The distance between Abuja the FCT and Kaduna is about 200 km. The route serves as gateway to more than a dozen Northern states, with Kano, Sokoto and Borno being the farthest. Thousands ply it daily for business and social engagements.

The Abuja -Kaduna corridor also serves as a strategic highway for the bulk of the nation’s North-bound cargos and beyond. The republics of Niger and Chad are serviced through the same stretch from Abuja. Such has been the strategic nature of the Abuja/Kaduna link road, before it became travellers’ nightmare.

About a decade ago, individuals could close from work in Abuja and travel out to Kaduna or any part of the North anytime. Not anymore. Commuting between the two cities has become reminiscent of what obtains in territories/enclaves controlled by gun-toting groups such as the Medellin and Cali cartels in Colombia and Timil Tigers in the North and East of Sri Lanka, during their hay days. Or as in today’s Kivu and Ituri Provinces of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) where the M23 and other armed groups operate with impunity, reducing lives to a level of disposable household items. Life could be snuffed out people in a jiffy. And those “lucky” to be kidnapped or abducted unharmed would have their freedom negotiated through haggling like second-hand clothes in “okirika/gonjo” market. Many never come out of the harrowing experience alive; a common phenomenon commuters experience almost daily along the Abuja-Kaduna expressway.

The pre journey mental agitation starts with the choice of exit point to Jere from Abuja. Jere is linked by two major express roads that carry almost equal risks, whether via Kubwa or through the Zuba axis. The latter is longer, though safer, while the former, shorter more dangerous because of rampant kidnappings. The approach through Zuba is much longer and in addition travellers have to contend with pockets of crazy holdups and reckless pedestrians who sell and buy on the highway. The settlements of Madalla and Kaduna-Road, being the worst culprits.

Just a few kilometres away, Tafa Village weighs in as one of the most notorious trailer/tanker depot/park where drivers, seemingly above the law, double-park with reckless abandon. Navigating this stretch before connecting Jere could be tasking, but it nevertheless accords motorists higher sense of safety due to its high traffic volume. At Jere, the two exit points merged into the Kaduna highway where the journey literally begins.

Few of years earlier many people abandoned the road travel and embraced the train services between Abuja and Kaduna to avoid the associated risks but the euphoria got evaporated after the deadly attack on the locomotives. The skeletal services so provided have since lost attraction. Commuters of various categories have been left to come to terms with “a leap of faith”, with long chains of apprehensions, starting with the fear of being kidnapped and the physical toll the journey takes on people due to the terrible condition of the road.

Years of neglect by Government has reduced this strategic highway to ruins. Julius Berger Plc the main contractors for the rehabilitation/reconstruction, has but added to ruination on account of poor site safety and shameful pace of work. Motorists have to be extra careful to negotiate rapidly changing single lanes, often punctuated by sharp and dangerous diversions at great risks, in a journey intolerant for any margin of error.
Beyond Jere lies Katari, a village with a very dark criminal under belly. Many travellers have been kidnapped within the vicinity of this sleepy settlement. Mararraba Sarkin Pawa and Gidan Busa complement Katari in being highly unsettling environments for Kaduna travellers. Few dozen kilometres onward would be Gadan- Mallam Mamman and Rijana villages, the epicentre of the kidnapping and terrorist activities that operate with reckless abandon. The terrorists that attacked the Kaduna-Abuja train were believed to have come from this axis. Same with the group that abducted the students of the Greenfield University, near Olam, Kaduna a couple of years ago.

Travellers could heave a sigh of relief only on entering and passing Gonin Gora on the outskirt of Kaduna city after monumental battles with potholes that could pass for craters, poorly curved out diversions/ U-turns and complete absence of temporary lanes to ease travellers stress and also cut down on the volume of vehicular accidents.
The consequent “snail speed” that comes with the terrible state of the the highway, throws up curious though unsavoury experience too. It is on this highway that doodling articulated trucks (trailers and tankers), crawling rural pickups, dead and dying passenger cars compete for right of way in a deadly embrace. It is also on this road that China’s growing takeover of the haulage sector in Nigeria comes into full glare. Strange-sounding Chinese brands have been shoving aside popular old versions of DAF, MAN and MACK trucks.The Chinese Shacman, Foton, JAC, Howo, Gonow, GAC, Qingling, Changan, FAW, JMC etc are the new “kids on the block”. The Kings of the Nigerian roads out pacing the old school brands in race for dominance that reduces the average motorist to a victim of carbon monoxide from tired diesel engines as the giants block the right of way.

The Abuja -Kaduna highway aslo put on full display the unsalutery Northern variant of poverty especially among the youth. For it is on this stretch of road that one could see juveniles of school age, busy chipping away at the highway concrete demarcation (slabs/kerbs) in search of 12mm iron rods. A seriously depressing sight. The rods are usually used to stabilise the heavy duty kerbs during casting. A case of real material and mental poverty are at work. That energetic young men would spend a whole day vandalising public infrastructure for pittance, and not minding the associated moral question.
Closely related to this moral decadence, are the hordes of kid beggers/almajiri milling at U-turns, diversions and the dangerous portions of the highway where motorists are forced to slow, which enables them to solicit for alms. They could presumably be part of the 20 million odd, out-of-school children, largely from the North. A wasting generation of sort. They swarm around cars, with the daring ones hitting vehicle trunks or even tap drivers protruding elbows for attention.

Another disturbing sight on the Abuja-Kaduna highway would be “human cargo” loaded on trailers, to and from, the South.Young men who probably forced by socioeconomic challenges, swallow pride head southward in search for dehumanising menial jobs in such cities as Ibadan, Lagos, Sagamu, Port Harcourt etc. These young men often looked dishevelled and disoriented. One could tell, they didn’t fare well as they return home. Another segment of society on the verge of wasting. Paradoxically as some were heading back, new batches of the young, could be seen heading in the opposite direction. This time around some of the “passengers” share the trailer space with livestock. A development that pricks the the conscience, as one drives through the Kaduna-Abuja highway and indeed most roads across the North, especially against the backdrop of existing opportunities back home in the areas of agriculture and agro allied ventures.
Parents and government should wake up to their respective responsibilities to stem this ugly tide.
The Federal Government, should put measures in place to stop bizarre “hunt” for iron roads and rail guards along highways not because of the intrinsic values of the items but to protect the mental dispositions of the young in the society.

Parents should equally be held to account for the actions of their wards. For, society can not make progress with broken down law & order and as well poor mental attitude.
Elected officials come from communities. They should use their influence to curb this unwholesome disregard for public properties and the carnage on the nation’s “horrorways” such as the Abuja- Kaduna corridor. One really wonders at the inability of elected officials from the North East and North West who ply the roads to feel the pain of motorists through all these years. It’s even more puzzling that the legislators in sound mind could approve multi billion naira budgets for personal cars and expansion of NASS car park but the same minds could prove incapable of reining in “Contractors” to perform so as to mitigate the sufferings of Nigerians. As for JB’s poor performance, many factors have been “conjured” ranging from lack of payments to security concerns. The first one may hold water but certainly not the second. For, it was during the more trying periods of security challenges in the North East, that most segments of the Damaturu the Yobe state capital and Maiduguri was resurfaced. The Borno State government also undertook the construction of Damboa-Chibok-Mbalala road.
Same with Damaturu to Potiskum. It boils down to will power and strategy.

The JB had been Nigeria long enough to the system. They have in the process earned a good reputation. It shouldn’t allow a 6-year old, 200 kms road project to dent it, if it still means well for the nation. JB should shape up or give up honourably. As for the FGN one is at loss for words. The contract was said to have been awarded in 2018 for about N165 billion and 6 years after the “contractor” is asking for N1.3 trillion to complete the job. The variation parameters built into the terms of award must have come from the outer space. But this is Nigeria.
A.G.Abubakar agbarewa@gmail.com


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