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Maiduguri-Gamboru Ngala road a hellish highway that has already claimed many lives

6 September 2023
Reading time: 4 minutes

Frequent attacks by insurgents and armed criminals, hundreds of potholes and major accidents make the highway a nightmare drive, particularly in the rainy season.

Motorists, traders and passengers who use the Maiduguri-Gamboru Ngala highway fear they are taking their lives in their hands by using the road because of its hundreds of potholes, bad accidents and the very real threat of being ambushed by insurgents and other armed criminals.
The road is one of the busiest and most popular commercial roads linking Borno State in the northeast of Nigeria to neighbouring Cameroon, Chad and the Niger Republic.

It was reopened by the Nigerian Army and the Borno State government last year in February after having been closed for about three years because of incessant attacks by insurgents. The closure crippled economic activities in the area. So, when it was reopened, traders and passengers alike were more than a little grateful.

But Ba Zanna, a truck driver, said it was getting harder and harder to travel on the dilapidated highway. Whenever there was rain – particularly a heavy downfall or when it rained for days on end as it often does in the rainy season – the condition of the road deteriorated.
He said it was worrying for him because major potholes sometimes made it almost impossible to circumnavigate the road.
He said drivers of cars and light vans could spend two to three days in the rainy season to get to their destination but it could take a week for truck drivers.

“And it is not only the poor condition of the road, but the other major problem is also insecurity. Insurgents and other armed criminals take advantage of the road’s condition and often attack drivers. The government needs to do something about this. It is not safe to drive on the highway. The poor condition of the road needs to be fixed and the potholes filled in and there needs to be visible security to put an end to these frequent attacks.”

Usman Bayi, a motorist, said: “Normally, it can take a driver like me a day to get to either Maiduguri or to Gamboru Ngala, depending on which way you are going. But in the rainy season like now, it can take as much as three days before you reach your destination. The highway has potholes everywhere and mud. Often you can’t see the potholes because of the mud and rainwater that collects in them. So many cars have been damaged in this way on that road.”

He said it needed to be fixed urgently to make it safer for all drivers who used it.

“It’s been in bad shape for a long time but it has deteriorated quickly recently and it’s really not safe to use it.”

Yunusa Abiso, a trader who often pays drivers to take him to and from N’Djamena, the capital of Chad, said the highway was the most important route for traders like him who supplied goods along the borders between Nigeria, Cameroon, Niger and Chad.

“The extremely poor condition of the road, coupled with insecurity, means it sometimes takes us three days before reaching our destination.
“Right now, I need to leave Maiduguri for N’Djamena and only God knows how many days I will spend on the road before I actually get there. The highway is one of the busiest roads and we need it to fulfil long-standing business activities with traders in our neighbouring countries. But it’s getting more and more difficult to travel on that road.”

Aisha Husaini, who is pregnant, said the “hundreds of potholes” and the muddy route was not good for pregnant women or nursing mothers, especially in the rainy season.

“Sometimes passengers have to spend at least three days to get to their destinations. I have witnessed some dreadful accidents caused mainly by the road’s poor condition. I am scared every time I travel on that road. The driver might not see a pothole and then his car breaks down. Or we could be ambushed by insurgents and armed criminals. Or we could be involved in a crash. Something needs to be done to make the highway safer for all drivers, no matter the size of their vehicles, so that they and their passengers are safe and secure.”

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