-bound train had been attacked, a few kilometers from Audu Jangwam community.
“We are equally under constant attacks by these people. A few days ago, they surrounded our community but God did not give them the success to penetrate our defences. They have surrounded parts of Rijana from the eastern part through Chikun and Kajuru to the western part through Niger State. We equally want security agents to move in and dislodge them,” he said.
He also said that five days ago, the terrorists killed a member of the community and abducted his wife and children, adding that in recent times, their activities had been on the rise as they go as far as Akilubu within Kachia Local Government Area to abduct residents.
“Our people who go to the forest to get firewood sometimes say they see them travelling in their hundreds. Sometimes they tell them that they are not their target, and instead, dispose them of their food and other items. But recently, they abduct anyone they come across,” he said.
Insecurity forcing Kaduna into a ‘closed economy’ – Expert
“These attacks are turning Kaduna into a fearful zone. People would not want to come to the state because it is being identified as one of the most dangerous, in terms of banditry and kidnapping,” said Awwal Aliyu while analysing insecurity and its likely effect on social and economic activities of the people.
Analysing the economic impact of the suspension of commercial air services by airline operators and the immobilisation of the Kaduna-Abuja train amidst a high security-prone road service, a professor of Economics in the Kaduna State University, Seth Akutson, said Kaduna was running a closed economy.
“The challenge we are having now is what, in management, you can call logistic and supply chain. In economics it is called distribution; and if distribution is cut off, the economy is dead, and any economy that is not on the move is as good as dead.
“The roads have been having challenges for years. The only time it was free was when there was a transfer of airline services from Abuja to Kaduna.
“The train, which was the only solace, is now immobilised, so what else remains of an economy?
“As the third largest city after Lagos and Kano, with a population of about 10million people, the government of Kaduna has built infrastructure and malls, but if there is no security, such things cannot attract patronage,” Akutson said.
He further noted that based on Adam Smith’s doctrine of an open economy, what is now obtainable in Kaduna is a closed economy, which will likely affect survival, income distribution, work and the private sector.
“The banks are already closing early because of fuel challenges, so the state is in motion without movement,” he said.
Meanwhile, yesterday fear gripped residents of the Shanono area of Kaduna State after residents found another suspected improvised explosive device (IED).
The object was found concealed in a jerry can, just 24 hours after the residents discovered an IED inside a plastic bucket covered with Sellotape in the same community and spot on Thursday morning.
The device was later detonated by the state anti-bomb squad and no casualty was recorded.
A resident, Tijjani Umar, told Daily Trust Saturday that children discovered the jerry can covered with black cellophane near a stream.
“It was kept on the same spot where the Thursday IED was discovered. We don’t know what is happening in this community. It was my elder brother’s wife that rushed to inform me that the children found another bomb inside a jerry can,” he said.
Daily Trust Saturday gathered that security agencies were deployed to the scene while hundreds of residents watched from a distance.
When contacted, the State Police Command Public Relations Officer, ASP Mohammed Jalige, confirmed the discovery, saying the anti-bomb squad has been mobilized to the area to defuse the device.
He urged people to be more vigilant wherever they are in the state.