The Federal Capital Territory (FCT), though not one of the 36 states of the federation, has all the trappings of a component unit – Area Councils (local governments), Mandate Secretariats (ministries/departments, parastatals), Permanent Secretary, statutory budget among others.
More importantly is the fact that Abuja, which is in the heart of the FCT, is host to Aso Rock, the seat of power.
It is, therefore, not a coincidence that, apart from having a Police Command, the capital city also plays host to the headquarters of the Nigerian Army, Nigerian Navy, Nigerian Air Force, as well as the Force Headquarters (Police).
There are other ancillary security and para-military agencies such as the Nigeria Immigration Service, Nigeria Customs Service, Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps, and what is today known as Nigeria Correctional Service, with imposing presence in the city.
In the face of this reality, it would have been taken for granted, that the security of Abuja in particular, and the FCT in general, will remain impregnable. Unfortunately, that expectation seems to be a tall order, if the security situation of the territory today, is to be given due consideration.
From the city centre, to area councils and surrounding suburbs, resonates one common denominator: fear of the unknown. Along the streets, in intra-city buses, at markets and other public places, the fragile security situation in the territory, dominate discussions, with many throwing their hands in trepidation and frustration.
Today, the fear of suspected “one-chance” robbers, kidnappers, ritual killers, car thieves, cultists and other violent criminals, grips residents like the Biblical rapture. The prevalence of “one chance” robbery, for instance, is no longer news in Abuja, as the perpetrators are alleged to now operate with Point of Sale (PoS) machines.
This “ingenious” discovery is said to help them empty the accounts of their victims, thereby averting the misfortune of being apprehended by security operatives. Almost on daily basis, reports of commuters being thrown out of moving vehicles, killed or wounded, rent the air, with women being the worse hit.
Sometime last year, unknown gunmen had attacked and killed seven police officers stationed at a checkpoint within the Galadimawa Roundabout of Abuja. The police had confirmed the incident to journalists.
Sunday Telegraph recalls that sometime in September, staff of AIT, Mr. Abayomi Adigun, was reportedly stabbed to death by suspected “one chance” operators, along the Kubwa – Aya Expressway. His lifeless body was said to have been found, with some vital organs said to have been missing.
Also in September, at least four persons, including a lecturer at the Base University, were abducted at different locations in the city. Apart from the lecturer, two teenagers said to be returning from Quran lessons at Wuse Zone 6, were reported to have been kidnapped in the same month.
This was as another resident was allegedly abducted in Maitama, even as another incident occurred within Asokoro – both being highbrow areas of Abuja. A few weeks ago, suspected kidnappers invaded Pegi, a settlement in Kuje Area Council, taking into captivity at least nine victims.
A resident of the community was quoted as saying: “We are living in serious fear and it is only God that can rescue us. After the kidnapping, another man was robbed at gunpoint within the neighbourhood. I am always on the lookout; we have had pockets of security challenges like handbag snatching, armed robbery or burglary but the abduction was the height of it”.
A few days ago, an online newspaper, Premium Times, had reported that: “A newly-commissioned Nigerian Army officer had been found dead in Abuja. “The body of a second lieutenant was found beside Mabushi Bridge inwards Utako at about 8.40 a.m. on Tuesday morning…”
It further noted thus: “The tragedy has compounded the acute insecurity across Abuja, as violent criminals around the capital city continue to be emboldened by inadequate security measures and intelligence gathering.
“Once amongst Africa’s safest cities, Abuja has recently become a haven for both petty and dreaded criminals who feast on hapless and often unwary citizens with little or no hindrance from law enforcement authorities.
“Motorists are being regularly robbed at gunpoint at traffic lights, bags are violently snatched from women using the sidewalks and a vehicle parked unattended could be broken into for its valuable contents or stolen outright within minutes.
“Kidnappers have also infiltrated the city, wantonly abducting residents for ransom.
Late last month, nine persons, including civil defence officers, were abducted in a deadly attack in the federal capital.
“Despite criminal activities in the capital being worse than in other less-protected parts of the country, the police often ward off residents’ complaints about the crisis by claiming that the city is now more secure than it has ever been”.
Security experts speak
While expressing worry over the development, a former CP in charge of FCT, Mr. Lawrence Alobi, and a former State Director of the DSS, Mr. Mike Ejiofor, called for adequate funding of security agencies.
In a telephone chat with our correspondent, Ejiofor said: “I’m worried, very worried about the security situation, not only in the FCT, but all over the country. I’m worried about the kidnappings and other violent crimes. It gives me cause for worry.
“The only way to get it right is to adequately fund our security agencies. I think it’s time the Federal Government declared a state of emergency in our security.”
On his part, Alobi noted thus: “Every Nigerian should be concerned about the security situation in Nigeria. Insecurity in Nigeria, is a national challenge…every good-spirited Nigerian, who is patriotic, should be concerned about security in the country”…
In the face of these obvious security challenges, the Inspector General of Police (IGP), Mr. Mohammed Adamu, and the FCT Police Command, have continued to assure that the city was not under any forge of siege by criminal elements.
Sometime last month, the IGP had, in a statement by the Force Public Relations Officer, DCP Frank Mba, said that stated unequivocally that the Federal Capital Territory is safe, secure and not under any form of siege.
“This assertion comes against the backdrop of recent speculations in some sections of the media, particularly the Social Media, of an upsurge in crime rate within and around the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Abuja.
“While observing that, like other climes across the world, the country has its security challenges, the IGP, however, notes that a comprehensive analysis of crime statistics on major cities across the world would reveal that Abuja has one of the lowest crime rates and remains indisputably one of the safest capital cities in the world.
“The IGP further observes that the Federal Capital Territory Police Command has a robust anti-crime architecture which is continually rejigged to effectively tackle prevailing and emerging crimes. He however enjoins all law-abiding citizens and visitors alike to go about their lawful endeavours without any fear or apprehension.”
In a similar vein, the FCT Command, while announcing the rescue of the said lecturer, had denied that there was upsurge in crime rate in the city. “It is pertinent to inform the public that the police have successfully rescued the Baze University lecturer, who was kidnapped on September 8, 2019.
“The command wants to also inform the public that it has commenced discreet investigation into an unfortunate kidnap case that took place at Asokoro on September 14, 2019. The police are currently making concerted efforts to rescue the victim.
“Contrary to speculations on the social media about an upsurge in this crime, the command wishes to correct the notion and inform the public that the aforementioned were the only cases reported and efforts are ongoing to arrest the suspects behind the crime,” it had said in a statement.
A few days ago, the FCT Command had presented 49 suspected armed robbers, kidnappers, car thieves among others. The Commissioner of Police (CP) in charge of the FCT, Mr. Bala Ciroma, had said that the arrest of the suspects were part of achievements made in its crime fighting efforts.
“The suspects have given useful information about some of their criminal activities in the axis. One single barrel dame gun and one cutlass were recovered from the syndicate as exhibits.
“In another development, Police detectives following a complaint have arrested one Opoma Terry, 24, who specialize in sending threat messages to his unsuspecting victims through electronic mail.
“The suspect who operates from Lagos State sends messages to his victims threatening to assassinate or kidnap them if some specified amount of money is not paid to designated back account.”
He had further disclosed: “We are making progress. The joint operations were able to make significant arrest. These suspects we are parading today are under investigation and as soon as we conclude our investigation we will let you know the result of our findings.
“The operation is not a one off thing. We are continuing the operation until we are able to get rid of all hoodlums within the FCT and most especially, kidnappers that operates in difficult terrain.”
However, observers believe that in view of the central position of Abuja as the nation’s political capital which houses all the diplomatic missions, security of lives, property and investments should be top priority of the government. Anything to the contrary will portray the nation in very bad light.