Salisu stood face-to-face with the HumAngle reporter, swiftly turning to and scrutinising any commuter vehicle advancing into the Ahmed Mohammed Makarfi Motor Park in Kawo, Kaduna North Local Government Area.
He had just missed the three seats he needed in a five-seater Toyota Golf taxi to transport himself, his ailing wife, and a younger brother back to Birnin-Gwari. Very few commuter vehicles now ply the terrorists-tormented route, considered too risky for travellers.
Any Birnin Gwari taxi, operated by a driver brave enough to ply the route, is pounced on by thrice the number of commuters it can carry at the Kawo Motor Park. Boarding such vehicles is usually with a stampede, with the fittest commuters filling the usually overloaded vehicles, leaving out all others to retry their luck with the next available car.
Salisu had to be on the watch out for the scarce vehicles and on his guard to slug it out with his fellow stampeding commuters for the three seats he needed to avoid the risk of spending another night in Kaduna — especially with an ailing spouse he had to take home.
Only the most daring of commuter vehicle operators, HumAngle observed, ply the Kaduna-Birnin Gwari route in the late afternoons.
The 126km route, on a section of the old Lagos-Kongolam Trunk ‘A’ main supply route, is ordinarily about a two-hour drive between the two towns. Enduring terror along this route has, however, tripled the distance most travellers cover between the towns to about 390km through a circular route.
The Kaduna – Birnin-Gwari straight route is now a short route too long.
The 390km distance is about a day-long circular drive from Kaduna, Kaduna State, through the Kaduna-Abuja expressway, to Tegina, en route Minna, both in Niger State, then joining the old Trunk ‘A’ road to Birnin-Gwari, Kaduna State.
HumAngle observed that a traveller had to summon extraordinary courage to risk taking the 126km straight route, often necessitated either by the urgency or the inability to afford the N4,000 fare for the 390km-long route.
The Birnin Gwari-Funtua section of the Birnin Gwari-Funtua-Zaria-Kaduna route is as terrorists-infested as the Kaduna-Birnin Gwari route. Very few travellers, therefore, ply it.
Many violent crimes have recently been unleashed in the Giwa/Birnin Gwari axis. Countless lives have been lost, and vast numbers of people are displaced from tens of razed and desolated settlements.
A substantial percentage of Kaduna-Birnin Gwari-Kaduna travellers now prefer the ‘merry-go-round’ distance on the less-terrorists-infested Kaduna-Minna-Tegina-B/Gwari circular route because of the safety it affords them.
Travelling between the two towns, by whichever of the routes, is considered an absolute necessity. For many travellers between the two points, the most crucial consideration is the safe arrival at one’s destination, not the journey’s costs or duration.
“Many travellers now prefer taking the Kaduna – Minna – Tegina – Birnin-Gwari route,” Salisu Tahir confirmed to HumAngle, reasoning, “It is not about the affordability or otherwise of the fare, or how fast you arrive at your destination; it is about how safe you arrive.”
“Hardly a day passes without people losing their lives along this road,” he continued, adding that while he was on his way to Kaduna the previous day, sporadic shootings by the terrorists at several sections of the surrounding bushes sent commuters shuddering with fright.
“So scared we were that our hearts were pounding, and we were about certain that we would be abducted before reaching Kaduna,” he recounted.
He said most taxi operators have resolved not to ply the shorter route at whatever cost. “I know a driver of a commercial transport vehicle who has resolved not to ply the route again even if he is paid one million Naira,” he explained.
Tahir further said: “The moment you tell other people you are from Birnin Gwari, they will describe it as coming from Sambisa; and in Kaduna State now, the moment you say you are from Sambisa, most people immediately know you are from Birnin Gwari because of the terror engulfing us.”
He risked following the route because he had to rush his wife to the hospital in Kaduna.
“About 60 per cent of travellers prefer the Minna route to and from Kaduna because a large population of our people have either been killed or kidnapped by terrorists along the Kaduna-Birnin Gwari route,” Yahaya Haruna, a resident of Birnin Gwari, complained to HumAngle on the phone.
Haruna said due to the terror surrounding Birnin Gwari, only a negligible percentage of people now travel to or out of the town, which grossly affects its economy.
“In the last two days, two of our members (Kawo Park commercial vehicles operators) were killed by the terrorists,” an official of the National Union of Road Transport Workers (NURTW) at the Birnin Gwari vehicles section of the park disclosed to HumAngle.
“I have now shifted from the (Kaduna-Birnin Gwari) route to Kaduna-Kano route to avoid being killed or kidnapped by the terrorists,” he said.
No fewer than 50 persons were killed by terrorists in the Birnin-Gwari/Giwa axis of Kaduna State in a recent one-week period, according to the State’s daily Kaduna State security updates Commissioner for Internal Security and Home Affairs, Samuel Aruwan.
Support Our Journalism
There are millions of ordinary people affected by conflict in Africa whose stories are missing in the mainstream media. HumAngle is determined to tell those challenging and under-reported stories, hoping that the people impacted by these conflicts will find the safety and security they deserve.
To ensure that we continue to provide public service coverage, we have a small favour to ask you. We want you to be part of our journalistic endeavour by contributing a token to us.
Your donation will further promote a robust, free, and independent media.Donate Here