Nigeria Everyday special correspondent, Samuel Folashade, has narrated tales of frustration, woe, unusual neighbourly love displayed by Nigerians caught up in the traffic snarl running into nearly 16 hours.
As at 8:45 p.m., Samuel was still on ground, nine hours after he left Kaduna for a burial in Niger State. He has opted to detour to Abuja for safety reasons. One hour later, he had snaked through, driving through the drizzling rain to Abuja. He was sure the hold-up was still there behind him.
He says the road, notorious for killings, abductions, and armed robbery, has been littered with different shades of security men. He believes there are also plain-cloth operatives.
He spoke of sighting helicopters surveying the scene from above.
“One traveller from Kano to Abuja told me he has already given up on his flight to the US from the Abuja International Airport…He claims there may have been a casualty of someone headed for the Abuja airport for a flight out to India. I didn’t see that myself so I cannot confirm his story,” he disclosed.
“I sighted women dropping off with their kids and crossing over to the other side to board vehicles back to Kaduna. I saw cartons of day-old chicks by the road-side. Cars have packed up for different reasons. A traveller stopped to help another whose battery packed up over alternator issues. He gave his battery to the man and took the man’s because his own alternator could charge it.
“It is not a pleasant experience, but everyone is making do and moving on,” he added.
The traffic hold-up began after a driver was allegedly shot dead by a police officer. In solidarity, truck drivers blocked both sides of the highway.
The angry truck drivers requested to see the Kaduna State Governor in person.
“I am on my way to the scene right now,” El-Rufai said on Twitter.
It is not exactly known if the Governor was there on land or if his was one of the choppers sighted overhead.
“It is most unfortunate. Our officials are on ground to resolve it and get the vehicles moving. I am on my way to the scene right now. The drivers will all be arrested and prosecuted for this. There are lawful means of expressing grievances. This is unacceptable!….
“The State Commissioner of Police is investigating and reporting to our Attorney-General for immediate prosecution of the trigger-happy officer, but the tanker drivers have no right to do what they did, and must pay the price as well,” the Governor said.
The killer Police Inspector has already been arrested, according a statement from the Kaduna Police Command. The Police boss in the State, Ali Janga, has commiserated with the family of the deceased.
A correspondent of the News Agency of Nigeria who visited the scene, about 27 killometres from Kaduna, around Olam Hatchery Limited., said that the development caused the ongoing gridlock.
The co-driver of the Peugeot J5, with registration number KTN–180 XQ, Ali Dan-Zaria, told NAN that they were conveying rice from Katsina to Abuja, when they were stopped by the police officers.
Dan-Zaria said that they were three in the vehicle, himself, his boss the diseased, Abdul Liman, 65, and a young boy of about 20 years.
He said that they were stopped at about 5:30 am, few kilometres away from Olam Hatchery when one of the police officers demanded N1000 from them.
“I offer to give N200 which he refused to collect. I added another N200, but he still refused and insisted that I most give him N1000.
“Then his colleague stood in front of the windscreen and pointed his gun at us.
“I was still negotiating with the officer who demanded the N1000 when I heard a gunshot and my colleague screamed, saying “they have killed him, they have killed him.
“I turned and saw my boss lying dead, with blood gushing out from his head, where the bullet hit him. I immediately came out of the vehicle and asked “who killed my boss?
“The one who did it immediately ran and disappeared into the bush, while the remaining ones quickly entered their vehicle and zoomed off,” he said.
Dan-Zaria said that in just a few minutes, the scene was filled with sympathizers and immediately the road was blocked to prevent commuters from plying the road.
The Deputy Chairman, Tanker Drivers Association, Kaduna State, Malam Musa Danazumi, told NAN that the road was blocked to draw the attention of security agencies and government officials.
“We decided to block the road to seek for justice for our colleague who was killed for no reason by police officers who were supposed to protect us from harm.
“We insisted that no vehicle will move until Gov Nasir El-Rufai or the state’s Commissioner of Police come to the scene and give us his words to bring the culprit to book,” Danazumi said.
Reports say it took the efforts of Col. I. B. Gambari, the officer-in-charge of operations along the expressway to calm the situation and convinced the transport union officials to open the road.
Gambari promised the union officials that he would assist to ensure that the incident was documented and police authority take necessary action.
The union gave in to his plea and allowed the road to be cleared at around 11: 10 pm.
This was after agreeing to hand over the corpse of the diseased to his family for burial, while Gambari and the union officials would see the commissioner of police for necessity action.