Many have seen them patrolling the Kaduna-Abuja Highway but dare not approach them. In their military camouflage uniform, armed with AK47 rifles, the 100 female soldiers of the 1Women Special Operations Battalion deployed to the deadly Kaduna-Abuja Highway may have done the magic in securing one of northern Nigeria’s most deadly highways.
Whether by charm or sheer coincidence, motorists agree that the coming of the female soldiers almost three months ago has brought sanity to the route, making attacks and abductions an almost non-existent issue.
In January, the Nigerian Army stationed 100 female soldiers on the highway as part of measures to boost security on the route. They were part of a larger deployment of 300 all-female soldiers, expected to compliment Operation Thunder Strike and other existing operations along the highway and environs.
While receiving the first batch of 100 female soldiers at Kakau village, along the highway in January, Governor Nasir El-Rufai of Kaduna State had assured that their deployment would make the highway safe for commuters.
Incidentally, since their deployment, motorists have attested to the fact that normalcy has gradually returned to the highway.
Daily Trust reports that until their deployment, reports of incessant kidnapping, killings and other criminality had made the Kaduna-Abuja route a death-trap. Motorists told sordid tales of killings by bandits, who open fire on moving vehicles and abduct passengers for ransom, almost on a daily basis.
Our correspondents gathered from motorists that there used to be four major spots on the highway where bandits launched attacks. Saidu Hamza, a driver plying the Kaduna-Abuja Highway, said the first dangerous spot for motorists travelling from Kaduna to Abuja used to be about 30 kilometers from Kaduna city, which is around Olam Farms. He said the next spot used to be around Rijana, adding that any driver who scales through Rijana would now face the fear of safely cruising through another dangerous spot after Akilubu, just before Gidan Busa. “The fourth dangerous spot is about five kilometers after Gidan Busa,” he had said.
But since January, Hamza said commercial vehicles had traversed through the route with little or no fear of attacks.
Speaking to Daily Trust, Nurudeen Mohammed, a bus driver at the Mando park who, in November 2020 cheated death when he got trapped between groups of bandits while conveying 12 French students of the Ahmadu Bello University to Lagos, said the highway is now secured.
“We see the soldiers patrolling all the time, there are other armed soldiers in the bushes while others are on motorbikes. The road is now secure and we are able to travel without any hindrance,” he said.
Mohammed, who travels to Lagos from Kaduna twice a week, said he often saw the female soldiers patrolling between Kaduna and Katari, which is about 98 kilometres from Kaduna, adding that they seldom perform stop-and-search operation as they are constantly on the move.
Also, Bala Inda, a commercial driver who frequents the road said, “I saw the soldiers a few days ago in the evening, about 6pm while I was returning to Kaduna from Abuja.”
Inda, who transports passengers from the Television Garage in the Sabon Tasha area of Kaduna State, said many of his passengers now looked out for the female soldiers when they are on the road. He said though the female soldiers are not stationed in a particular spot, they conduct occasional stop-and-search operations on the road.
“I have seen them on several occasions in their vehicles conducting surveillance on the road. They also engage in impromptu stop-and-search, where they ask occupants of selected vehicles to disembark for search if they suspect anything,” he said.
He said except for accidents by over-speeding vehicles and those driving across traffic, there has not been much breaches on the road. “I can say that there is some sense of sanity on the road now because there hasn’t been any incident of kidnapping or killings by bandits lately. We only see vehicle accidents,” he added.
Our correspondents had in February and March travelled as far as 50 kilometres from Kaduna on the highway, with the hope of sighting the female soldiers, but they were unsuccessful as several motorists reported that they were on patrol at farther locations along the road. However, it was observed that a large portion of the road, which motorists previously complained had contributed to the security challenges, had been fixed.
At the Audu Jangon community, some 35 kilometres from Kaduna and ahead of Olam Farm, our correspondents noticed a security deployment within the community, and residents said sanity had returned to the highway due to increased security presence.
“I am not certain it is due to the deployment of female soldiers or the general increase in security presence, but I know that we no longer have challenges with the bandits,” said a resident of Audu Jangon.
Villagers at Unguwan Hausawa Dutse, located on the highway, told our correspondents that the soldiers were usually camped at the Alheri Prayer Village along the road and have been seen on daily patrols. Our correspondents, however, observed that the Alheri camp was under lock and key during a visit.
The village head, Dikko Sani, said he often saw the female soldiers on patrol and is happy that their deployment had brought stability to the security situation in the area.
“We feel safer with them and will continue to pray to Allah to guide them in securing the road. Many people have lost their lives and many have been abducted on the road, but we are happy the security has now improved,” he said.
Daily Trust gathered that since 100 of the female soldiers were deployed, there has not been any news on when the remaining 200 would be sent to Kaduna.
Attempts to reach the Commissioner for Internal Security and Home Affairs in Kaduna State, Samuel Aruwan, to comment on the issue was unsuccessful as he did not answer calls and a text message sent to his phone.