Abuja is experiencing a spate of violent crimes, from kidnappings to armed robbers, and the criminals seem to have taken over the affairs of Nigeria’s one time “safe space” – the federal capital territory – once rated as a relatively safe haven when compared to other states in Nigeria.
From the Central Mosque Abuja to third avenue Gwarimpa – then Jabi, to Julius Berger Junction – and to the popular Area One round about, these men of the under-world operate freely and unhinged.
Pedestrians are attacked, for women, handbags snatched, passengers and car owners aren’t spared either, – vehicles parked at various locations bugled, windscreen smashed.
Here’s a look at some of the locations where these crimes take place within the city centre.
The burglars are having a busy time smashing windscreens and carting away with all the that is found, – during the day and at night no car parked in public places or roadside in Abuja is spared. It doesn’t matter the location where these cars are parked, from highbrow areas of Maitama to Life-camp, Gwarimpa and Wuse 11. This is the story of the new Abuja.
“The city, once considered an island of safety amidst the surge of incidents elsewhere, now appears increasingly vulnerable,” says Nnamdi Obasi of the International Crisis Group had told the BBC in a recent interview about the state of affairs in Nigeria’s capital.
“The influx of people displaced by rural poverty, armed conflicts and violent crime in many parts of the country is continually swelling the population of the city’s unemployed youth, with many susceptible to criminal life”, Mr Obasi added.
Many crimes go unreported in Abuja but according to a recent report by the National Bureau of Statistics, NBS, it said that, the FCT reported 2,984 cases of offence against persons, 9,350 cases against property, 843 cases lawful authority and only four cases against local Acts. The report said offence against persons are those offences against human beings such as murder, manslaughter, infanticide, concealment of birth, rape and other physical abuse, etc.
But NewsWireNGR had to take a tour of Abuja for the purpose of this report to speak to residents of the capital city, to enable us ascertain what the security situation looked like under the Mr. Bello Muhammad’s administration – Bello Muhammed is the current administrator and minister of the Capital Territory Abuja and he is minister for the second time, following the re-election of President Muhammadu Buhari.
“The security situation in Abuja calls for the attention of the Federal Government, it is scary to park your car anywhere – from 6pm, these boys start robbing us, we are tired,” Mr Mohammed Yusuf, a resident and a civil servant tells NewsWireNGR.
“I have been robbed and my car stolen, this city used to be safe for us all but today it has gone so bad you begin to wonder if there is any government presence in this town again,” he stated.
Experts and residents say Abuja has become a hotspot for criminals, from pick pockets in the area 1 axis of garki to the dreaded “one chance” now flooding the Kubwa Expressway and major roads.
“It happened a year ago, I took an along cab from Gwarimpa to kubwa, they were all men in the vehicle, I suspected nothing because I always take that route with men in the vehicle, less than 5 minutes into the journey, one of them seized my bags and tried to cover my mouth, I screamed and fought them, they pushed me out of the vehicle” Ada Okechuckwu a victim of the “one chance,” tells NewsWireNGR.
The one chance, is a tactic deployed by criminals and mostly used by kidnappers and robbers in taxi vehicles along major highways and within the municipal area council of Abuja to commit crime – and the Kubwa expressway is a hotbed for the perpetrators to rob their victims, another victim told NewsWireNGR that she nearly got kidnapped. She had been driven to Utako, in the process of putting her in the boot of another car, a policeman saw the kidnappers, they quickly dropped her off and fled.
After countless reports of criminal operations in Abuja by the criminal “ONE CHANCE” operators or gang as you may one to refer to them, the groups are more brazen, the security is either overwhelmed or helpless in stopping the various gangs – residents are on the edge.
“ONE CHANCE” is a local slang that started off in Lagos Nigeria, a term used to describe robbers who uses public buses to rob innocent and unsuspecting passengers. But the tricks and methods is now being used in Abuja, private cars and taxis are being used, the lack of public transportation system in Abuja force unsuspecting passengers into these cars and these are the vehicles road users depend on for their movement across the city and the satellite towns.
Ada isn’t the only one that has been attacked, robberies take place in areas like Wuse 2, Maitama and Asokoro, the “lucky” victims are robbed others are killed or kidnapped and the target for most “one chance” operators, are women and mostly young women.
“I entered a taxi to Maitama, unknown to me, it was a one chance vehicle, they drove me to the express and insisted they wanted my money, bag and ATM cards – I forced myself and fought them while the vehicle was moving,” – Ms Cynthia Moses, an undergraduate tells NewsWireNGR about her experience with on chance in Abuja.
“When they saw that I was bent on fighting because fighting was all I had as I didn’t know if they were taking me to a slaughter house – I fought them until they collected by handbag and pushed me out of the moving vehicle, I almost died but survived with bruises and the injury marks to tell this story”, Ms Cynthia narrated her ordeal.
The streetlights have been abandoned – most are not functioning , a trip from IBB Way, to the Shehu Shagari way and the newly constructed Goodluck Jonathan way, the major highway/streets are dark, the lights broken and almost non-functioning in major locations which gives rise to criminal activities especially at night but these criminals now operate in day light and night time.
A businessman, Mr Uche Nnamdi has been resident in Abuja since 1998, he explains that this is the first time he has seen the infrastructure and the entire security system crumble in the FCT.
“it seems like there is no government presence in this town, I have no idea who the minister is but in Abuja today you can’t sleep with your eyes closed because the criminals have all moved in here!” Nnamdi laments
“Have you tried to drive at night in Abuja? The place doesn’t look like a capital that houses the sit of government – it is a complete blackout out here at night, it is so sad that those in government are turning a blind eye to the mess that is now Abuja,” he concluded.
There’s also the concern about infrastructure- infrastructural decay is most evident with the streetlights and the almost non-existent / collapse of the operations of Urban Mass Transit buses meant to take commuters around Abuja city.
But a trip to some of these satellite towns such as Karu, Nyanya, Gwagalada, Zuba and Dei-Dei will reveal the sorry state of infrastructural deficit going on in Abuja, especially the towns that fall under the AMAC local government.
Visiting the Karu & Jikwoyi towns which is just a 10 minutes ride from the closest city borough of Asokoro, reveals the shocking state of infrastructural decay, especially for civil servants who live in those towns face before going to work in the Central Area.
“Is there a public transportation scheme in Abuja? This is strange because I am just hearing this from you for the first time – the only time I saw a public transport was during Malam Nasir El-rufai and then the minister after him” – Mrs Deborah Imoh, a resident of Abuja tells NewsWireNGR.
The Abuja Urban Mass Transport Company ltd is another decaying sector that has struggled over the years, “the curse” of the Nigerian maintenance culture and also horrible management at the firm has affected most of its fleet of buses. The company was expanded during El-rufai’s reign as FCT Minister where over 400 buses were bought to take on operations along the city.
The immediate past Managing Director of the company, Eddie Ajon, was quoted in a guardian article saying “of the 367 buses left in the company’s fleet, only 150 of them were still on the roads…. about 120 of them have been parked permanently and rendered unserviceable”.