Save Maiduguri-Damaturu highway

Repeated attacks by Boko Haram insurgents on the vital Maiduguri to Damaturu highway, which also leads to Kano, Bauchi and the rest of the country, is an extremely worrisome turn of events in this seemingly unending war.

This highway is one of six that link Maiduguri, the Borno State capital, to other parts of the state, the country and to neighbouring countries. For the past six years, Boko Haram attacks rendered five of them largely unusable without military protection. Only the highway that connects Maiduguri to Damaturu, the Yobe State capital, was relatively safe for travelers to use.That too is now beleaguered.

Although the highway is guarded by combined military, police SARS and Civilian-JTF forces, insurgents have launched repeated attacks on it since late December. The terrorists also launched many attacks on different parts of the North East. Among others, they attacked Borgozo army base in northern Borno last November 27; Babbangida village in Yobe State on November 28; Rumirgo village in Askira Uba on December 10, Damaturu on December 22 and they abducted four aid workers on the Monguno road on the same day.

On January 2, insurgents attacked Michika town in Adamawa State. They abducted the LGA’s chairman of the Christian Association of Nigeria [CAN], Lawan Andimi and later killed him in a most gruesome manner. Andimi’s killing marred New Year celebrations and elicited emotional reactions across the country. Insurgents also killed and abducted many other people during those attacks, including an attack on Jakana military base on January 4 and attack on the SARS base at Kundori village on January 6.

In addition, between January 1 and last week, insurgents launched attacks at Gamboru, Monguno, Auno, Firgi military base, Bama-Gwoza road, Bila-Amboldar, Biu, Korogelem, Mandara Girau, Tashar Fulani, the UN humanitarian hub at Ngala, which was sacked and relief materials destroyed, as well as attacks on the Mainok military base, also on the Maiduguri to Damaturu highway.

These attacks are a major setback for the fight against Boko Haram which in the last four years was mostly confined to far northern Borno State. The attack on Damaturu, though swiftly repelled, was shocking because we thought Boko Haram has been confined to inner Sambisa Forest and Lake Chad shores, waiting to be completely wiped out. Although the other five highways leading out of Maiduguri had been partially reopened in recent years and travelers on those roads were escorted by soldiers, some of them were later abandoned again due to rising attacks. Now the most important of them, and one that had been the most secure over the years, is badly threatened.

We again urge President Muhamamdu Buhari, the Federal Government and the military service chiefs to take all necessary measures to safeguard the Maiduguri to Damaturu highway, safeguard and reopen other highways, and obtain the military wherewithal to end this insurgency once and for all. Chadian and other Multi-National Joint Task Force troops that recently quit the war should be persuaded to come back.

Some people allege that it was utterances of some political leaders that made the military to abandon the highway to terrorists. If that is true, we urge political leaders to henceforth speak with sensitivity on security matters and we urge the military bosses not to show their annoyance in this very costly manner.


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