Abuja community under kidnappers’ siege

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Aerial-view-of-abuja

The Federal Capital Territory (FCT) is supposed to be the most secured, but kidnappers seem to be having their reign of terror in some of its communities, writes GBENGA OMOKHUNU

Life is getting from bad to worse for residents of Pegi, an agrarian community of less than 15 kilometres from Kuje town, one of the satellite towns in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT). About 8.5 kilometres of the road leading to the community, it is said, has been left to deteriorate over the years. The Pegi-Kuje road is not just motorable, but has become a death trap being exploited by kidnappers, armed robbers, rapists and other criminal elements.

Of recent, there is an uneasy calm, palpable anxiety and uncertainty in Pegi, following the activities of kidnappers and other criminals, who are on the prowl daily, with residents at the mercy of kidnappers, killers and rapists.

Regrettably, armed robbers and marauding herdsmen have been terrorising the hapless residents, unleashing sorrow on them without any intervention from security quarters. The only security presence in the community is the Navy Barracks and a grossly ill-equipped police outpost.

To complicate the security challenges, herdsmen have been a menance to the community, constantly unleashing mayhem on innocent residents on bush paths and the farms. Accessing the erosion-ravaged roads leading to the community has been hellish, with the roads almost impassable.

Although, the large expanse of economic trees on both sides of the roads provides a serene atmosphere, however, they have turned hideouts for robbers and killer herdsmen. Adding to this tragic experience is presence of deadly snakes, which constantly bite residents on the paths, making a trip to Pegi community unpleasant and rough.  Electricity and potable water are luxuries. But in spite of these numerous challenges, the residents still manage to cope with the little life could offer them.

Good schools, well-equipped hospitals, boreholes and shopping malls can only be found inside the Navy Barracks, as the frightening security situation has forced many property owners to abandon their homes to seek accommodation in relatively secure locations. However, more privately owned buildings are  springing up in the community, which is subdivided into two zones (A and B). These areas are mainly occupied by individuals displaced from Idu and Karmo by the FCT authorities, which have since been turned into an industrial zone.

Some residents of Pegi, who spoke with TONTRENDS, expressed apprehension over their living condition. One of them, Mr. Daniel Olufemi said: “We have been struggling to cope with the several robbery activities, stealing, herdsmen attacks and lack of government presence. Everywhere looks boring just as the Abuja Electricity Distribution Company (AEDC) keep worsening our situation here.

The only security presence here is the ill-equipped police station. Apart from one or two policemen usually on duty, they don’t have a single patrol van and armoury. Most times when you report cases there, they would refer you to the Kuje Police Station. It has become a routine for most residents to hurry home before 6.00pm. Once you stay beyond that time, your heart will be skipping on how to get a commercial motorcycle from Kuje, especially during the rainy season. The robbers and herdsmen usually rob the motorcycle operators, forcing them to either avoid the route entirely or risk the journey by jerking up fares by 1000 per cent.

Many commuters who get stranded in Kuje at night often pass the night there. Others, who have relatives with cars call them to take them home. Herdsmen are really terrorising residents through robbery and invasion of their farmlands. They have continued to arrive here with their cows in their thousands on daily basis, forcing the residents to live in perpetual fear.

”It is also very difficult to believe that there is no single market here. Many have to take the same dangerous roads to Kuje to shop. We may even face the worst situation should the bridge on the road collapse. We have continued to maintain the bridge through communal efforts but its present state of disrepair is beyond us.”

Commercial motorcycle operators appear to the worst hit in terms of armed robbery attacks.

Narrating his ordeals with the robbers and herdsmen, a motorcycle operator who identified himself as Ibrahim, said a number of his colleagues had been lynched on the road.

Another resident, Emeka Obi, said: Living in Pegi has been traumatic. I came here in 2007. After the demolition at Karmo, we were relocated here by the FCT administration under el-Rufai. We really don’t know what is going on. When we came here initially, we were promised many things by the government. But now we don’t know what is going on. The access road has not been completed. In fact, it is worse off than when we came.

The same thing goes for electricity; people here are helping themselves through community work so as to make life meaningful. Initially, we had boreholes, but now, none of them is functioning. The Minister came here about two months ago to inspect the place, but we don’t know whether he is going to take us seriously or not. In order to meet up with my schedules, I have to leave home as early as 6 am. And due to the nature of my job, we close at 9pm and at times, I don’t get home until 12 midnight because getting a public transport to this place is always very difficult.

I moved in around March this year. When they demolished Idu Karmo, I had to rent a room in Kubwa. And when the rent became unbearable, I was forced to move here with my family. The problem we are facing here is enormous. There is no road, no light, no schools for our children to attend and no hospitals. If there is any medical emergency in the night, there would be nothing for us to do. So, we are trapped here.

If the government can help us with basic amenities, then this place will be a very good place to live. This place is supposed to be a promised land; but the way things are, we are very frustrated. The electricity that we use here was done through self-help. We had to task ourselves to buy poles and cables with which we used in connecting from the high tension wires. All these are what the government promised to do for us but up till now, we are still expecting.

About two weeks ago, gunmen renewed their activities in the community when they kidnapped nine persons, including a 12-year-old boy. The victims were said to have been kidnapped around 8:00pm by gunmen who were dressed in military camouflage.

Pegi Community Development Association (PECDA) chairman, Taiwo Aderibigbe, who confirmed the development, said one of the kidnapped persons was still in critical condition in hospital.

The sad part of the incident was that the kidnappers demanded N10 million ransom from families of the abductees. The community had recorded kidnap incident twice within a year. Sometime in 2018, four people were kidnapped along the same makeshift path to the community that housed naval quarters. A Naval officer and one civilian were said to have been  seriously injured at the scene. Just like what happened that Monday, the victims were stopped while driving home around the same time in the night.

The abductees were forced by their abductors to trek for more than eight hours through the forest before finally reaching their den, located in neighbouring Nasarawa State.

Unfortunately, barely 78 hours after the incident, a Nigeria Security and Civil Defense (NSCDC) officer was abducted with his wife and one of his children at Dafara community in nearby Kuje. The gunmen were said to have opened fire on the door of the NSCDC officer’s apartment to gain access to his house.

A resident of the community, John Mamsa, said the incident happened around 8:38 pm when the kidnappers invaded the community through the bush. According to him, a member of the vigilante group in the community, identified as Williams, was killed by the kidnappers when some vigilante members confronted them.

Worried by the incessant attacks, some residents recently staged a peaceful protest, calling on FCT authorities and security agencies to live up to their responsibilities.

The protesters, who marched to FCT Administration Secretariat , barricaded the entrance to the complex for several hours and prevented officials from going in and out of the premises.

Bandying placards with inscriptions such as “Kidnappers on rampage in Kuje”, Government should come to our aid” and “Give us security in Pegi community”.

The protesters alleged that the FCTA failed to complete the road project linking Kuje to the community, and distorted the original master plan of the community.

Aderibigbe frowned at the neglect of the community, noting that the area lacked access road, healthcare facilities, security and other infrastructure.

According to him, Pegi community, with a population of about 13, 000 residents, needs a police division, instead of a police outpost to tackle the growing insecurity in the area.

The protest, he said, aimed at drawing the attention of the authorities to the insecurity, negligence and hardship being experienced by residents on daily basis.

His words: “The master plan of Pegi Resettlement site that was originally mapped out in 2005 by the former Minister of the FCT, Malam Nasir El-Rufai, had been altered. This community has suffered hardship as a result of infrastructural deficit and security challenges.”

He said activities of armed robbers and motorcycle-snatchers have become rampant, adding:  ”They always take advantage of the bad road linking the community to attack innocent residents, especially civil servants while (they are) returning from work.”

He continued: “The attackers could not be less than 20, as they fired indiscriminately. Bullets deflated tyres and created deep holes on vehicles.”

The Monday attack, he said, was the second time kidnapping would be recorded in the community in recent time. “More than six persons were kidnapped in 2018 at the same location. We are pleading with relevant authorities to come to our rescue. We, the residents of Pegi community have been neglected and several distortions have been made to the original master plan of our community. We call on the government to also intervene. We are also calling on the Kuje Area Council and the FCT Minister to come and address the rising spate of insecurity in our community.”

FCT Minister of State, Dr Ramatu Tijjani Aliyu, who addressed the protesters, pleaded for calm, asking them to give the administration time to address the security challenges in the area.

Aliyu disclosed that the administration has revoked the contract for the road project and is in the processes of re-awarding it to a more competent construction  firm that would do a better job within a short time.

“I want to assure you that the road leading to Pegi community is already receiving attention. The contractor abandoned that road and as I speak with you, we have already revoked the contract for that road and it is to be assigned to a competent contractor that will construct a very good road for the community,” she said.

She also revealed that the FCTA is not only working towards rescuing the kidnapped victims, but working to arrest the culprits. She then pleaded with residents to assist in giving adequate information on the whereabouts of the kidnapped victims.

The residents also protested at the Kuje Area Council secretariat, calling for attention over incessant kidnapping in their area. The Chairman of Kuje Area Council, Mr Abdullahi Sabo, assured them of improved security and peace in the area.