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March 1, 2024
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Sleeping with one eye open: Story of FCT residents

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By Kayode Adebiyi, News Agency of Nigeria (NAN)

Mr Collins Orji resides in Karu, a suburb of Abuja, in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT). He used to undertake a road walk as a form of exercise between 5:00am and 6:00am before going to work.

But this is no longer the case in recent times, no thanks to the state of insecurity in the FCT which has escalated. Orji has made some adjustments to his routine.

“Waking up at 5:00am to exercise now feels like an extreme sport so I’ve adjusted to 30 minutes, between 6:00am and 6:30am.

“There have been cases of robbery by criminals who target early risers. The other day, two men with knives snatched the handbag of a lady while I was walking,” he said.

As for Edoh Ajene, a resident of Kubwa, another suburb of the FCT, his biggest worry is ‘one-chance’. Edoh said at least six colleagues of his have fallen victim to one chance this year.

One-chance is used to describe a kind of heist involving criminals who disguise as commercial transporters to rob, harm and sometimes kill their victims.

It is particularly dangerous because it offers little or no escape route for victims.

“When Abuja was safe, you just wave any vehicle going your direction and enter without suspicion. These days, commuting to and from the city centre involves a serious vetting process,” he said.

Ajene also said that, apart from the general insecurity in the FCT, the removal of fuel subsidy also contributes to the increased cases of one-chance.

“People are looking for cheaper means of transportation. So, if a vehicle charges less than the usual price for a ride, people are tempted to throw caution to the wind and just hop in,” he said.

The case of Greatness Olorunfemi, who was stabbed and thrown out of a moving vehicle along the Maitama-Kubwa highway on Sept. 26, 2023, became a rallying point for a call to action.

Apart from knife crimes and one-chance, the biggest security worry for residents of Abuja and its environs is the issue of kidnapping for ransom.

Several reports suggest that this year alone close to 30 people have been abducted.

Gunmen have abducted a family of seven in Zuma 1 in the Bwari Area Council and nine in Sagwari Layout Estate in Dutse.

Some security experts are suggesting that cases of abduction in the FCT are underreported because families of victims, who have little trust in the security agencies in the first place, are threatened into silence.

Nextier Violent Conflict Database partly attributes the surge in insecurity in the FCT to the general insecurity and unrest sweeping through many parts of the country.

“For instance, the capital city and a few of the most violent states in Nigeria, located in the country’s northwest and central regions, are adjacent,” it said.

Some residents fear that, as far as kidnapping for ransom is lucrative and kidnappers have the means to act, they will continue to terrorise societies.

“Look at the case of Dutse, those criminals came with sophisticated weapons and were in military uniforms. They were daredevils and they possessed the tools,” Michael, who lives in Dutse, said.

The Terrorism (Prohibition and Prevention) Act of 2022, signed into law by former President Muhammadu Buhari, criminalises payment of ransom to free a kidnapped person. It is meant to dissuade rewarding criminals.

Section 24 of the law provides that: “A person, who knowingly or intentionally – seizes, detains, or attempts to seize or detain a person, property, or facility in order to compel a third party to do or abstain from doing a lawful act; threatens to kill, injure or continue to detain a person in order to compel a third party to do or abstain from doing a lawful act; or gives an explicit or implicit condition for the release of the person held hostage, or the property or facility detained, commits an offence.”

It also provides that: “A person, who commits an offence under subsection (1) of this section, is liable on conviction – where death does not result from the act, to life imprisonment; or where death results from the act, to a death sentence.”

However, families of victims of kidnapping are often on record admitting that they paid ransom, even when security agencies deny such.

For instance, the family of the Al-Kadriyar girls who were among the 23 persons kidnapped on Jan. 2 told a national newspaper that they paid ransom to bandits for the release of their five girls.

Stakeholders therefore argue that the focus of the law should be on punishing criminals not discouraging families of victims anxious for their loved ones to regain freedom.

Security experts say if the efficacy of the law is strengthened and justice is served through it, it would serve as a deterrent.

“So far kidnappers don’t see any reason to stop. There are few or no consequences for their atrocities, both in terms of fighting them and bringing them to justice,” Michael said.

The Minister of FCT, Mr Nyesom Wike says government is doing its best to make the territory safe for residents even as he has urged traditional rulers to render a helping hand.

“Traditional rulers have a role to play in securing their domain. You know those around your domain.

“If there are faces that you think are not familiar within that axis, it is within your powers to report such faces or call your area council chairman to be able to make a report to security agencies or my office so that actions can be taken,” Wike told a FCT-graded chiefs and area council chairmen.

While acknowledging that there is security in the FCT, Wike said it was not proper to paint the situation in alarming perspective.

“You cannot stop total crime. Let somebody tell me as a professional that there is anywhere in this world where there is no crime.

“Because kidnapping happened last night in one or two places, therefore, there is insecurity in the whole of FCT. That is not correct”, he said at during a recent media chat.

But stakeholders want the FCT Administration to do more by collaborating with the security agencies to tackle the menace.

“This is an abduction epidemic you don’t blame on political distractors. You work with relevant security agencies, support them with resources and equipment, and spur them into action,” Orji said.

Others advise that the entire national security architecture should be overhauled, as a result of current and evolving threats to national security which the present structure is too weak to solve.

There are push and pull factors on why violent crimes have escalated in the FCT, including socioeconomic issues, failure of systems, etc.

However, for residents of the FCT to be able to feel safe again, the security agencies must step up intelligence, leverage technology and ensure that every corner of the territory has adequate security presence. (NANFeatures)

 **If used please credit the writer and News Agency of Nigeria.

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