Nigeria protesters block highway after kidnapping surge

Setting tyres on fire, a crowd barricaded a section of the Abuja-Kaduna highway in the Tafa area of Niger state, bordering the federal capital, an AFP journalist at the scene reported.

A man throws a tyre a bonfire on the Kaduna-Abuja highway in Gauruka, near Abuja, Nigeria, on 24 May 2021 during a protest against incessant kidnapping and killing after gunmen kidnapped 16 residents and killed three others in Niger State. Picture: Kola Sulaimon/AFP

NIGERIA - Hundreds of protesters partially blocked a highway into Nigeria's capital Abuja on Monday after residents reported a spate of kidnappings in the area.

Setting tyres on fire, a crowd barricaded a section of the Abuja-Kaduna highway in the Tafa area of Niger state, bordering the federal capital, an AFP journalist at the scene reported.

"Kidnappers too much!" an angry young man shouted. Police said that "some miscreants" blocked both sides of the road at about 6:35 (0535 GMT) and that efforts to disperse the crowd were ongoing at midday.

Dozens of cargo and tanker trucks were stuck in traffic. A police outpost in the area, in Gauraka, was vandalised and set ablaze by the protesters, Niger state police spokesman Wasiu Abiodun added.

Marching along the highway, a dozen young men chanted: "Kidnapping must stop... We won’t accept this, kidnapping must stop!"

"Five days ago, they kidnapped four people, and then they came back again, yesterday, and kidnapped 16 people," one protester said.

Police said six people were abducted in Gauraka by unknown gunmen Monday morning, and that policemen were intensifying efforts to rescue the victims.

Africa's most populous country has been plagued by kidnappings for years, with criminals largely targeting the wealthy and prominent.

But more recently, the pool of victims has expanded and the vulnerable and poor across the country are now also taken for ransom.

"It's not ok. It's getting too much," the protester said. "Any time they come, the security always come after they have left."

Local media reported that 12 people were kidnapped in nearby Madalla town and two others in Bwari just last week.

"We are having serious chaos... We don't sleep here, we don't sleep at all... If there is no good reinforcement, the problem will go far beyond this," another protester said.

"We are not safe here... Please we are begging the government," said a woman who said her sister lives in the area with her four children.

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