Kidnapping for ransom on the strategic Amawbia-Enugwu-Agidi Igbariam road/ in Anambra State, Southeast Nigeria, has become a regular occurrence in recent times and motorists who ply it have abandoned it to use longer and rougher ones for safety.
The Amawbia -Enugwu-Agidi Igbariam road is strategic in the sense that it connects Awka, the Anambra State capital, with the state-owned Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu University (COOU) and most of which workers live in the axis.
The road which runs through Dunokofia Local Government Area is also a link to three other local government areas in Anambra North Senatorial District, namely Anambra East, Anambra West and Anyamelum.
The latest of the kidnap cases was on Sunday, Jan. 10, whereby a motorist, identified as Mr Clement Uzoghelu, and an indigene of Nawgu in Dunukofia Local Government Area, returning home was abducted and marched into a nearby forest.
This came less than three weeks after kidnappers abducted a man, his wife and child while they were travelling on the road.
Uzoghelu is a businessman based in Cameroon but presently in Nigeria for the Christmas and New Year festivities as well as other community engagements.
Sources said he was kidnapped at about 6p.m. at one of the many bad portions on the road, near the spot where the family of three was kidnapped on Dec 23, 2020.
SP Mohammed Haruna, the Police Public Relations Officer in Anambra State, said he had yet to get the report of the incident.
On the December incident, Mr Ndubuisi Obijiofor, the President-General of Enugu-Agidi Community Association, said early contacts were made to the Police Command but policemen could not rescue the victim.
Obijiofor said when the child among the kidnap victims cried all through the night, the abductors freed it and the mother while keeping the father with them to demand ransom.
He said the abductors initially demanded a ransom of N100 million for the man to be released.
“Incidences of abduction on Enugu-Agidi-Nawgwu road has become worrisome, we need increased security presence there and total repair for smooth driving,” Obijiofor said.
Mohammed acknowledged receiving a distress call from the area but did not confirm the kidnap as there was no formal report of the incident with the police.
A source, however, said the victim regained freedom after paying an undisclosed sum as ransom.
Early in 2020, a lecturer with COUU was abducted on Amawbia-Enugwu-Agidi -Igbariam road in the Njikoka Local Government Area.
Obijiofor expressed worry over the rising cases of abduction on the road and said it was unclear who the perpetrators were but that by their operations, they had good knowledge of the terrain.
He said the community would constitute a vigilance group to comb the bush in the area to discover the kidnappers’ hideout and displace them from their area.
“I don’t know if they are Fulani herdsmen or our local boys but we will hold a meeting and comb the bushes with the aim of finding their hideouts,” the community leader said.
He blamed the poor condition of the road for the spate of kidnapping in the area.
He said there were portions where motorists must halt their movement to enable them to navigate the bad spots and that provided opportunity for the criminals to operate.
Chief Sam Oragbunam, a politician from the area, said there had been five successful cases of kidnapping of motorists on the road in recent times.
Oragbunam said the police and the state government had failed the people of the area as well as unsuspecting motorists by not guaranteeing their safety on that road.
He said that in spite of the assurances of the police to protect lives and property on the road, no criminal attempt had been successfully prevented by the security agencies, including the state-owned vigilance group.
Oragbunam said the state of disrepair exacerbated the insecurity on the road which he described as very important to many communities and local government areas in the state.
He said another possible reason for the high rate of crime on the road was the activities of local boys who engaged in land speculation and who no longer had spaces for sale.
Oragbunam said when there was no land to sell, “another means of livelihood could be the business of kidnapping people and quietly earning their ransom and the painful thing is that our security architecture has failed.”
“Nobody harasses them and none of them has been apprehended since they started operating in that axis.
“If the road was good, motorists would be able to move at reasonable speed which will make it impossible for hoodlums to waylay them and take them hostage,” he said.
When the police in Anambra announced their return to work early in November 2020, they promised to maintain steady patrols and surveillance on roads in the state.
This assurance excited motorists, including Prof. Charles Nwadigwe, who said the presence of a policeman on the road was a reassuring development as there had been cases of robbery and kidnapping of travellers since the security operatives retreated.
Nwadigwe, who teaches in the Theatre and Films Department of Nnamdi Azikiwe University, Awka, singled out the Ukwulu-Nawgu-Enugwu Agidi road as a lonely road which required regular patrol.
He described the recent attacks on the police as unfortunate, adding that it was one of the hazards of the job.
“Seeing the presence of security men is reassuring, it will go a long way in boosting the confidence of motorists that there is reasonable safety so we are very happy about it,” he said.
“This road is usually so lonely and we have had incidences of kidnap and other forms of criminal activity here, we expect that police will do their work which is maintaining security and also be the friend of the masses.
“I encourage the police to see some of what happened as some of the hazards of the job, just like other professions, policing has its own hazards, ”Nwadigwe said.
Some residents said although the road was bad and lonely, it would continue to attract traffic because it was an important route in the state.
They said putting the road in good condition and increasing police patrol on it would reduce the activities of criminals.
The people called on all security agencies to join forces in the task of identifying and apprehending those involved in the abductions.
Mr Jude Obiora, a social commentator, said the Anambra State Government should set its priorities right by fixing all existing roads rather than embarking on white elephant projects that would not impact directly on the lives of the people.
Obiora said the repeated cases of kidnapping on the road should have stirred the government and security agencies to action.
“When lightning strikes at a place not once, not twice, not thrice, questions would be asked of all stakeholders concerned with security.
“Why not station a permanent patrol team there? Why has the state government failed to repair the road? This is one incident that does not speak well of a state that prides itself as the safest in the country, ” Obiora said.
The Anambra government has acknowledged the poor state of the road and promised to fix it within a short time.
Mr Marcel Ifejiofor, the Commissioner for Works, told HumAngle that contract for the road construction was in the process of being awarded and that it would be done “very soon.”
“The road is in the process of being awarded, we are going to overlay from Amawbia to Ukwulu.
“The road means a lot to us because of the area it serves in Anambra, it links about four local government areas to the capital city, so we are going to fix it very soon,” Ifejiofor said.