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Road Banditry:Our Puff Adder can’t find its venom

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By Ugoji  Egbujo

The police launched Operation Puff Adder to retake Abuja-Kaduna road from the underworld. But that Adder has failed to puff any venom.

Bandits are loose on the road. We must do more than christening adhoc police groups to fight them. It is getting frightening.

When robbers take over sections of Abuja-Kaduna expressway and whisk away passengers from their cars the way they have done over the last couple of months , we must worry.  They do it in day time. Evil is contagious. Distant towns of lesser consequence must worry.

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Igbos say that a  calamity  that knocked down  Dike – a great man, if it laid its  hands on Ofeke- a weakling, it would disembowel him. We must see what is happening so close to Abuja as a nightmare.

Abuja is the seat of government. Kaduna isn’t just the capital of the north, it is our de facto military capital. There is something then surreal about Generals, Diplomats, Senior government officials , ordinary citizen being shot routinely on the 200 km stretch between two of our three most urban and  guarded  centers.

The security situation along the Abuja-Kaduna road is nearing hopelessness. Senators and generals all now  prudently hide in trains to commute between Kaduna and Abuja. That is why the Abuja-Kaduna  train tickets are hoarded by greedy transport ministry officials and sold in the black market for over three times their prices.  Who can blame them?

But the fact that even the rich and mighty have declared helplessness and surrendered the Abuja – kaduna road to the underworld should worry the poor.

If the bandits are allowed to roam and they  find nothing in the wild, they will invade homes later.

The other day, in Ahoda Rivers state, the corpse of an  old woman was going home. The priests were in church, waiting for the coffin and the funeral service. Gunmen in white robes jumped onto the road and hijacked the hearse. They pulled out the coffin and took it into the forest. They  belonged to a  dreaded cult. They asked the driver of the hearse to run away with his empty vehicle. They demanded a ransom. They released the coffin, perhaps after their demands had been  met.  That was the body of an old woman violated even in death.

We seem not to have taboos any longer. Our youths, our leaders of tomorrow,  fear nothing.

So  perhaps  it’s not actually a surprise that the  Portharcourt-Owerri  express way has become another haven for bandits. That route must boast of the highest number  of police checks per kilometer of any road, on earth. Yet,that road has become the road where bandits erect road blocks in between police checks and  hijack vehicles and their occupants, and take them into the forest.

The painful truth is the policemen littering Owerri-Ph  road aren’t so bothered about kidnapping. There are some  ten kilometer stretches of that road that sometimes have ten police checks.  The policemen on that road routinely and  painstakingly  beg for alms from motorists and  extort commercial drivers.

The police are almost ineffective against the cults in Rivers. It is gradually exceeding their job description. Oil companies  that have presence in some of those communities no longer request for police escorts. That’s the reality. A certain Inspector General’s special squad from Abuja comes around and flexes muscles.  But that’s it.  Everybody relies on the military. But the military  has its hands  and head full, containing Boko Haram.  Taking up roles left by a weak, underfunded and ill-equipped  police has proved a crippling distraction for the military.

So where are we?  We have idle educated able bodied youths. We have a rickety police force that dreads bandits. The military cannot police the entire breath of this county. The police in Kaduna seem to have reached their wits end. The operation puff adder that was launched a few days ago to retake the road from criminals has proved non venomous.

But the police are only a part of the problem.

How do we now have armed rogues prowling the entire country, marauding communities and commuters?

The police service was not crafted to manage communities broken  at the hip. The police can only function effectively  in societies where lawbreaking is an exception and criminals constitute a very small fraction of the population. But where youths from communities lying along an express way treat commuters as gold that must be mined then the police will be practically ineffective. That society must must restore its broken mores and re-established eroded norms.

At the rate we are going we could start paying taxes to gangs soon. So that we can use ‘their express ways,’ so that we can bury our dead, and perhaps build houses.

At the core of our problems, is  the  rampancy of evil which  is speedily  leading to the  normalization of evil everywhere.

But the gods are not to blame. We must count our teeth with our tongue.

While we think about how to control our population and provide healthcare, education and jobs for the youths, we must make our puff adder venomous.

Because Igbos say that when a snake fails to use its venom, children will use it as twine and  tie firewood. Our president must rise up to the challenge. Security should be his  turf, his home match.

May God not allow goats to eat palm fronds on our heads.



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