After years of closure due to Boko Haram activities, the Nigerian Army on Saturday formally reopened the Maiduguri-Bama-Banki International Highway for commercial and public traffic.
Maj.-Gen. Rogers Nicholas, the Theatre Commander, Operation Lafiya Dole, announced this at the inauguration of the highway in Maiduguri.
Nicholas said that the road was certified safe for public use following the successes recorded in the ongoing clearance operation to rout out remnants of Boko Haram insurgents in Sambisa Forest and the Lake Chad basin.
“Today marks another remarkable event in the life of people of Borno and of the military in the Operation LAFIYA DOLE.
“Recall that on September 1, 2014; the Maiduguri-Bama-Banki Road was closed due top activities of Boko Haram insurgents and that affected the economic activities in Borno State and the Cameroon Republic.
“In the course of our operation with our Cameroonian counterpart we had been able to get rid of the insurgents along this axis particularly the Sambisa Forest.
“It is time for people to go back to their homes in Bama, I am happy that today we are opening up the road to Bama and Maiduguri-Bama-Banki Road, in the first phase of the operation.
“It will also give the people the leverage to resume commercial activities along the axis and also give them confidence to return home.
“We also implore the people going back and members of the road transport workers to adhere to the guidelines outlined by the military so that they could ply the road with level of safety.”
Nicholas disclosed that the military authorities had designed strategies to provide escort to ensure safety of motorists plying the road and other highways in the theatre of operation.
He called on the insurgents to take advantage of the presidential amnesty, to lay down their arms and join the peace building process in the region.
Gov. Kashim Shettima of Borno State, lauded the gesture, adding that it would fast-track social and economic development of the state.
Shettima, represented by his deputy, Usman Durkwa, said the government had adopted proactive measure to accelerate rehabilitation and resettlement of displaced persons in the liberated communities.
He called on the Federal Government to ensure that the remaining Chibok schoolgirls and other persons in insurgents’ captivity were freed.
Also, Alhaji Ahmad Musa, the Secretary, Borno Chapter of the National Union of Road Transport Workers (NURTW), said the re-opening of the road would ease transportation difficulties and enhance cross-border commercial activities.
Musa pledged the union’s support to the military to ensure successful completion of the counter-insurgency operations.
Some of the passengers, expressed delight over the development, adding that it would allow them to visit their hometowns after it was deserted in the past five years.
Master Abba Ali, a 15-year old displaced person, said that he would be rejoining his family, who took shelter at the Banki Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) camp.
“My parent fled to Cameroon and I fled to Maiduguri to stay with my relatives. I learnt that my parents are in Banki camp, but I could not join them due to closure of the road,” he said.
Alhaji Bana Buba, another displaced person, called on the government to rehabilitate the road and assist affected families return to their homes.