With the closure of the Namadi Azikiwe Airport Abuja from tomorrow March 8, for the commencement of repair works on the airport’s runways that is expected to last for eight weeks, road-bound passengers to the South East, South South and South West parts of the country are expected to swell. As a result of its strategic position, all the three zonal-bound passengers from the northern parts of the country would naturally pass through Kogi State before accessing their eventual destinations. This is where the issue of insecurity in Kogi State has become very critical. As a gateway state for more than 15 states of the federation from the north to the south, it is important that security is guaranteed in Kogi State to give passengers passing through that State the needed confidence as they embark on their journey across the state.
Unfortunately, recent reports of criminality in Kogi State appear to be on the increase and thus dampening the confidence of passengers that are expected to increase along that route. Only recently, a Lagos-bound passenger bus was waylaid by some criminals along the Okene Road and twelve of the passengers, including women and children were kidnapped by the criminals and taken to an unknown destination. There was also a case of 18 women aboard a commuter luxury bus who were reportedly raped in the wee hours of the morning by armed bandits few kilometres from Okene, Kogi State. The victims, comprising single and married women, were among passengers who were traveling from Port Harcourt, the Rivers State capital, to Abuja, when the incident occurred at about 2 a.m .
During the last Yuletide, there were horrifying cases of armed robbery attacks on the South East-bound commuters along the Lokoja-Ajaokuta-Ayimgba Road who travelled home to rejoin their kits and kins for the yearly festivities. Even in recent weeks, there are countless tales of armed robbery cases on the same route. There are tales of armed robbers disguising as soldiers, with military camouflage uniforms, stopping, robbing, assaulting and molesting unsuspecting commuters at gun-points and disappearing into the thin air, the same manner they appeared.
Following the closure of the Abuja airport and the diversion of all Abuja-bound planes to the Kaduna Airport, there would be high profile passengers from the South East, South West and South South zones of the country traveling through Kogi State. Even though there are reported efforts by the Kogi State Government to address the streak of security challenges on the various roads in the state that carry south-bound vehicles, unfortunately, these efforts by the State Government appear not to be enough. This is why we call on the Federal Government to direct the Nigerian Police Force and other security agencies to beef up security along the red spots in Kogi State. Just like the Federal Government has mobilized the Nigerian police, the Federal Road Safety Commission (FRSC), the Nigerian Civil Defence Corp, the Customs Service and even the army, to deploy fully along the Abuja-Kaduna-Kano express ways resulting from the expected increase of vehicular movement on that axis, we also demand similar measure of security attention on all the roads that trunk vehicles across Kogi State.
Associated with the issue of security is also the expediency of the Federal Government to seize the opportunity of the expected increase in human and vehicular traffic along the Kogi State to address the challenge of bad roads on the same Kogi State axis as Government has done with the Abuja-Kaduna-Kano, where it made an emergency provision of over N2 billion for the repair of bad spots on the roads. Once Government takes such similar measures, it will go a long way to address the issue of road accidents and carnages, which has been a major challenge on those roads. Such emergency repair works are particularly critical for the Lokoja-Abeokuta section of the road, which has remained unattended to for many years and has made movement along that road nightmarish for road users.
Government must also in addition, use the opportunity of the closure of the Abuja airport to draw greater attention to some of our roads, which had been neglected and abandoned for several years by successive Governments. In this regard, urgent attention must be diverted to the Abuja-Lokoja road because of the heavy vehicular traffic that ply that route daily. According to statistics from the Federal Ministry of Works, so far, the dualization of the Abuja-Lokoja Road has reached about 90 percent completion rate, therefore, resources must be deployed to ensure the completion of works on that very essential road, in order to reduce road accidents on the road and save more lives.
No doubt, the temporary closure of the Abuja Airport would impose some measures of sufferings on both air and road users. However, Government must seize the opportunity to ensure that the short-term inconveniences would result to long term pleasure at the end of the exercise. That is the only way the full benefits of the inconveniences of the airport repair works can be appreciated.