Abuja: In choking grip of rising insecurity
• Recreation Centres, Gardens Harbouring Criminal Elements—FCDA
• Directs Raid On Over 500 Parks, Gardens
When security challenged locations in the country are enumerated, it is most worrisome to count the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) Abuja among such. If not for anything else, simply because of the fact that Abuja is the nation’s seat of power, where just about all security chiefs are quartered.
It is disheartening to observe that the ever-increasing crime rate in Abuja is not only a threat to the nation, but also an issue that has left its residents bewildered.
The situation is so troubling that even recreation centres, including gardens and parks in Abuja metropolis, which ordinarily ought to aid social interaction and relaxation are now being turned into dark alleys, where questionable elements operate from, or hibernate after their operations.
Almost daily, kidnappings are taking place just within the precincts of the city centre, while prostitution, drug peddling/addiction, rape, theft and other social crimes are now a daily feature.
In recent times, a wide range of city dwellers have fallen victim of these nefarious activities, ranging from day-old babies, medical doctors, lawyers, journalists, administrators, clerics, traditional rulers, artisans, para-military to military officers; among others.
While some blame the rising criminality on the pervasive poverty in the country, others tie it to the rising unemployment rate, while another school of thought blames the situation on undue celebration of wealth, fame and materialism in the society, without questioning their sources.
Even though most parts of the FCT are not spared, some notorious points where these criminals frequently operate stand out like sore thumbs. They include, Berger Junction; Dutse Alhaji; Nyanya Roundabout; AYA Junction; Bolingo Junction; Area 11 Junction, Airport Road, ECOWAS Junction, just to mention a few.
Mr. Jude Opara, who was robbed between FCDA Road and the Louis Orok Edet House (Nigeria Police Headquarters building) on April 23, 2019, at about 7: 30 pm, while returning home from work, clutching on to his handbag, which contained his lap top computer, mobile phone and ATM cards, when he walked into the criminals hands.
“We were all at the bus stop and suddenly a Volkswagen Golf car approached with three “passengers” inside. I jumped into the vehicle not knowing that those seated inside were thieves. Before I knew what was happening, they had disposed me of everything, including my ATM cards, after which they stopped the car briefly, threw me out and sped off. I ran to my bank to complain the following morning, only to find out that well over N300, 000 had been siphoned from the three accounts. It was a very bad experience for me, and I am appealing to the authorities to do the needful and bring a halt to this level of insecurity in the FCT.”
Another victim, Precious Nneji, while narrating her ordeal said: “About two months ago, I took a taxi on my way to the church from the Airport Road axis of the metropolis. In the taxi, there were two men and a lady, and we were heading to Katampe District. Before I knew it, the occupants began discussing issues relating to Permanent Voter card. Suddenly, the driver veered off into a bush path, and the next thing was the other occupants raining blows on my face and generally battering me until they succeeded in collecting my hand bag, which contained over N11, 000. They also collected my ATM cards, demanded for my passwords and pin numbers all of which I gave to them in order not to be killed. After all that, I was asked to jump out from the moving cab, but I was lucky to get help from good Samaritans almost immediately.’’
Nneji appealed to the FCT authorities to stand up and rescue Abuja residents from these criminals that are operating almost freely in the nation’s capital.
A journalist, who works with a popular television station, who elected to remain anonymous, said he was kidnapped in the FCT this year while on his way back from work.
According to him, after his car was stopped by unknown gunmen, he was asked to alight immediately, and thereafter taken away only to be released after a ransom was paid.
A federal civil servant residing also residing in Abuja, Alhaji Bawa, who also fell victim to armed robbers, narrated how his car was stolen at gunpoint, while he was travelling to Kaduna, on the Saturday before the 2019 Sallah break.
Bawa said: ‘’I was in my 406 Peugeot car with my daughter, who was seriously sick, and I was rushing to our family hospital in Kaduna State. I left my house in Gwagwalada at 8am on that fateful day, and on getting to Tungan Maje, very close to Zuba, I stopped to buy some fruits. Immediately I stopped, three young men came out from a nearby bush with guns pointing at me. They asked me to follow them into the bush, or they would gun me down. Without hesitation, I obeyed, left my sick daughter behind and went with them.”
He continued: ‘’I was finally released days after my family paid a N2m ransom, but unfortunately, my daughter who was sick died at the Gwagwalada Hospital despite the efforts of a market woman, who arranged to take her to the hospital, while I was with the kidnappers in the bush. To me, these are hard times for ordinary Nigerians travelling by road across the country. So, lets pray for God’s intervention.’’
After a recent executive meeting, the FCT Minister, Malam Mohammad Musa Bello, told journalists that the police appear helpless in curbing insecurity in the territory, considering its manpower and logistics challenges.
Bello, who spoke through his Deputy Director of Security, Adamu Gwary, added that the administration encourages community policing as a way of curbing mounting insecurity.
A reliable source in the FCT Administration, however, informed The Guardian that perpetrators of these crimes were recently traced to some of the over 1, 000 parks and gardens spread across the territory, some of which are operating illegally.
The source also informed The Guardian that several persons residing around the parks and gardens have accused operators of noise pollution, and also allowing their facilities to be used for raping ladies, drug binging and prostitution.
He regretted that despite several complaints by affected residents of the city to the FCT authorities, they were yet to receive succour.
However, disturbed by the rising menace, the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) administration directed the Department of Development Control, Parks and Recreation to take prompt action to end the sales and consumption of alcohol, drugs and other dangerous items at all recreational centres in the city.
This, however, resulted in the intensive cleanup operation embarked upon by the department, which kicked off a few weeks ago across the city centre, which many residents said is a welcome development.
The exercise, which started September ending, in Wuse Zone 6 and Zone 5, saw the removal of all illegal structures in parks and gardens located in that axis.
All the affected gardens and parks in that zone numbering 11, including the Unique Park; Surich Park; Covenant Favour Park; Tikus Garden; Excellence Park, had all their illegal structures removed.
The Director, Parks and Recreation Department, Ali Ukele, while confirming the commencement of the exercise, said before now, residents living around these parks and gardens complained bitterly about uncontrolled high-pitched music disturbing their peace, as well as insecurity in those areas.
Ukele frowned at the manner in which operators of parks and gardens turned the environment into illicit business outfits, stressing that doing such flouts the territory’s development control regulations.
“Most of the activities being carried out in parks and gardens today are wrong. These places are for relaxation and not for selling of intoxicating beverages, or hard drugs. This exercise is going to be comprehensive and no illegal place will be spared for any reason. We have been holding meetings with the operators, where we have warned them against these acts.
“There are some park operators that hold approved allocations, but a lot of them don’t have that. So, if you are operating illegally, we will also catch up with you. We have shanties where people are sleeping within the parks, and you can see all sorts of things when you get close. There are even laundry services, and all sorts of unrelated activities going on in parks and gardens. So, we can’t allow the trend to continue because such practices constitute security threats. This, coupled with complaints from residents of people coming out from the parks to rob and disturb neighbourhoods at night are some of the reasons that such actions must not be tolerated again,” he stressed.
In the same vein, the FCT Police Command has assured residents of the capital territory of safety, despite the security breaches recorded in the past.
The Police Public Relation’s Officer (PPPRO) FCT Command, DSP Anjure Manzah, told The Guardian,
“Our eyes are on these areas; our patrol teams are on these areas, both covert and open, and you’ll see that we are on ground in all these places, where we are now carrying out intensive raids at all flashpoints.”
He said that time has come for Nigerians to forget their past experiences with the police when it comes to information sharing, stressing, “the current posture of the Nigeria Police is its resolved belief that it needs the public to share vital information with it if criminality must be defeated. Every police officer is very much ready to keep such vital information secret. So, people should join hands with the force to eradicate and flush out criminals amongst us.
“The “Policing Plan” for the FCT is a document of how the command intends to police the city. Five items have been identified in the plan, and they are “one chance/robbery, house breaking/burglary, drug abuse, cultism and car theft/snatching. The command is committed to reducing these crimes to its barest minimum.”
“Just recently, in the months of August, September and now October, the command paraded over 24 suspects that were allegedly involved in different criminal activities. During the parade, nine locally fabricated pistols were recovered from armed robbers. We have about 74 rounds of ammunitions that we recovered from suspects, as well as several others. So, so the public must trust the police to serve them better by volunteering information.”
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