By Dayo Johnson, Denis Agbo, Bashir Bello, Ibrahim Hassan-Wuyo, David Odama, Chinonso Alozie, Adeola Badru, Haruna Aliyu & Musa Na Anabi
No fewer than 177 highways across the six geopolitical zones in Nigeria have been identified by Sunday Vanguard as flashpoints for kidnapping, banditry and other violent acts.
If you are travelling on these roads, chances are that you may be abducted, maimed or killed.
There is virtually no week that people do not have horrific experiences on these routes in the hands of suspected bandits, herdsmen, armed robbers, kidnappers and ritualists.
Investigations by Sunday Vanguard found 26 spots in the South-East geopolitical zone, while 29 hotbeds exist in the South-West.
In the South-South, 36 major theatres of operation were discovered with more than 10 coming from one particular state.
37 dangerous roads and spots were observed by Sunday Vanguard in the North-West.
No fewer than 49 volatile roads were observed across affected states in the North-Central.
In the North-East, apart from the state capitals, some roads linking the hinterlands are unsafe, especially in Borno State where Boko Haram is active.
A similar exercise by Sunday Vanguard in July 2019 had put the number of “terror roads” at 144.
A breakdown of the pieces of latest information gathered by our reporters reveals that apart from the identified areas, criminal activities take place in other parts of affected states.
The specifics show that there is little or no presence of security agents in places where crimes like kidnapping and banditry occur.
Oftentimes, security personnel arrive at such places after suspected criminals must have concluded their operations.
The patterns of operation are similar in many places while the setting of crime determines the method to be applied by perpetrators.
A further breakdown shows that some major highways in the South-West have been taken over by kidnappers, herdsmen, ritualists and rapists.
It is now dangerous to travel along such roads after 5pm.
In Osun and Ekiti states, affected roads include Esa-Oke Junction; Iwaraja-Efon Alaaye; Ile-Ife junction; Iloko Junction; Ipetu-Ile – Ilesha; Ilesha-Ile-Oluji; Ilesha -Osogbo and Ilesha- Akure.
On these roads, vehicles are waylaid by bandits while unsuspecting commuters are sometimes abducted.
The roads where kidnapping and banditry have become commonplace include Auga Road in Akoko.
Others roads are Akure- ljare; Akure-Owo- Oba Akoko- Akungba; Oka Akoko – lsua Akoko, lpele- Ido Ani, Ondo-Ore, Ondo-Akure and Akure-Benin.
Kidnappers and bandits operating on these roads are armed with sophisticated weapons. Sometimes they dress in police or army uniforms.
Owo area is the most terrorised part of the state.
Further findings by Sunday Vanguard reveal that some of the roads are in dilapidated states, making it possible for criminals to operate successfully.
Many people have been kidnapped on these roads including traditional rulers and their wives.
No fewer than nine roads were found to have been made unsafe by the activities of kidnappers in Ogun State.
The roads include Siun-Ogere, Obafemi-Owode, Abeokuta-Lagos, Abeokuta-Sokoto, Ilaro-Owode-Idi-Iroko, Odeda-Ogunmakin, Fidiwo-Obafemi, Sagamu-Ogijo-Badary, and Ijebu Igbo-Oru-Awa.
Many people including eminent Nigerians like Senator Iyabo Anisulowo; wife of a former Speaker of Osun State House of Assembly, Alhaja Muibat Salam, wife of a lawmaker, Mrs Folashade Onademuren; and a Canadian have been kidnapped at various times on some of these roads.
Efforts to get the number of kidnapping/banditry cases in the state were not successful as the Ogun State Police Command Public Relations Officer, Abimbola Oyeyemi, pleaded for time to gather the data.
In Ekiti State, Ikere-Akure Road and communities like Iyemero, Ayede and Oloje have become theatres of operation for the harbingers of death who disguise as herdsmen. The criminals rape, abduct and kill. Many roads linking many communities are unsafe owing to the activities of kidnappers, who are mainly herdsmen.
The operations of kidnappers are prevalent on Ife-Ibadan Road and Oke Ogun roads. Sunday Vanguard also learned that Ilorin-Ogbomoso Road is a major theatre of operation for kidnappers and armed robbers.
Some roads in Atisbo Local Government Area of the state were also found unsafe owing to kidnapping by suspected herdsmen.
Major roads across the three senatorial districts of Edo State regularly record cases of abduction.
In Edo-South, areas that have assumed notoriety for kidnapping include Upper Sokponba, Ehor axis of the Benin-Auchi Road; Ogbemudia Farm, Okada along Benin –Ore-Lagos Road and Avbiama in Ikpoba Okha Local Government Area, LGA.
In Edo Central, kidnapping is common along Ubiaja-Ewohimi-Agbor Road, while roads across the six LGAs in Edo North regularly record cases of kidnapping by suspected herdsmen.
The unsafe and taken over by kidnappers include Benin – Abraka Road, Ahor by Benin bypass, Ubiaja – Ewohimi – Agbor Road, Ehor – Ogwa – Ebele Road, Uromi –Ugboha Road, Ekpoma –Opoji –Ugbegun Road, and Auchi –Ekperi Road.
Others are Auchi – Agenebode Road, Iruekpen – Sabongida-Ora – Ifon Road, Auchi – Igarra Road, Igarra – Ibillo Road, Ososo – Makeke Road and Uromi-Ubiaja Road.
The most dreaded road in the South-South is East-West Road. The federal road, which transverses the six states of the oil-rich region, is now regarded by many as an expressway of terror and death.
Anyone safely passing through the Delta, Bayelsa, and Rivers axis of the road must count himself lucky.
From all the eastern gateways of the road to Akwa Ibom, unlucky passengers have ugly stories to tell every day.
The roads identified by Sunday Vanguard as major flashpoints in Rivers State include Emohua-Elele-Alimini axis of the East-West Road; Isiokpo-Elele axis of the Port Harcourt-Owerri Road; Omagwa – Ubima, Isiokpo- Ubima, Elele –Umudioga, Egbeda, Ubima, Omoku, and Elele-Ndele Rumuji-Emuoha-Choba -Port Harcourt roads.
Sunday Vanguard observed that no fewer than seven roads are dreaded because of kidnapping and banditry in Delta State.
Kidnappers suspected to be herdsmen have turned the Edo-Ogwashi-Otulu-Atuma-Akwukwu-Igbo Road, which used to be a quiet stretch, into a death zone, Obiaruku-Agbor Road by railway axis, Old Benin-Abraka Road by reserve area and Old Eku-Sapele Road.
The same applies to Ebu-Ukala-Onicha-Olona Road.
Also, Issele-Uku-Otulu Road and Issele-Uku-Onicha-Olona Road have become deadly given the activities of kidnappers.
Issele-Uku-Ubulu-Uku Road, where kidnappers abducted a royal father and killed him a few years ago, remains an infamous route to ply.
Umutu –Urhonigbe-Abavo and Ekuku- Agbor roads are also notorious.
In Obiaruku, herdsmen are notorious for kidnapping and maiming natives. They are based in Obiarku bush across the river.
Ode Bridge axis
Other roads include Okurekpo community road in Ethiope East LGA.
The Ode Bridge axis in Ethiope East has become a place where suspected herdsmen kill and rape.
On Bomadi-Ohoror Road, the activities of bandits and herdsmen who kill and maim commuters have become worrisome.
The road traverses four local government areas of Delta namely Bomadi, Patani, Ughelli South and Ughelli North.
Agadama community women told Sunday Vanguard that they were often raped by herdsmen on their farms along Agadama Road.
Urhonigbe portion of the Agbor-Obiaruku-Abraka-Warri Road was also found to be another area of concern.
In addition, it was gathered that herdsmen operate a thriving kidnap network between Umutu, Urhonigbe and Abavo communities.
Some major roads in Katsina State are now deserted for fear of attacks by armed bandits and kidnappers.
The roads include Jibia – Gurbi – Kaura Namoda, Dutsinma – Kankara – Sheme – Faskari, Musawa – Matazu Charanchi-Kankia-Kusada, Dandume – Sabuwa, Sheme – Kankara and Dutsinma – Funtua, which many motorists avoid between 6pm and 6am.
Jibia – Gurbi – Kaura Namoda Road, which links Katsina and Zamfara states is, according to residents the most dreadful.
In Kaduna State, findings by Sunday Vanguard showed that virtually all the sections of the Kaduna/Abuja Expressway are terrorised by bandits.
Other roads specifically identified as territories where abductors carry out their acts are Birnin Gwari-Kaduna Road, Kaduna- Saminaka-Jos Road, Kaduna-Kachia Road, Kagarko-Jere Road, Birinin Gwari-Kagara-Tegina Road, Sarkin Power-Birnin Gwari route, Minna-Lambata-Diko-Kaduna axis.
Kaduna to Zaria section of Kaduna- Abuja Road, roads linking Kaduna to Kajuru communities, Kachia communities and the Kaduna-Afaka- Sabon Birni Road . Birnin-Gwari to Funtua Road is a no-go area. Zaria-Shika-Funtua Road is a death trap.
In Nassarawa State, trips on the following roads are often done with caution: Shendam Road, Obi/Keana/Awe Road, Akwanga/Keffi Road, Keffi/Nasarawa/Toto Road, Gudi-Keffi Road, Gudi Garaku Road, Nasarawa-Toto-Gadabuke Road, Akwanga/Abuja Road, Adogi—Asakio Raod, Nasarawa—Gadabuke, Ugya—,Umaisha Raod and Zkokona Gudi Raod
The roads identified as the axis of terrorists are Suleja – Lambata, Bida Road and roads in Kushaka, Kurebe, Pandogari, Gidigori, Kusherki, Koregi, Alawa, Kwaki, Bataro, Chikuba, Shafa, Kauri, Zazzaga in Rafi LGA.
Others under siege are roads in Kakangi, Gayam, Dan Ganji, Maganda, Dawari, Kazage and Kainji-New-Bussa Road.
Apart from kidnapping, banditry has made Gusau-Magami-Dansadau, Kuceri-Danjibga-Keta-Wanke, Kaura- Namoda -Moriki-Shinkafi, Zurmi-Jibia – Katsina, and Talata Mafara/Tsafe roads unsafe.
In Sokoto State, roads in Issa and Rabah LGAs are dangerous as a result of banditry.
The spots where kidnapping mostly occurs in the state are Enugu-Ugwogo-Nsukka Road; Nsukka-Adani-Onitsha Road; 9th Mile-Nsukka-Makurdi Road; Enugu-Onitsha Expressway, particularly at Ugwu-Onyeama valley and Enugu-Port Harcourt Road.
Kidnapping is yet to abate in Ukpabi-Nimbo community in Uzo-Uwani LGA, which is lonely, bushy and surrounded by forests where victims are taken to oftentimes.
Suspected herdsmen were said to be responsible for the cases at Ugwu-Onyeama along Enugu-Onitsha Road.
Others include Eha-Amufu – Ikem Road; Ugwuogo-Ikem Road; Ikem- Benue Road; Nkalagu-Nsukka Road, Nsukka- Uzo-Uwani Road; Enugu-Ezike- Kogi Road, Enugu-Port Harcourt Road and Ninth Mile- Umulokpa Road.
Some of the roads where kidnappers often operate include Enugu-Abakaliki Expressway; Abakaliki-Afikpo Expressway; Amasiri-Okigwe Expressway; Ivo-Oso Edda Road and some roads linking the hinterlands in the state.
The Sankera axis comprising three LGAs, Katsina/Ala, Ukum and Logo LGAs, have had to contend with issues of kidnappings which usually occur on the over 150km stretch of Katsina/Ala – Wukari Road linking Benue and Taraba states. Also, Wukari-Takum and Wukari-Ibbi roads in Taraba State are notorious for kidnapping and Mararaba- Takum Road.
In Kogi, the unsafe roads are Lokoja-Abaji, Kabba-Obaja, Mopa-Aiyetoro-Egbe-Ilorin Road, Geregu-Ajaokuta, Irepeni Forest along Okene Lokoja-Highway, Okene-Okpela Highway, Ajegwu-Idah Road, and Ogga-Omi-Road where herdsmen attack natives regularly.
About four roads have been in Kebbi State, particularly in Zuru Emirate as highly terrorised. They include Daki Takwas – Zuru Road. The road linking Magaba , Wade and Unguwa villages from Makkunawa village is unsafe. Also, Yauri-Shanga Road in Yauri Emirate is terrorised. The road from Onashi to Diri is a no-go area.
Findings by Sunday Vanguard revealed that some major roads in Sokoto are now unsafe owing to the activities of bandits.
The spots include Sokoto-Tangaza- Gudu Road, Sokoto-Tureta- Gusau Road, Sokoto- Goronyo -Sabon Birni Road, Sokoto-Isa Road and Sokoto-Rabah- Gandi Road.
Many roads in Imo are now theatres of operation for Unknown Gunmen.
Weekly, people get kidnapped and mostly killed afterwads. The unsafe roads in include Oba-Arondizuogu-Okigwe Express Way, the road linking Avu in Owerri-West and Obosima in Ohaji/Egbema, Assa-Obile Road in Ohaji/Egbema , Okigwe-Enugu Express Way, Onuimo-Okigwe Road, Mbaise-Umuahia Road and the road that leads from Umuagwo in Imo to Rivers State. Also, Okigwe/Isuochi axis of Enugu/Port Harcourt Road has been taken over by suspected herdsmen who kidnap people.