The following is correspondence written to ACN by Father Gideon Obasogie of the diocese of Maiduguri in Northern Nigeria. In his letter he describes for us the situation of attacks on people and villages along the Maiduguri highway, the only surviving road for the thousands of displaced trying to escape the clutches of Boko Haram.
MAIDUGURI – THE COMMUTE ALONG A DEADLY HIGHWAY
What is known as the circumscription of Maiduguri diocese has gone through untold hardship and pains. Our people are been massacred daily. Traveling from one part of the diocese to another has become dangerous as it is deadly. From Maiduguri which houses the Episcopal Throne – the head quarter of the diocese to the Adamawa part of the diocese which before now takes just three hours now lasts about fifteen hours by road.
Traveling for hours is not our major plight but the danger on the way has recently become a constant threat. We now have to travel through Damaturu in Yobe state, Gombe state and Yola before making it to Mubi axis of the Catholic diocese of Maiduguri.
Commuting along the Maiduguri-Damaturu highway was halted again for the fourth time in a week, as security operatives battle to prevent travelers from driving into an ambush by the blood-thirsty insurgents. I passed through this road to Maiduguri from Jos on Wednesday 15/7/2015. A lot of cars were intercepted and burnt down. A good number of the residents of most villages along the Maiduguri – Damaturu highway had fled their communities for fear of further attacks. The rate of the Boko Haram attacks in the past few weeks have become worrisome and dangerous. This remains the only route linking Maiduguri city with the other parts of the world. One can only imagine what it would look like, if the terrorists succeed in cutting us off from the other part of Nigeria. Boko Haram has in the last one year bombed all major bridges on four of the five highways linking the rest of the world with Maiduguri. The group has also planted landmines on the roads, killing several travelers.
The only surviving road
Maiduguri now hosts over a million internally displaced persons, and now relies only on the Kano-Damaturu-Maiduguri highway for access. But with the incessant onslaught on the highway by the Boko Haram terrorists, there are fears by residents that even the only relatively safe route might be taken by the terrorists.
We hope that soldiers would be deployed to Benisheik town, 85 kilometers from Maiduguri, to specifically guard the major bridge along the highway; for fear that the terrorists might be plotting to attack the bridge. If that happens, we are doomed in Maiduguri, because that is the only surviving road that thousands of travelers ply daily.
Two days after the attack on Mainok town in Borno state, which left over 30 persons dead and most part of the village burnt, Boko Haram terrorists on Wednesday returned to attack villagers returning to count their losses. Mainok is a town located about 65kilometres from Maiduguri, in Kaga local government area of Borno state. The attack lasted about five hours as the gunmen took their time to ensure that no single edifice in the village was left untouched, even as more than 30 villagers and travelers were said to have been killed during the attack.
Damaturu-Maiduguri highway is becoming a dead zone
Sources said more than a hundred Boko Haram terrorists had, at about 5:30pm, stormed Mainok town and opened fire on civilians, killing at least 40 helpless civilians. More than 30 vehicles that were trapped near the village were also burnt as well as hundreds of homes.
Warsala, a village located on the boundary between Borno and Yobe states, in northeast Nigeria, was the latest community along the Kano-Maiduguri highway that is being attacked by Boko Haram extremists. The attack took place at about 8pm when the gunmen arrived in Warsala shooting sporadically and killing innocent citizens freely.
The agrarian community is not more than 5km from Ngamdu, another village along the highway that buried 10 persons killed by Boko Haram terrorists on Friday night. Travelers along the route on Wednesday drove through villages practically deserted, as they sighted some smoking trailer trucks and many cars abandoned by the road side. Some spots were stranded villagers fleeing the dead zone. A group of travelers along this same route were attacked, and many killed in Ngamdu village about 2 kilometers away from Warsala, which is a village under Yobe state.
The rampaging Boko Haram terrorists have forced the village to start fleeing their homes en mass. People numbering over 3,000 were seen trekking, some were conveyed in trucks and available vehicles. The Damaturu-Maiduguri highway is becoming a dead zone; this is the fourth attack this week from Monday. We pray intensive patrol measures be launched to stop this massacre.
We still have a good number of helpless citizens/ Catholics and priests who must ply this highway daily….your prayers and constant intercession to Our Blessed Lady the Queen of the highway is best needed now than ever.