Upsurge in kidnapping across the area councils of the Federal Capital Territory has increased call by residents on authorities to improve security, Olawale Ajimotokan and Kingsley Iwezeh report
Cases of kidnapping have been on the increase in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT). In fact, the kidnappers have been terrorising the FCT and causing apprehension among the residents since the start of the year.
Checks revealed that the sharp cases of kidnapping, armed robbery, drug peddling, and other crimes are a fall out of the intensified activities of armed bandits in the North-west and North-central parts of the country.
The escalation has also prompted several community leaders to voice support for security to be improved to stem the unwholesome practice.
The Sarkin Bwari, Alhaji Awwal Musa Ijakoro and the Chairman Abuja Municipal Area Council (AMAC), Hon. Abdullahi Adamu Candido were among notable public figures that raised alarm.
These criminals made headline when they carried out a high-profile abduction in Tuganmaje area of the Gwagwalada Area Council.
During that raid, a retired Assistant Comptroller-General of the Nigerian Immigration Service, Abdulahi Rakieu and three others were abducted.
The undesirable persons reportedly kidnapped the senior immigration officer and others, after they destroyed the anti-burglary irons on the windows to break into the residence of their victims.
The nature of the shooting in the early morning raid left many residents glued to their beds in fear while others cowered under their beds even as others went into prayers.
The long, sporadic gunfire left residents wondering if even a police command would be in possession of such an amount of ammunition discharged by kidnappers in Tuganmaje.
“They started shooting from 1 am to 4 am. I was so scared I was just praying that they should not come near my house”, a resident, Joy, said.
Another resident, Mrs Rebecca, said: “We have never seen this level of shooting before. We went into serious prayers because it looked like it will never stop”.
Mr Julius, a businessman told THISDAY that the shooting rattled the entire town.
“I was sleeping and I woke up hearing so much prolonged shooting. I slept and woke up three times and they were still shooting. This is not the first time they have kidnapped people here but the shooting was just exceptional”, he said.
In an unprecedented fashion, two gunmen suspected to be kidnappers sustained non-stop sporadic gunfire in Tuganmaje, for more than three hours, after abducting their victims. Rakieu and the victims have since been released after the payment of ransom.
The FCT Police Command has battled criminal gangs especially in the outskirts and the spillover of armed banditry in contiguous states.
The Police Command arrested the head of a community in Abuja and three others for their alleged involvement in the crime at Tunganmaje. The FCT Administration later suspended the Chief of Anagada, Malam Alhassan Musa of Gwagwalada for aiding and abetting criminality in his domain. Apart from Tuganmaje, there have been kidnapping incidents in Maitama, Kubwa, Pegi, Tuganmaje and Abaji.
A journalist with the Punch Newspaper, Mr Okechukwu Nnodim, was on February 3, 2021 kidnapped by four armed men with two other persons in a house in Kubwa.
Also recently the FCT Police Command, acting on a tip-off, arrested six suspects in Apo, in Abuja Municipal Area Council (AMAC) over alleged kidnapping.
The kidnap kingpins were said to have abducted three persons before they were caught by eagle-eyed cops as they were about to relocate one of their victims.
It listed the suspects to include Frank Ozor, 26; Nweke Uche, 19; Chester Uzor, 25; Chukwu Bethrand, 27; Chukwu Samuel, 25; and Kelechi Ngene, 26.
It said further investigation led to the successful rescue of two other victims who identified the suspects.
“Consequently, the command deployed covert and overt crime-fighting strategies to strengthen security across the Federal Capital Territory especially areas with cumbersome terrain”, it said.
The command said it launched a strategic counter-kidnapping operation to checkmate the emerging security concerns.
“Furthermore, the command is working closely with sister security agencies, key stakeholders, and community leaders to rid the FCT of criminal elements.
“While urging residents to remain calm and law-abiding, the command enjoins FCT residents to report any suspicious persons or activities around their vicinity at the nearest police division or report the same through any of the FCT Police Command”.
The command had between January and March, arrested 77 crime suspects while the Commissioner of Police, Mr Bala Ciroma, recently announced approval by the Inspector-General of Police, Mr Mohammed Adamu, for the deployment of 150 policemen under Operation Puff Adder II launched to counter criminal elements in the territory.
It’s given the frequency of these kidnappings and the brazenness of the acts, regardless of the psychological effects on the victims that have prompted many communities in the FCT to resort to self-help against kidnappers.
Pegi in Kuje Area Council is a metaphor for kidnapping in the FCT. Such is the intensity of kidnapping in the isolated community that criminal elements have literally forced many people in Pegi to either relocate or reserve their safety to fate in the light of random abduction of residents and visitors.
The innocence of the area was once again violated on February 5, 2021 by four gun-bearing men, who seized some persons from the community.
The Chairman Pegi Community Development Association (PECDA), Mr Taiwo Aderibigbe, gave vivid accounts of the latest encounter with the gang.
He recalled that on the fateful day, unwary residents were attacked about few metres from the community gate, while they were returning from work.
According to him, three persons, including a woman and two males, sustained injuries from the assailants’ gunshots while one person, whose identity is yet to be known was kidnapped.
“Three occupants of the vehicle sustained gunshot injuries. Two persons were initially kidnapped. The second person who was released had issues with walking and because he is aged, they left him after extorting money from him. So he trekked back to the community and raised alarm. But we are yet to identify the person that was kidnapped. It seems he is not a resident: he was either going out of Pegi after visiting or doing business.
“We still do not know the fate of the person that was kidnapped. But I got an unconfirmed report that the sum of N20 million was placed on his head as ransom. I also sought from the informant the name of this person that was kidnapped. Although it was not revealed, he told me the person, who resided in Kuje was in Pegi to supply goods,” Aderibigbe said.
He bemoaned the failure of FCTA to complete the 14 kilometres link road which contract was awarded in 2011 by the administration of Senator Adamu Aliero even after the construction firm was mobilised to site with the sum of N110 million.
“Nothing meaningful has been done. The situation of the road is even worse than we have been managing it in the last 14-15 years and the FCTA keeps promising. There were provisions for this road in the 2020 budget. We are in possession of the contract document. We requested it through the FOI. All of these things are detailed there.
“What happened to the N200 million that was appropriated for the project? The worse of it all and the most embarrassing aspect was on October 12, the present Permanent Secretary gave the assurance that in the next four months, something meaningful would be done, only for the contractor to return to the site on October 18 and in November they dug a pit about six feet deep for thoroughfare, which later served as a pit for criminals on the road”.
Meanwhile, the Sarkin Bwari, Alhaji Awwal Musa Ijakoro has expressed worries about the spate of kidnappings in the Bwari Area Council particularly around Shere-Kawu axis.
The traditional ruler called for the government to enhance the capacity of security operatives to confront the kidnappers. He said that Bwari as the food basket of the FCT is the worst hit as farmers can no longer go to farms to harvest their produce.
“But the major concern we are having now is around Shere-Kawu axis, the issue of kidnappers there is bothering us seriously. Bwari is the food basket of FCT but some of our farmers cannot go to the farm to harvest their produce which they have suffered to farm. They find it difficult to harvest because of the kidnappers. We are appealing to the federal government to look into this issue and see how they can create a mini barrack along that Shere-Kawu axis as it would help a lot,” the Sarkin pleaded.
He also offered support for the creation of a local vigilante group to complement community policing, saying it will improve security in the community and give the residents some form of assurance.
He said the vigilante and local hunters are essential to the security apparatus because they are the ones that mainly roam the forests where the victims of kidnapping are kept, adding when they see strange things inside the forests, they can pass information to the authority.
“Community policing is a good concept but you can see that the Banga—that is the vigilante is helping matters a lot. These vigilante and hunter groups are helpful because they are the ones in the bush and when they find strange things and they report to the traditional institution from there we forward the complaint to the security agency. So I believe in this community police they are helping matters and we make sure we give them support and see how we can fight this problem,” Alhaji Ijakoro said.
The Chairman of AMAC, Abdullahi Adamu Candido insisted insecurity is a national issue but not peculiar to the FCT.
He made the remark against the backdrop of the arrest of six suspects by the FCT Police Command in Apo for kidnapping and the increase in the number of communities in AMAC that are setting up vigilante groups to mitigate the unwholesome activities of kidnappers and other criminals.