Abuja is begging for urgent attention as a result of increasing criminal activities. Kasim Sumaina, Udora Orizu, Ononso Nwafor-Orizu and Cynthia Ndukwe who went round the city, report

Mathias Okwe, an Assistant Editor (Business) with The Guardian, based in the nation’s capital, Abuja, recently escaped death; but not without life-threatening injuries inflicted on him by his attackers.

Some armed thieves recently attacked him and beat him up mercilessly in Apo area of Abuja on his way home after closing hours. He had stopped at a dark junction in Apo where he was observing the traffic rules at a junction when some armed young boys robbed him. They collected his phones, a laptop and other valuable items inside his car.

A police source told THISDAY in confidence that they have been “overwhelmed” by the upsurge of robbery cases in Abuja in the last few months.  The attacks, according to the police source, take place in different dark spots in Abuja.

“People are now being told never to stop at traffic lights at night. The one at the Zone 4, end of IBB Way, is very notorious. Some armed bad boys usually hide in the bushes on the right side of the road, only to spring out to attack any car that stops for traffic light. Vigilance is the word now in Abuja,” the police source added.

The swelling ugly situation in the nation’s capital contradicts what Robert Harrison said: “The capital of a republic, should possess, and should exhibit to all sections of it, an ambience of beauty and safety.”

According to him, in a capital, there is so much to see and you can’t see it all in just one visit. The nation’s capital is one of the most popular tourists’ destinations and should offer a wide range of attractions and activities. A well-rounded trip should include exploring the region’s historic landmarks, parks and neighbourhoods. To really capture the essence of the city, he said, “one should look beyond the obvious attractions and spend some time exploring some of the smaller and more unique destinations as well.”

But Abuja City abhors these beautiful qualities that Harrison spoke about many years ago. The Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Abuja, was created in the 80’s to replace Lagos State as the capital to reflect what Robert Harrison has postulated. The swelling population of the city is not helping matters. According to the United Nation, Abuja had swelled by 139.7 per cent between 2000 and 2010, making it the fastest growing city in the world.

To be sure, as of 2015, the city was experiencing an annual growth of at least 35 per cent and still retaining its position as the fastest growing city on the African continent and one of the fastest growing cities in the world.

The city has witnessed a huge influx of people into it – the growth has led to the emergence of satellite towns, such as Karu, Gwagwalada, Lugbe, Kuje and smaller settlements towards which the planned city is sprawling. The unofficial metropolitan area of Abuja is said to have a population of well over three million, making it the fourth largest metropolitan area in Nigeria, surpassed only by Lagos, Kano and Ibadan.

As at 2016, the metropolitan area of Abuja was estimated at six million persons, placing it behind only Lagos, as the most populous metro area. Despite its beautiful design and the glamour, Abuja, the Nigeria’s capital, is fast losing its uniqueness and no thanks to criminal activities that are rearing their ugly heads within the city centre and its environs. THISDAY checks revealed that the city has been left to itself and at the mercies of hoodlums who waste no time to disposes innocent people of their belongings on a daily basis. The flashpoints where these criminals operate, as investigations revealed, are Area 1 Bridge, Banex-Mabuchi axis, Mabuchi-Next Shopping Mall axis, Mabuchi-Gwarinmpa axis, Jabi-Airport Road axis, various under bridges in the city centre and villages within the city centre.

No day passes without reports of stolen car and passengers being robbed of their belongings. THISDAY checks also revealed how the city is in serious need of touch as every corner is a hideout for perpetration of horrendous activities like prostitution, and use of hard-drugs.

At Utako Village, foul smell greets you on approaching it within a distance. It’s a village of the original inhabitants of Abuja, but an abode to all and sundry.

The rich patronises Utako Village for some unholy activities while the poor struggles to make ends meet. Criminal elements also take refuge in the place after their criminal activities within the city centre.

According to a resident in Utako Village, Abel Okoye, “We don’t have anywhere else to go since we cannot afford good home. Here at Utako, we are happy because, we don’t spend much money before getting to our places of work.

“Though, the living condition here is far below what one should think, but what can one do? The major problem we have here at Utako Village is criminal activities and prostitution. Even the rich come here to patronise them. We urge the government to intervene as the smell of Indian hemp and fear of being dispossessed of your belongings is there too,” he lamented.

Like Utako Village, Dakibiu Village in Jabi District also has its ugly side with dirty environment, lack of good roads and shanty settlement. A resident, Mr. Shamsudeen Mustapha, told THISDAY that the village is becoming a home for many criminals in Abuja.

Also, THISDAY check revealed that the popular Jabi Motor Park is not left out of these nefarious activities by touts within the park as they were seen smoking Indian hemp at will when THISDAY visited the park.

The story is not different in Dutse community in Apo. One major problem faced by the Dutse inhabitants are illegal brothels located in strategic places, so as to avoid the wrath of law enforcement officials. The residents pleaded with the government to employ more personnel at the police post in the area.