By Bala Ajiya, with Agency reportsDAMATURU—The Nigerian Army, yesterday, temporarily closed the only safe highway connecting Maiduguri in Borno State and Damaturu, Yobe State, following a siege laid to the road by Boko Haram insurgents.
Consequently, hundreds of passengers travelling along the route were stranded on both sides of the highway as the military made frantic efforts to clear the road of the insurgents who laid siege to it.
Troops: Nigeria army increases troops to patrolThe action of the military followed series of attacks by Boko Haram on civilians travelling the highway in the last 48 hours.
There are six major highways that take travellers in and out of Maiduguri but with the capture of territories and displacement of residents from their communities in 2014, all the five roads were closed by the military due to security concerns.
At the peak of its attacks, Boko Haram bombed bridges on the major routes leading to Maiduguri, except the Maiduguri-Kano highway that links the state capital with the Yobe State capital, Damaturu.
Vanguard gathered that the decision by the military to close the high way followed Boko Haram’s attack on Ngamdu, a boundary village between Borno and Yobe State.
Three weeks ago, suspected Boko Haram insurgents attacked a military base located at Kukareta village of Yobe State, along the highway, razed the camp and dislodged the checkpoint manned by soldiers.
Only last Monday, Boko Haram insurgents again carried out another attack on Auno village, 25km from Maiduguri and the attack was later confirmed by the Theatre Commander of Operation Lafiya Dole, Major General Benson Akinroluyo.
The attack was later followed by a late night attack on Sajiri village, located on the outskirts of Maiduguri town.
A cab driver who plies the route frequently, Ali Vectra, said yesterday: “We have stopped carrying passengers because the soldiers have closed the road, which makes it impossible for us to travel in or out of the town.”
Another driver, Mallam Yunusa Isa, lamented that the recent activities of insurgents on Maiduguri/ Damaturu road had led to the death of many innocent travellers.
He said: “We thought Boko Haram is a thing of the past but in the last two weeks, their activities have endangered our business. We cannot ply the road because of fear of being attacked by Boko Haram.
“We are pleading with the authorities to do something about these incessant attacks by terrorists.”
A businessman, who didn’t want his name in print, said the road between Damaturu and Potiskum had also been closed down.
“Normally, the road is closed at night and opened for vehicular movements at 6am everyday. But we woke up this morning (yesterday) to find out that the road remained closed from Potiskum to Damaturu.”
A military office, who pleaded anonymity, said: “The locking of Maiduguri/ Damaturu expressway has become imperative to enable the military carry out the duty of fishing out the insurgents.”
Road re-opened —Army
Confirming the closure, spokesman of Operation Lafiya Dole, Col. Onyema Nwachukwu, said the road was re-opened at about noon after over six hours.
Explaining why movement on the highway was restricted, Col. Nwachukwu, said the action by troops was not a closure of the highway.
He said: “Our attention has been drawn to rumours that the Nigerian Army has closed the Maiduguri-Damaturu road.
“This is not true. What is happening is an on-going clearance and snap checks operations in the general area required to clear suspected Boko Haram terrorists along that road.
“The clearance operation is ultimately for the safety and security of motorists and other road users.
Members of the public are please advised to co-operate and bear with the troops as they carry out these duties.”
Man pleads with Boko Haram son to surrender
Meanwhile, an 80-year-old father to a Boko Haram commander, popularly called ‘Ba-Ana’, Baba Modu, has called on his son to surrender and embrace peace.
Modu, who made the call in an interview with the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) in Maiduguri yesterday, said he was unable to persuade his son to abandon the cause and surrender under the Federal Government’s Operation Safe Corridor.
Recounting his ordeal, the octogenarian said his son was conscripted by the insurgents in 2012 at a farm in Dikwa Local Government Area of Borno State.
“I lost hope of meeting my son after his abduction in the past seven years. One day, I met someone who told me that my son was alive and mentioned where I can find him.
”I was also told he is one of the commanders of the Albarnawi faction of Boko Haram. I travelled to the shores of Lake Chad to plead with Ba-Ana to surrender and embrace peace. It took me about one week to get to where I met him.
I went to Boko Haram’s camp to beg my son to surrender but… – Father
“When I arrived at the camp, I told them that I am the father of Ba’ana and after series of interrogations, they asked me to wait for him to return from a mission.
“Ba-Ana returned at night, he was marveled to see me, and when he heard my voice; he told his men that I am his father.
“I pleaded with him for about 30 days in a bid to convince him to lay down his arms and embrace peace, regrettably he did not heed my counsel.
“Ba-Ana confessed that he killed many people and believed that the authorities would not forgive his crimes. He also believed that he had committed his life in the course of God. I did not lose hope; I will continue to pray God to heal his soul and bring him back to me.”
Army denies closing Maiduguri-Monguno road