By Sumaila Ogbaje
The Nigerian Army on Tuesday reopened the Maiduguri – Damboa – Biu road for free movement of vehicles from and to Maiduguri, the Borno capital.
News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the road, which had been closed for about 10 months, is the shortest route to different parts of the state through Damboa.
The Deputy Governor of Borno, Alhaji Usman Kadafur, during the re-opening, commended the efforts of the army in ensuring that the road was reopened.
He also commended the commitment of the Chief of Army Staff, Lt.-Gen. Tukur Buratai, towards security in the state and other parts of the country.
Kadafur urged the soldiers, fighting insurgency in the state, and other security agents to be professional in the discharge of their duties.
He also urged commuters to be law abiding on the road, advising them to always provide useful information for the military to ensure smooth movement on the road.
“I want to thank the Nigerian army under the leadership Chief of Army Staff, Lt.-Gen. Tukur Buratai for taking this bold decision for the reopening of the road for the people of the state to commute freely.
“We want to appreciate the Nigerian Army and other security agencies for a job well done and for your support towards securing Borno state and Nigeria at large.
“We thank you for your commitment and I also want to use this opportunity to call on our commuters to be very law abiding citizens, cooperate with the security agencies while using this road.
“They (commuters) should always give vital information and report any strange movements on this road.
“I am also happy to hear the theater commander saying that the road is now open seven days a week.
“I am also happy to hear him warning members of Nigerian Union of Road Transport Workers (NURTW), that they should not in any way extort commuters in the name of securing this road or giving incentive to the military.
“Please you should try as much as possible to avoid all these things since we have good relationship with the military and other security agencies,” he said.
Buratai, said that the road was being reopened for the second time as it was first reopened in 2016 and later closed again for strategic reasons.
He explained that the decision to close the road in 2019 was to allow for freedom of action of troops to be able to contain the attacks on the road by the Boko Haram terrorists.
Buratai said the initial closure of the road was to strengthen the war on insurgents and not to deliberately inconvenience the people or prevent them from carrying out their economic activities.
“It was done for operational exigencies as well as to continue to safeguard the lives of the law abiding citizens of this state and of courses our country.
“Today’s reopening is quite unique in the sense that we have achieved the objective of the closure of this road and henceforth, the road will be opened all the days of the week.
“We have provided enough security along this road and by the grace of God, we will have minimal insecurity along this road.
“I want to commend the effort of the state government for blazing the trail to see that this road is further reinforced with additional vehicles and the deployment of the Civilian JTF and the Vigilante to support the efforts of the military in securing this road and indeed all other roads across the state.
“We must acknowledge the contributions of all the other services, the Navy and the Air Force, because the Air force is not left behind in providing the aerial surveillance and cover along this road as the commuters use the road ,” he said.
Buratai stated that the road was not only opened from Maiduguri to Damboa but equally from Damboa to Biu, assuring that troops had been directed to provide all the needed security in all axis.
He also emphasised that the opening of the road would not lead to suspension of military operations on the route.
“We will still continue with our operations, and even if we are going to interfere with movement, it is going to be for a very short period in order to protect the people plying this road.
“So, be rest assured and travel with confidence.
“You have strategic locations where troops are deployed, the civilian JTF are deployed, the Nigerian police is also deployed to provide you with the needed security,” he said.
Earlier, the Theatre Commander of Operation Lafiya Dole, Maj.-Gen. Olusegun Adeniyi, urged commuters to take the road as their own and always avail security agencies with useful information on Boko Haram activities.
Adeniyi also urged the drivers to shun any act of compromise with the Boko Haram terrorists by helping them with fuel, spare parts and other logistics on the road.
He also warned members of NURTW against extortion of commuters in the name of security, adding that anyone caught would be treated as a criminal.
“As this road opens today, all hands must be on deck for it to remain so open.
“I will like to urge all commuters plying this road to take it as their own and always avail the theater command and other security agencies all the necessary information that could help us keep the road open.
“I also want to reiterate the need for drivers to shun the B/Haram’s blackmail of asking commuters to drop fuel for them by the road side or buy spare parts for them for the propagation of their heinous criminal acts.
“Also, let it be known that this road is open everyday; secondly, I urge members of NURTW not to tax commuters that you are collecting any token for the security on the road.
“Army headquarters have made adequate provisions for our logistics, so extorting money from commuters is bribery and it is criminal,” he said. (NAN)