Thirty-Three years after the nation’s seat of power was moved from Lagos, the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) has begun a comprehensive rejig of its governance system to curb rising spate of insecurity threatening its 8.5 million population.
The major thrust of the rejig is the shifting of attention to rural communities, villages and towns in the six area councils in the FCT, which hosts 95 per cent of its 8.5 million population that have been thrown into fear and misery as a result of upsurge in kidnapping and banditry.
Between February 2023 and January 2024, no fewer than 300 persons were kidnapped in the FCT despite the presence of 17 arms-bearing security agencies in Abuja. Forty-five of these persons lost their lives in the process.
Last month, resurgence of kidnapping hit its peak as terrorists ravaged many parts of the territory including the city centre. Of note is the killing of a 13-year-old teenager, Folashade Ariyo, who was kidnapped alongside 10 residents of the Sagwari Estate Layout in Dutse-Alhaji Area of Abuja, and Nabeeha Al-Kadriyar, a 400-level student of the Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria, who was kidnapped alongside 22 other in Bwari.
The spate of kidnapping, in fact, led to many not reporting early to duties after the Christmas and New Year holidays. Disturbed by the rising trend of insecurity, FCT Minister, Ezenwo Nyesom Wike, after two weeks of interactive sessions and town hall meetings with security agencies, area councils’ authorities, traditional rulers, identified key governance issues that require urgent attention.
Those issues, which exist across the territory, but particularly in the villages, communities and towns, are decayed road infrastructure, poor internal security architecture, inadequate economic empowerment, inadequate communication between area council chairmen and other relevant stakeholders, unsecured transportation system.
The state of insecurity in areas such as Bwari, Kubwa, Lugbe, Kuje, Kwalu, Gwagwalada, and Abaji, worsened so much that it has attracted serious condemnation from the minister. He told the council chairmen, traditional rulers and security chiefs on the implications of incompetence or outright failure in the discharge of their responsibilities as regards security.
According to Wike, “the president has given me power to buy more vehicles. By next week, we shall give more vehicles to all police stations. We shall give them modern communication gadgets. The president has said he does not want to hear any story of kidnapping in Abuja again and the security agencies have promised to rise to the occasion. We are very serious. We are not playing. But we need your support too because security agencies cannot do this work alone. They need information. When you give them information, they will work better.”
He again reiterated his earlier advice to residents to stop crowdfunding for ransom, saying such action only serves to fuel more kidnapping. He said: “It is not also good to go to the radio to raise ransoms. It is a way of encouraging criminals. We know it is not easy when your people are in captivity but we have to avoid raising ransom. It fuels the activities of kidnappers.”
On the need for well profiled and efficient private security arrangements, he directed the six area council chairmen in the nation’s capital to set up vigilante groups and also ensure the immediate profiling of members of the groups.
“We have asked all the area councils to set up vigilance teams and we believe that those teams won’t be the ones perpetrating the crimes. Therefore, they must be profiled so that they are known. Who are they? Are they from our communities? So that we won’t say we want to solve a problem and then cause another one. They (chairmen) will have to do that with you (traditional rulers).”
He further disclosed: “We have told the police and other security agencies to itemise all their needs and we are going to meet them so that our people can sleep comfortably with their eyes closed.
“Again, you would have heard that we are demolishing shanties. You know criminals won’t want to live in known houses. They commit crimes and run to shanties that can’t be easily traced. So, we will continue to demolish shanties. You need to support us. You don’t allow people to bring propaganda. There is nothing like that.”
He also reiterated his resolve to roll out buses in order to reduce the incidences of ‘one chance’ or taxi robberies pointing out that “Very soon we are going to roll out our buses which will be painted in Abuja colours and we won’t allow taxis that are not painted in our colours to operate so that this issue of one chance can be eliminated.
“This is the FCT where many Nigerians want to come and stay and so we are more concerned because when the capital is threatened, the whole country is threatened. So, we are very serious with security. We are not sleeping. We are working 24 hours.”
Speaking on the need for adequate intelligence and information to facilitate security, Wike said:
“We have met with the councils and we have told them the little we need which is information to be able to help security agencies that are directly involved in the fight against criminalities.
“The president has given us series of approvals to make sure that security agencies are fully equipped to fight this crime and we cannot do this alone without your support. You have a role to play in securing your domains. You know those around your domain. If there are unfamiliar faces, you can let the council chairmen know, so as to report to my office so that actions can be taken,” he added.
On the development of road infrastructure in the area councils, the minister has already commenced the construction of 30km road infrastructure across all six area councils to aid movement and security.
He did not mince words in warning the chairmen against frequent overseas trips pointing out that: “This time around, we will not be happy, where area council chairmen will leave their responsibilities and travel out. We have reports that council chairmen travel anytime and then, if anything happens, they will not call anybody’s name except the FCT Minister.”
Lingering industrial face-off between area council chairmen and the FCT chapters of the National Union of Teachers (NUT), National Union of Local Government Employees (NULGE) over welfare issues received attention during the town hall meetings.
Wike told stakeholders that after listening to the plight of striking workers, he had offered to pay 40 per cent of debts owed by area councils just as he charged the chairmen to immediately pay the balance of 60 per cent. He threatened that should there be delay or failure to pay the 60 per cent, he would pay the money, and deduct, at source from the monthly bills, allocations of area councils.
“Recently, the Nigeria Union of Teachers NUT embarked on strike and it is not our fault but the Area Councils. Primary schools are under the body of the Area Councils but again, it will look as if the Ministers are doing nothing but that is not our responsibility.
“So, council chairmen should know that, they must live up to their responsibilities. It is not everything that happens they would say that it is the Ministers that have not taken steps. So, for your information, we are doing everything we can to resolve the security challenges we are recently facing.He stressed.
Announcing the objective of the governance rejig, which began with the newly initiated town hall meetings, the minister said: “We thought that there is a need to meet with you and the council chairmen so that we can work in synergy and be on the same page. If there are things you think we should do too, we are willing to partner with you so that the challenges we are facing now will be a thing of the past.
“You must work hard because insecurity is not written on anybody’s face. Anyone can be a victim and that is why we must do everything possible to ensure that our subjects are not victims of these criminals.
“Security is one thing the president promised Nigerians because his job is to protect lives and property. If we can’t protect lives and property, then we have no reason being in government.”
He continued: “The president has asked me to assure you that he will not abandon you. So, all these criminals, be ready. Your time is up. You know if I say I will do something, I will do it. And now that I am here today, if you know you are an informant or even one of the criminals, the end has come for you. I and security agencies will follow you to the point that you won’t enter Gwagwalada again.
“Some of the people giving them information, we have arrested them. If they haven’t arrested you, it doesn’t mean that we won’t arrest you tomorrow or even before we leave this place,” Wike said.
Responding to requests for more police divisions in the council, the minister told the representative of the Police commissioner to work out the modalities.He said, “the Commissioner of Police should work out how we can provide two more police divisions in Gwagwalada. We must do this immediately. It is a security matter and must not be bogged down by bureaucratic bottlenecks.”
Provision of operational vehicles as well as provision of intelligence to security agents are other strategies introduced.Just last Thursday, he flagged off the construction of a five-kilometre road in each of the six area councils within the FCT.
The ceremonial launch commenced in Gwagwalada Area Council, focusing on the Paikon Kore – Ibwa road. Other road constructions include the Gaba-Tokula road in Bwari Area Council; the Garage Junction – to LEA Secretariat road in Kuje Area Council; Yangoji-Sukuku Ebo road in Kwali Area Council;
Simultaneously, an access road featuring a two-span river bridge over the Naharati River-Ukya is slated for construction in Abaji Area Council.
Within the Abuja Municipal Area Council (AMAC), a temporary access road linking Saburi 1 and two communities from the ONEX to the old Keffi road near Dei Dei will be developed.
And as part of measures to safeguard lives and property in Abuja, the FCTA has commenced profiling and massive raid of hideouts of criminals such as bridges and subways within Central Business District (CBD), Maitama and Wuse Districts of Abuja.
Commencing the operation, FCTA’s Joint Taskforce on City Sanitation, stormed and raided subways and bridges around the three Arms zone, especially roads connecting Women Affairs Ministry, Police headquarters, Court of Appeal and Federal Secretariat.
The team also raided tunnels and green areas beside Abia House, connecting to River Plate Park through to National Mosque and Yar’Adua center, including Millennium and Chescon Parks, in Maitama, and Wuse, where informal activities are taking place, side by side with people of questionable characters living under the facilities.
Coordinator of the Taskforce, Mukhtar Galadima, who led the operation, said it was pursuant to the directive of the FCT Minister, following complaints from residents in the city alleging the misuse and abuse of such facilities.
Galadima, who doubles as the Director, FCT Department of Development Control, described the sanitary condition within and around the affected facilities as very disturbing, which calls for immediate drastic measures to mitigate.
He said: “The FCT Minister directed that we should take necessary action, and today we are a fact-finding mission, to know what is really happening under the bridges and subways. From today, we can come out with our plan of action on the next step to be taken.
“With what we have seen today, it is really unfortunate that these things are happening in the city, where informal activities are taken place under the bridges and subways, as well as people of questionable characters are living there. We met some under 10 years kids under one the bridges.
“Considering the issues of security and looking at the these people residing under the bridges, it is of great concern to the FCT Administration, and we will not lay it low as we have to take it up immediately. We have to step up our action on combing and monitoring these facilities and activities taken place there.”
On the rehabilitation of dilapidated public primary schools, Wike has earmarked N30.9 billion to upgrade public schools across the Territory, an assignment he said, must be completed before May 29, 2024.
The Mandate Secretary, FCT Education Secretariat, Dr Danlami Hayyo, made this known in Abuja while intimating journalists on some of the interventions in the education sector received from the FCT Minister.He explained that the approved money would be spent holistically on renovation of 40 schools, a project designed to be completed before the end of May 2024.
Responding to questions on the criteria for the 40 benefiting schools, Hayyo said it was based on schools with the highest degree of dilapidation and out of school children orchestrated by insecurity, like the case of Bwari Area Council.
“In FCT, there are so many schools that need the support intervention, otherwise, maybe in few years, nobody will go to that school, even the children will not be happy to learn in the environment, total dilapidation, so, we decided to pick the schools that have serious dilapidation issues.”
Hayyo, who added that four additional schools would also be renovated in the second batch at the cost of N4.5 billion, also hinted that the FCTA had set up a temporary shelter to cater for the influx of out of school children from neighbouring states.
“You see the problem we are facing now is that, because of the security issues in neighbouring states such as, Kaduna, Nasarawa, Niger and some parts of Zamfara, Sokoto and Yobe, people are relocating to Abuja,” he said.
“So, establishment of these temporary shelters will address the issue of out of school children, and not only the learning, they are learning both literacy and numeracy, they are learning skills because we established skills acquisition centre in collaboration with mass education,” Hayyo explained.