Sunday, February 25, 2024

Bandits’ attack: Abuja residents lose confidence in FG, mull relocation

We’re working closely with all security agencies – FCT

Uba Group

BY BENEDICT NWACHUKWU, ABUJA

The invasion of the Federal Capital Territory by bandits and terrorists that has led to the kidnapping, maiming and killings in the nation’s capital city, has triggered off plans by residents to relocate to other cities that are considered to be relatively peaceful.
The territory seems to have been under siege but the Federal Government has continued to assure citizens that the city is safe and that there is no cause for alarm.

The Point in its investigations uncovered the menace of the bandits in the territory and its environs, which had cost a reasonable number of the residents their lives, in addition to the extortions running into several millions of naira paid for ransom to secure those abducted.

When The Point accosted Anthony Ogunleye, media aide to the Minister of Federal Capital Territory, Mohammed Bello, he refuted the stories making the rounds, claiming that the FCT Administration was on top of the game.

Ogunleye had also claimed that the FCT was well secured and encouraged the residents who had been engulfed in palpable fear to go about their daily businesses and activities.

“Residents can sleep with their eyes closed. The FCT Administration is working effectively with the security agencies and I can assure you that FCT is safe and secured,” he assured.

“It’s a shame that bandits can strike anywhere, anytime in the country. If they can come into the FCT and abduct people and leave with ease, only for our security agencies to be trailing them, then there is trouble

While the assurances were coming from the office of the FCT minister, serial abductions, maiming and killings were going on in the territory unabated.

Worst hit by the activities of these bandits are Abaji, Kwali, Kuje, Pegi, Bwari, Dutse and Kubwa. The situation got worse with the military onslaught on the terrorist and bandits in Zamfara, which forced their relocation and FCT, no doubt, might have got a huge share.

WE ARE IN DANGER – RESIDENTS

The Federal Government was accused of paying lip service to the hues and cries of the residents until the early hours of November 1 when some lecturers and students of the University of Abuja, located at Giri along Gwagwalada road, were abducted.

No doubt, the FCTA, according to the minister’s aide, is fully committed to ensuring the safety of lives and property of all residents of the FCT.

“The administration is working very closely with all the security agencies through the FCT Security Committee to tackle all forms of crimes and criminality and is providing them with logistics and other forms of support,” Ogunleye said.

What are the effects and how do the residents which include both foreign nationals and citizens of the country perceive the efforts of the Federal Government?

Alhaji Yusuf, an inhabitant from Katsina State, who has lived in Abuja for more than two decades, said, “Now, we have seen that this government is deceiving us, telling us lies and joking with our lives. I have never believed them. Everytime, they give us assurance that we are safe. Nothing will happen, FCT is safe.

“The bandits have exposed the lack of security in the FCT. The abduction of these lecturers and students is a confirmation that these terrorists have taken over the country. I can’t believe that they can do what they are doing in my state and other parts of the North in Abuja also. Wallahi! We are in danger.

“How can the President and all these big men live here with the kind of security they are making us to believe is in place and the bandits come in, abduct people and leave with them, then after two days the army blocked everywhere that they are searching for the criminals?”

Yusuf was not alone in doubting the sincerity of the Federal Government to provide adequate security for lives and property in the FCT.

An enraged Abdullahi, a civil servant, who was caught up in the more than three to five hours heavy traffic orchestrated by the road blockages mounted by the military to pursue the bandits after the abduction, accused the government of playing politics with people’s lives.

He said, “It’s a shame that bandits can strike anywhere, anytime in the country. If they can come into the FCT and abduct people and leave with ease, only for our security agencies to be trailing them, then there is trouble. Nothing is left of Nigeria again. And if Abuja is not safe, where else is safe?

“It’s really terrible and very soon, they will walk into the National Assembly, the Villa and abduct people and go, nothing will happen. Nobody will stop them. It’s that bad.”

While the FCT abductions have remained undercover, the most recent ones that happened at Giri and Kwali have ignited serious confusion among the residents.

Some are blaming the security agencies of not doing what they are supposed to do, others are exonerating them of blames by accusing the government of enjoying the rot and putting the lives of the citizens in danger.

Another respondent who spoke to The Point, Mr. Jude Okafor, lamented that the little peace residents of the FCT had been enjoying had disappeared with the abductions that took place.

He said, “Can you remember that that was how Boko Haram was bombing places in some parts of the North and the government continued to assure us that they were dealing with the terrorists until the Nyanya and Jabi bombings exposed the government? Now, the same Boko Haram have turned to bandits and are striking everywhere anytime they want and yet our government is telling us lies.

“The FCTA recently embarked on mass demolition of illegal structures in the territory as a means of getting rid of the criminal elements in those locations

“When people come on television and say that the terrorists are in Abuja, quickly the government will label them enemies and even accuse them of wanting to destabilise the President Buhari administration. It’s no longer news that whether you call them bandits or terrorists, they are here with us and I want to believe that the government is aware of it.”

BANDITS AS TERRORISTS

Okafor wondered why the Federal Government had refused to declare the bandits terrorists when all their activities were “full blown acts of terrorism.”

“You journalists must stand up for the truth. Calling these people bandits or whatever name is totally wrong. Their activities are full blown acts of terrorism. What is terrorism and what is banditry? They carry AK 47 about as the Boko Haram terrorists. They abduct, maim, kill and demand for ransom, yet government officials defend them at the expense of the harmless innocent citizens living in the FCT.

“I am really afraid. They have tried with the university and succeeded, the next steps now will be public and private schools and even churches and mosques. I’m thinking of where to relocate because Abuja is no longer safe,” he lamented.

Last Friday, the House of Representatives members urged President Buhari to declare the bandits as terrorists. This is one of the several calls by prominent Nigerians to declare them terrorists. Severally, the governors of Katsina State, (President’s home state), Bello Masari; Kaduna State, Nasir El-Rufa’i; Niger State, Abubakar Sani Bello; and Zamfara State, Bello Matawalle, have unequivocally demanded that the bandits be declared terrorists.

The lawmakers who reside and work in the FCT expressed concern that the Federal Government was not giving adequate support to the military to fight the terrorists by starving them of funds to train their personnel.

“That was the main reason why we in the National Assembly – both the House and the Senate – have passed a resolution urging the President to also designate bandits as terrorists so that it can enable the Army to tackle the challenge headlong. We know at the moment that there are technical challenges with using our equipment because of certain conditions.

“At least, we urge the President to please help sign this because right now, the activities of bandits are getting even more sophisticated – more than even what is happening in the North East,” they said.

But rather than act appropriately, residents said the Federal Government seemed to have pitched tent with reknowned Cleric, Sheikh Abubakar Gumi, who warned that the country would disintegrate if the Government dared to declare the bandits terrorists.

Another resident, Mr. Olu Oloyede, said, “We should be more careful in the FCT. The evil days are here with us. Today, it’s the university lecturers and students, tomorrow it might be the civil servants at the federal secretariat and even at our homes and our children’s schools. There’s a big problem. The more terrifying thing is that it’s like these criminal elements have conquered Nigeria.

“A few days ago, I heard the news that Amotekun caught a vehicle conveying some of them from Zamfara to Ondo. Then what is our hope? Where do we run to? FCT is not safe, states are not safe and the Federal Government is not serious with the war against these terrorists they are calling bandits.”

To Mr. Amos Josiah, a public servant, the fact that the bandits have begun to operate in the nation’s capital city without serious challenge from the security agencies is a serious indication that Nigerians are at the mercy of the terrorists.

“Before, it was like tales by moonlight but now, the coast is very clear that this government is sabotaging itself. We see how they jump out to defend the bandits and attack anybody condemning their nefarious acts. They see us as the terrorists but see the bandits as good citizens asking for their legitimate rights.

“My advice is that we must be awake. These evil days will expire one day and I hope the country will not collapse finally before that time because these terrorists are now living with us. The recent abductions have proved that,” he observed.

A pastor who preferred anonymity told The Point, that the Federal Government and its agencies could not claim ignorance of the presence of the bandits in the FCT.

He alleged that the handwriting on the wall indicated that the Federal Government had an aim it was working out with the bandits, which might have informed its decision to defend their evil acts “and even attack the citizens that cry out against such wicked acts.”

“The Scriptures can never lie. God has promised us, His people to put our trust and hope in Him. He will not fail us. His word assured us that hand join in hand, the wicked must not go unpunished. This is where I rest my case. Let this government continue to hobnob with the terrorists in any guise they want, a day of reckoning is at hand. Nobody thought our country would have turned to what it is now. But that is where we have found ourselves, so, also one day, they will be taken out of the way,” he said.

The FCTA recently embarked on mass demolition of illegal structures in the territory as a means of getting rid of the criminal elements in those locations.

A staff of the Authority, who pleaded anonymity, disclosed to The Point that the administration did not just embark on the demolition exercise.

He said the security report that was made available to the administration’s top hierarchy prompted the action.

He also disclosed that though the bandits struck, it did not completely mean that the security apparatuses in the territory were not working.

“There is synergy between the security agencies but it is not everything they do, we run in the press. Remember these criminal elements also gather their own information. So there is hope,” he said.

But Barrister Ezra Enwere differed. He said the situation in the FCT had called for lamentation since from all indications; the government was not ready to treat the bandits as criminals.

“What do you expect? The bandits are at liberty to abduct anybody anywhere so long they maintain the title ‘bandits’. Is it not the Government that gave instructions that they should not be called terrorists? Is it not the same Federal Government that said they were good citizens who were demanding for their legitimate rights even with the criminalities worse than terrorism?

“Abductions, maiming and killings have been taking place in the FCT and its environs. God only used the recent abduction of the lecturers and students of University of Abuja to expose this government and their secret game with these terrorists they are calling bandits. Nobody should believe the government. All their claims that FCT is safe and secured is not true. We must be watchful, that’s all,” he said.

WE’RE COMMITTED TO SECURING LIVES, PROPERTY – POLICE

The FCT Police Command Public Relations Officer, Deputy Superintendent of Police, Josephine Adeh, during a television programme, reiterated the FCTA’s commitment to securing lives and property.

She said the Command, in conjunction with other security agencies, was working for the safety of residents and urged the residents not to hesitate to alert the police on any criminal moves in the territory.

Corroborating the police stand, APC chieftain in the FCT, Engr. Adaji, said there was no cause for alarm. He said the territory was secure but advised the residents to be security conscious.

“FCT is secured. What happened was that the criminals capitalised on the porousness of the university community to operate. You know students create too many roads on campus. The bandits did not come through the conventional road. But the good thing is that the abducted persons have been released.

“We must, however be conscious. Those living in the estates must fortify their environment, profile the private security personnel they employ while every resident must take security watch serious,” he said.

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