Efforts being made to rid the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) of criminal activities may have been punctured with high rise in One Chance cases and other such vices as the menace is far from abating. KEHINDE OSASONA in this report asks if the authorities concerned are already overwhelmed.
Abuja in throes of criminals
Apart from hosting the Nigerian Army, Nigerian Navy, Nigerian Air Force, as well as the Force Headquarters (Police), Abuja also hosts Aso Rock, the nation’s seat of power.
Residents would have expected as the country’s capital city, Abuja should have been properly secured and rated the safest city in the country to live in.
Unfortunately, activities of criminals appear to have defied all the security arrangements on ground, thereby instilling fears into the citizens.
The question that readily comes to the minds of citizens is ‘could this anomaly be as a result of inadequate security measures and intelligence gathering on the part of the security agencies?’
Apparently, based on previous nasty experiences in the hands of these criminals, residents and other inhabitants in the territory are still vulnerable to all manners of crime. From the city centre, to the area councils and surrounding suburbs, the fear of the unknown has gripped many, just as the fragile security situation persists unabated.
In Abuja today, the fear of ‘one chance robbers, ritual killers, car thieves, kidnappers and other violent criminal’s activities has gripped residents with news of commuters being thrown out of moving vehicles, killed or wounded making the rounds on a daily basis.
It is not uncommon to see passers-by and even motorists being regularly robbed at gunpoint at traffic lights, snatching bags violently from women using the sidewalks. A parked vehicle could be broken into for its valuable contents or stolen outrightly. Kidnappers have also infiltrated the city to compound the already worsen situation.
Sometime in September, a mob lynched three men who allegedly robbed a lady in a car at Dutsen Alhaji, a suburb of the FCT.
The suspected robbers were subsequently stoned to death and their bodies set ablaze with discarded tyres, just as their operational vehicle was also torched.
An eyewitness has said the suspected robbers posed as passengers in the vehicle, only to later pounce on a co-passenger and dispossessed her of her belongings after which they pushed her out of the moving car.
“The One Chance robbers, after taking their victim’s money, phone and other valuables, pushed her out of the vehicle, but some Okada riders saw them and gave them a hot chase.
“They caught up with them under the Dutsen Alhaji Bridge. They attempted to escape into Dutsen Alhaji market, but were caught and stoned, and set ablaze with old tyres and fuel,” the eyewitness said.
The FCT police command in its reaction condemned the jungle justice meted out to the suspects, insisting that the robbers should have been handed to the police for necessary action.
Also, decrying the increasing rate of One Chance criminal activities in the city centre, a Jahi resident and one-time victim, Adeyanju Kemi, said she was attacked in September, this year, on her way home after alighting at the popular Con Oil pedestrian bridge.
She said she had boarded a taxi from Dutse junction, and shortly after two men joined them in the car.
According to her, before she knew it, the two men started ‘acting funny’ and “before I could say anything, one of them drew out a dagger while the other started searching my bag.”
“When one of them drew out a dagger, I was helpless at that point and could not even scream. I gave them my two phones as well as the N22, 000 I had wanted to use to buy foodstuff and provisions. They also asked for my ATM pin,” she said.
While relating his experience, another victim, Elisha Darius, told Blueprint Weekend that was it not for God’s grace, he would have been killed in a moving vehicle.
“I was coming from Dei-Dei, I boarded vehicle alongside a lady. After a few minutes in the vehicle, the driver instructed a guy he called ‘Action’ and the next thing I heard was a dirty slap on my face.
“At that point, I could neither scream nor even shout. I just gave out my new phone I bought for N40, 000 and about N8, 000 on me,” he said.
According to Darius, he does not carry a wallet and could not have been asked to part with any ATM card.
He said, “The whole people inside that taxi are working together and unknown to me, I got carried away by their initial hospitality. Please, be very careful when people offer too much hospitality as you enter a vehicle, as it could be a bait to make you not to be suspicious of what to come.”
A National Youth Service Corps member who gave his name as Chris got a dose of the activities of One Chance hoodlums on his way to the popular Next shopping plaza from Bannex bus stop.
According to him, it was around 9pm and he was heading to Jahi from the Secretariat when the vehicle he had boarded got his tyre punctured.
He said after alighting, he never bothered to scrutinise the vehicle as advised by his uncle who he lives with.
“The moment I came into the vehicle, it dawned on me that it was the wrong vehicle. And before I could say anything the one sitting beside me was already searching and threatening me to cooperate with them. The next thing I saw was gun pointed at my face.
“I started begging them, showed them my Corps member’s ID card telling them that I just concluded my service year and have not been engaged not to talk of having money. Not satisfied by my explanation, one of them seized my wallet, brought out my ATM and found less than N4, 000 in the wallet.
“Thankfully, my account was zero and after giving them the PIN number, they just dropped me and zoomed off. One of them was overheard saying dis one na bad market.
Also, in April 2014, some Boko Haram suicide bombers detonated a bomb at the popular Nyanya bus terminal killing close to 100 commuters, and leaving several others injured.
As confirmed by the FCT Police Command in 2018, some officers were brutally attacked at a police post in Galadimawa roundabout by gunmen killing seven of them including a civilian. Security outfits have also been attacked by robbers who kill and dispose officers of their ammunition.
Although, cases of suicide bombings seem to have been checked, residents are faced with other crimes, ranging from kidnapping, arm robbery and burglary.
Fighting insecurity requires collective efforts
However, at a recent meeting of the FCT security committee which comprised heads of the police, military and para-military formations in the territory, area council chairmen and religious leaders, the minister of the FCT, Muhammad Bello, said “Abuja remains safe despite report of insecurity.”
Bello was quoted as urging residents to be security-conscious and vigilant. He insisted that the issue of security should not be left in the hands of security agents alone.
A statement issued by the minister’s chief press secretary, Anthony Ogunleye, indicated that the minister said it is very important for residents to be vigilant and to be very conscious of their personal security.
“If, for instance, you see a vehicle without a number plate, it means that vehicle is not registered and can be used for criminal activities, please report to the relevant authorities,” the statement read in part.
It added that that fake or false news on security information had the capacity to lead to breach of peace.
Effectiveness of task force, others
The FCT command had, in 2018 when One Chance activities were rampant in the territory, established an Anti One Chance Squad.
Some officers were reportedly positioned at strategic places such as the parks, under the bridges, lonely roads, highways and other suspicious places in order to curb the trend.
The deputy police public relations officer (PPRO), ASP Danjuma Taminu, assured residents that the police were doing everything possible to curb One Chance menace.
However, a Galadimawa resident, Yusuf Ameen, heaped the blames on the government, saying, “Our government is not doing enough to combat all these crimes associated with a growing city.
“I think we can take a cue from countries like London, France and even Belgium on how they are securing their country’s capital.
“I am not saying that there was no crime happening there, but they have not put in place adequate security measures and high-level proactive steps to forestall any security breaches.”
In their reactions, the Inspector General of Police (IGP), Mohammed Adamu, and the FCT Police Command gave assurances that the city was not under any siege by criminal elements.
Justifying their assertion, a few days after, the FCT command presented 49 suspected armed robbers, kidnappers, car thieves, among others.
The Commissioner of Police (CP) in charge of the FCT, Mr. Bala Ciroma, said the arrest of the suspects was part of achievements made in its crime-fighting efforts.
He said, “The suspects have given useful information about some of their criminal activities in the axis. One single-barrel Dane gun and one cutlass were recovered from the syndicate as exhibits.
“The operation is not a one off thing. We are continuing the operation until we are able to get rid of all hoodlums within the FCT and most especially, kidnappers that operate in difficult terrain.”
‘Abuja secure, safest capital’
A few months later, the IGP, in a statement by the Force Public Relations Officer, DCP Frank Mba, stated that the territory “is safe, secure and not under any form of siege.”
According to the statement, he said, “Like other climes across the world, the country has its security challenges,” but noted that “a comprehensive analysis of crime statistics on major cities across the world would reveal that Abuja has one of the lowest crime rates and remains indisputably one of the safest capital cities in the world.”
“The Federal Capital Territory Police Command has a robust anti-crime architecture which is continually re-jigged to effectively tackle prevailing and emerging crimes.”
When our correspondent contacted the FCT Command Public Relations Officer, Anjuguri Manzah, to speak on what exactly the police were doing to arrest the trend, there was no response.