Timothy Olanrewaju, Maiduguri
At least two policemen have been reportedly shot by Boko Haram insurgents in Yobe State.
An witness reported seeing two officers on the ground as security forces ordered all travellers to Damaturu, Yobe State capital, back to Maiduguri, yesterday.
“I think they may have been dead from the attack,” a commercial driver who gave his name as Bukar Modu, said. “We were all asked to turn back to Maiduguri. No vehicle was allowed to pass.”
Governor Babagana Zulum was area yesterday, where he met thousands of travellers stranded because security officials manning the highway had locked it down.
Zulum during the visit accused policemen and soldiers of collecting monies from travellers along the road. Some commuters had alleged the military and police personnel were collecting bribes of at least N1,000 from motorists and travellers who did not have the National Identity Cards after blocking the road.
“This is unacceptable. How can you subject people to this kind of torture all in the name of National ID card? And you are all here collecting N500 and N1000 from poor travellers who don’t have national ID card,” an apparently angry Zulum lamented.
A military personnel had attempted offering some explanation to the governor who had earlier listened to some commuters expressing their frustrations.
“No this is not right. The Federal Government has not created an enabling environment for our people to get their national ID cards and you are here collecting N500 and N1,000 as a fine for not having what the federal government has not provided for all,” he told the soldiers at the checkpoint.
The Maiduguri-Damaturu road which also leads to Kano and Plateau is a safer road in Borno compared to other roads in the state. Dozens of travellers usually travel on the road but with condition that they show their National ID to comply with the military procedure for self-identification at the several security check points on the road.
Some travellers have since mid last year alleged military troops do demand for between N500 to N1,500 from anyone who did not have the National ID while travelling on the road, an allegation which finally got the attention of the governor yesterday.
The military is yet to react to the issue as at press time.
Some of the commuters said they had been held for several hours without any explanation.
Army Brigade in Bogozo has relocated to Jakana as part of measures to safeguard travelers on the Damaturu/Maiduguri highway.
Commissioner of Police in charge of Borno State, Mohammed Aliyu, confirmed the attack, which occurred along Maiduguri-Damaturu highway, but said no officer died.
“As I speak to you now, my men are in the location. I don’t have the information concerning any death. But what I know is that one of them was shot on his hand. I will give you the details as soon as I get.”
Another driver vehicles coming from Damaturu were being allowed to enter Maiduguri while those travelling out of Maiduguri could not be allowed to pass through.
Many people have been stranded since Sunday when suspected Boko Haram insurgents launched attacks on communities along Damaturu-Maiduguri road.
Damaturu is Yobe state capital, and Maiduguri, Borno state capital. The distance between both towns is about 130 kilometres, and there are a number of villages along the axis.
Resident said the road had been shut since Sunday morning and that many people have been unable to return to their stations.
“We were supposed to return to Maiduguri but we’ve been stranded here in Damaturu, because no vehicle is allowed to use that road now,” the source said.
“In fact, the time we left Maiduguri for Damaturu, we could feel the presence of the insurgents as we heard that some motorists have been earlier attacked. Although the military has marched into this area, we believe hundreds of the insurgents are still within the bushy villages along this axis, hiding.”
Another source in Damaturu said transport workers in the areas affected have moved their vehicles from the park for fear of attacks.
Garba Shehu, presidential spokesman, had asked Nigerians not to panic over the withdrawal of Chadian troops from the Lake Chad region.
About 1200 Chadian troops deployed in the Lake Chad area in the north-east to combat the Boko Haram insurgency alongside Nigerian troops withdrew from the area on Friday.