The Nigerian army has cleared a major road that links the country to Cameroon and Chad after wrestling control from the Islamist militant group Boko Haram, according to military spokesman Colonel Sani Kukasheka Usman.
Dignitaries — including the Borno State governor, Alhaji Kashim Shettima; Chief of Army Staff of Nigeria, Lieutenant General Tukur Yusuf Buratai; and the U.N. Assistant Secretary-General for Humanitarian Activities for the Sahel — participated in a ceremony to officially reopen the road in Borno State, in Nigeria's north. The road, closed since 2013, links many towns, including Maiduguri, Diffa, Gambaru Ngala.
"Apart from the re-opening of the road that day, there were other humanitarian activities that took place, especially in Damboa,” Usman said. “The military carried out a free medical outreach where people, especially in the internally displaced camps, about 50,000 turned out and were given free medication by the army. Then the governor and the chief of army staff … took turns to serve the internally displaced persons food.”
The region has seen a sharp rise in business activities since the army wrestled control from the militants, Usman said, adding that the army has increased security patrols along the road to prevent surprise attacks from the militants.
In the past, Boko Haram militants would steal goods from trucks on the roads. The militants also reportedly robbed people and imposed hefty taxes and fines on the residents.
"We have even improved [security] tremendously. Apart from the normal patrol, we have modern technology usage of drones and aircraft flying over the road,” he said.
"When the road were formerly re-opened, no fewer than 40 trailer [trucks] came along with us and as soon as we [were] done with the ceremony at the gate, they proceeded beyond,” Usman added. “As of yesterday morning, the reports I got was that we had no fewer than 44 trailers and 42 other cars plying the roads and going to various parts of Borno State."
The re-opening of the major road has come as a relief to residents in the area, who Usman says thrive on business activities.
Yet, violence persists, with reports of two suicide bombings Thursday.
The suicide bombers planned to attack the central mosque of Damboa, but were prevented from gaining entry. One of the suicide bombers blew himself up outside. The second went into a smaller mosque and detonated the device, killing himself and four others and injuring another.
"We still need more support, more cooperation from the members of the public, because the issue of the fight against terrorism and insurgency and security generally is a collective responsibility,” Usman said.