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Insecurity unsettles Abuja ahead Independence anniversary

By Odita Sunday, Head, Defence/Security Affairs, Abuja
30 September 2023   |   4:20 am
Residents of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Abuja, are now highly unsettled following widespread insecurity around the city centre and some outskirts, characterized by frequent and indiscriminate robbing and abduction of motorists and commuters.

State House Presidential<br />Villa wearing a new look in celebration of Nigeria’s 63rd Independence anniversary in Abuja… yesterday<br />PHOTO: PHILIP OJISUA

• FIRS Issues Shuttle Advisory To Staff
• Residents Seek Crackdown On Scavengers, Destitutes
• HURIWA Craves Review Of Security Measures
• No Cause For Alarm, Police Assure Residents

Residents of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Abuja, are now highly unsettled following widespread insecurity around the city centre and some outskirts, characterized by frequent and indiscriminate robbing and abduction of motorists and commuters.

The ugly situation is stalling nightlife in the bubbling city as the country prepares to celebrate its 63rd independence anniversary.

Some residents of the FCT who spoke with The Guardian described the rate of kidnapping and robbery within the city centre in recent time as alarming. They lamented that the FCT has become highly under-policed, with little or no visible policing operations going on.

Most times, a motorist can drive through the whole of Ahmadu Bello Way, one of the longest roads in the city, without sighting a police patrol. The agencies that are usually on rapid patrol are the Federal Road Safety Commission (FRSC) and the Vehicle Inspection Officers, but they are not armed.

Last Wednesday, a journalist attached to a television station was abducted by hoodlums in front of the NNPC Towers, by Conoil petrol station, and taken to an unknown destination where she was dispossessed of her phone and other belongings.

The alarming level of insecurity in the seat of power made the Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS) to inform its staff about the red flag spots in the city, especially at night. The agency’s internal memo to its staff sighted by The Guardian reads: “In continuation of our earlier circulated advisory (Part 1) regarding the growing concerns about the daring manner/tactics by thieves disguising as taxi operators (one-chance) in some metropolitan cities, especially in Abuja, we wish to avail staff with more identified Red Flag Spots, popular routes plied by these perpetrators and some general tips.

“Board painted registered taxis and hail taxi cab service if you do not have a personal vehicle. They are registered and can easily be traced.

“Always ensure you board commercial vehicles at popular and regulated parks and avoid boarding along the road. If it becomes unavoidable to board along, ensure to assess the taxi (driver, other occupants if any, tinted glasses etc) before boarding. Follow your instincts and if you feel unsafe, look for an alternative cab.

“Avoid late evening or very early morning trips. Criminals take advantage of such odd hours. Always wind-up windshields and pin-down all doors of your vehicle while driving and never be distracted by any sudden bang or tap on the vehicle. Calmly approach or address all situations. If the need arises to alight, ensure to lock the vehicle doors while outside. Be security conscious always. Act Safe, Stay Safe!”

Identified popular routes plied by these criminals in FCT are Area 1 – Berger; Area 1 – Area 10; Area 1-Lugbe; Apo Mechanic Village axis; Kubwa Express Way and along; Jabi axis; City Gate; Areas 1 under bridge and across; Area 2 Plaza Behind VIO Office area, and Zone 2.

A resident of Kubwa, who pleaded anonymity, said: “The rate of insecurity in the city is becoming fearful. What is making these bad boys come out now is hunger. There is too much hunger now in the country.”

She urged security agencies and the FCT Administration to take urgent measures to save residents from the criminals.

According to another resident, Anthonia Okwuolisa, “insecurity in various parts of the country has led to influx of jobless people into the nation’s capital.”

Okwuolisa added: “These ‘invaders’ have been accused of being behind various crimes in the FCT and environs. Moreso, most of them don’t have houses and a verifiable source of livelihood. The police should do more to check the increasing destitution and influx of people into the FCT, as some of the destitutes are believed to be behind criminal activities in the territory.

“Furthermore, the activities of the scavengers known in local parlance as Maibola have been left unchecked. These scavengers roam about towns and villages stealing and committing all sorts of crimes.

“In all, the police appear overwhelmed. There should be robust vigilante services or neighbourhood watch in the FCT. This will assist the police to check crimes. Their recruitment should follow rigorous security checks to avoid infiltration.

“Transport services should be regulated to minimise the menace of ‘one-chance’ criminals. A situation where every Tom, Dick and Harry offers transport services has led to the patronage of ‘one-chance’ criminals by unsuspecting residents. Efforts should be made to streamline transport services.

“The abandoned installation of Close Circuit Camera project in strategic places should be revived immediately.”

Another resident and Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of PR Nigeria, Yushau Shuaibu, said: “The police are overwhelmed and limited in number to tackle insecurity optimally due to inadequate workforce, lack of modern equipment and weak morale. Inter-agency collaboration and synergy are quite essential amongst the military and other security services providers.”

The Human Rights Writers Association of Nigeria (HURIWA), a leading advocate for human rights and security, also said it was deeply alarmed by the deteriorating security situation in the FCT.

Its National Coordinator, Emmanuel Onwubiko, who resides in the federal capital, said: “In recent times, FCT has become a hotbed of insecurity, with a surge in kidnappings, killings and the alarming disappearance of university students. Abuja residents find themselves living in a constant state of fear as they witness the steady decline in security within the city centre and its outskirts.

“This deteriorating situation has left motorists and commuters vulnerable to indiscriminate abductions and robberies, eroding the once-peaceful atmosphere of the capital city.

“President Bola Ahmed Tinubu’s inability to take decisive action and compel heads of security forces to address this security crisis is a matter of grave concern. The failure to curb these major terrorist attacks, kidnappings and armed attacks during his tenure has shaken the confidence of Abuja residents and raised questions about the government’s commitment to their safety.

“The safety and security of individuals are fundamental human rights that must be upheld by any responsible government. The persistent insecurity in the FCT threatens these rights and has left residents in a constant state of fear and vulnerability.

“HURIWA acknowledges the complex challenges faced by law enforcement agencies in addressing this crisis. However, we believe that urgent action is required to safeguard the lives and well being of all residents of the FCT.”

The group also said it was high time for a swift and robust response to the security challenges plaguing the FCT.

“The safety and well-being of Abuja residents are at stake, and they deserve immediate action from their leaders to restore peace and security to the nation’s capital. The status quo is unacceptable, and any delay in addressing this crisis will further undermine the trust and confidence of the people in their government and its ability to protect them.

“In sum, Abuja residents are highly unsettled due to the persistent and intensifying insecurity that has become an unfortunate hallmark of their daily lives. This situation has been exacerbated by the perceived inadequacy of responses from authorities, fostering a deep sense of unease and frustration among the city’s inhabitants.

“The deteriorating security situation in the FCT, where motorists and commuters are being abducted and robbed indiscriminately, demands urgent attention.”

To address the situation, the civil rights group said the Inspector-General of Police, Mr. Olukayode Egbetokun, should wake up and do everything legally possible to contain the escalating security challenges.

HURIWA suggested that President Tinubu should launch a comprehensive review of security measures within the FCT and work closely with security agencies to develop a robust strategy for combating terrorism, kidnapping, and other criminal activities. According to the group, the strategy should include intelligence-driven operations, community engagement and improved coordination among security agencies.

“President Tinubu should also increase the visibility of law enforcement personnel, particularly in vulnerable areas and along major transportation routes. This presence can act as a deterrent to criminals and provide reassurance.

“Implement intelligence-driven operations and surveillance to proactively identify and respond to criminal activities. Leveraging technology for real-time monitoring can aid in rapid response.

“Establish and empower community policing initiatives that encourage residents to actively participate in their own security. Local communities often have valuable information that can help law enforcement.

“Enhance coordination and cooperation among various security agencies, including the police, military and intelligence services. A unified approach can better address complex security challenges.

“He should also invest in the training and equipping of police personnel to handle evolving security threats effectively. Modern technology and equipment can aid in crime prevention and response.”

The group said that, through awareness campaigns, the general public needed to be educated about security risks and the importance of reporting suspicious activities. “Abuja residents must be actively encouraged to cooperate with the police by providing valuable information. The government should ensure that the legal system provides for the swift prosecution of criminals. Delays in the justice system can undermine the deterrence factor.

“There is need to address the root causes of criminality through social programmes that provide opportunities and support for marginalised communities, thereby reducing the incentive for involvement in criminal activities.

“It’s crucial that political leaders at all levels demonstrate a strong commitment to addressing security concerns. This includes allocating resources and prioritising security in policy and budget decisions.

“While the police have faced challenges in addressing the security situation, it’s essential to note that the solution often requires a multifaceted approach involving various stakeholders.

The police alone may not have all the answers, which is why cooperation and collaboration among government agencies, communities, and the public are paramount in effectively combating the security crisis in the FCT,” HURIWA advised.

Meanwhile, the FCT Police Command has allayed fears of residents, urging them to go about their lawful businesses unperturbed.

Reacting to a viral video by one Mr. West Robinson warning residents about the rising insecurity in the city, spokesperson of the FCT Police Command, SP Josephine Adeh, dismissed the alarm, saying it was only creating panic and apprehension in the populace.

She said: “The Commissioner of Police, Federal Capital Territory (FCT) Police Command, CP Haruna G. Garba, wishes to enjoin residents circulating the ‘video and voice’ recording of one Mr. West Robinson making the rounds to discontinue such, as it is creating panic and apprehension in the populace.”

“It may also interest the residents to know that there’s an ongoing clampdown on the described vehicles (vehicles with foreign number plate) in the narrative. Hence, the command is committed to improving the overall security towards the protection of life and property of residents without fear or favour.

“The CP equally enjoins the good people of the Territory to be vigilant and take advantage of the Police emergency lines in reporting suspicious activities: 08032003913, 08061581938, 07057337653, and 08028940883.”