In recent times, car snatchers have been descending on mosques and churches within the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), dispossessing worshippers of their vehicles, JOSEPHINE EJE reports
In September 2017, the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) police command had alerted residents over the rising incidence of car theft in Abuja and the area councils .
Specifically, spokesman Anjuguri Manzah had counseled car owners on various ways to protect their vehicles, especially by installing trackers and using pedal locks to guard against theft. In addition, he advised that cars should be parked in well lit areas at night.
‘’When parked, keys should not be left in the car and all the windows and sunroof should be closed; valuables, such as briefcases, handbags, should not be kept in public view and do not leave your original particulars in your car,” Manzah advised generally.
The police, on the other hand, was working assiduously to arrest the criminal elements, he has assured the public. In this regard, the spokesman had promised that the command would embark on a vigorous stop-and-search operations along the highways.
At the end his homily, the image maker gave out numbers through which victims can reach the police. However, in spite of this caution and police efforts, the rate of car thefts and car-jacking have increased in the FCT, especially around worship centres.
Worship centres as new targets
Usually, motor parks, shopping malls, market places and recreational centres were the black spots of car theft but Blueprint Weekend’s investigations reveal that the criminals now target the House of God.
Our correspondent found out that the multitude of people that throng these worship centres and the inadequacy of security in many of the churches and mosques make them fertile grounds for the thieves to operate.
Blueprint Weekend also discovered that Toyota brand of cars are most vulnerable and Toyota Camry model is the easiest prey. According to reports, their keys are more easily forged and in most cases, one Toyota Camry key can allegedly open another. However, this information has not been independently verified from auto dealers, mechanics and engineers as at the time of filling this report. From December 2017 till date, several cars have been stolen from different worship centre sat different locations in the FCT, while in other instances, attempts were made to cart away some vehicles but failed due to the vigilance of passers-by.
Failed attempt at National Mosque
For instance, about three weeks ago, a syndicate attempted to steal a Toyota Camry at premises of the National Mosque in Abuja during the Friday prayers. Abdul Mohammaed, an eye witness who parked his car closed to the would-be victim’s, told Blueprint Weekend that the car thief attempted to forcefully open the car with another key and in the botched attempt, the door locks got badly damaged. “The guy parked behind our own car, so we went inside to worship but when we came back, we realized that they had attempted his car. They damaged all the doors. They could not open any of them, they damaged the four doors in an attempt to open them with another key but they were not successful though,” Abdul narrated.
Couple loses car on Christmas eve
Significantly, a newly wedded couple was not so luck as their car was stolen at St. Donald Catholic Church at the Federal Housing Estate in Karu, on Christmas eve. A member of the church told Blueprint Weekend that the couple who were distraught by the incident, had returned to Abuja barely two weeks after their wedding, when the incident occurred. She lamented that despite the fact that the church engaged the services of private security guards, coupled with the presence of three armed policemen at the premises, car robbery is still rampant in the church. According our source, “the church has private security and three policemen and youths that mount surveillance around the church since the BokoHaram insurgency surfaced, but because the church is big, people go as far as parking their vehicles in the adjourning streets near the EFCC office, so the police can only patrol the premise. I believe the car robbers have studied the environment very well and they know how the security operates.”
Karu, Wuye prime targets
From our investigation, two cars were also stolen from the Redeemed Christian Church of God located along Federal Housing in Karu. Simultaneously, others that proved difficult to snatch got vandalized as the attempt was made. Similarly, early January, two car owners lost their vehicles an Anglican church in Karu Federal Housing. Last year, a 2007 model Toyota Corolla with Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) 2T1BR32E**C770437 was also stolen within the Family Worship Centre premises in Wuye.
Burglary on the rise
Significantly, the thieves do not limit their criminal activities to just snatching of cars. Two years ago, syndicate attacked the Kingdom Connection Church, Jabi Daki-Biyu and St. Matthew Catholic Church in Karmo. According to Mr Wilson Inalegwu, former FCT Commissioner of Police, the gang struck on June 15, 2015, at the Kingdom Connection Ministry, gained access into the auditorium and carted away the offering, musical instruments, laptops, GSM handsets and also removed the brain box of church’s Toyota Hummer. A Catholic cleric, Rev. Fr. David Iheanacho said that its an abomination for criminals to break into worship centres to steal their property.
Police will address the situation—FCT Spokesman
Specifically, when contacted on the increasing wave of car theft and the rise in breaking and entry in worship centres in Abuja, Mr Manzah confirmed the high crime rate but gave assurances that the police is “working with stakeholders to address the issue .” According to him, the FCT Commissioner of Police, Sadiq Abubakar Bello recently displayed 13 cars that were stolen but the suspects were arrested. Manzah revealed that the police went as far as Cross River state to recover some of the vehicles. The police image maker emphasized that security is a collective effort and he appealed to the public to complement the efforts of the police by playing their own part. According to him, “our responsibility is to educate the public to be vigilant because security is a collective effort. We will be doing our part and members of the public also need to support us by putting in some of those facilities because whenever you have pedal lock for instance, it will be difficult for a thief to break it immediately and from our findings, the man who is coming to steal wants to come and do it quietly and leave.’’
Nothing has change
In May, 2015, residents of FCT had decried the alarming rate of car theft in the territory. At that time, Mabushi, Gwarinpa, Kado, and Bwari were identified as some of the dark spots where car s were regularly being snatched within Abuja. However, the satellite towns and rural areas were the worst affected. Then, an average of six vehicles were stolen daily in the FCT, according to official sources. The crime, Blueprint Weekend recalled, used to occur between 6p.m. and 8p.m. Right now, the criminals are so emboldened that they invade worship centres with impunity.