Residents of the Federal Capital Territory, who had fallen victim to criminal gangs operating within the city especially ‘one chance’ robbers, have disclosed how the police compounded their miseries by demanding money from them before investigating such complaints and help recover their stolen items and also arrest the perpetrators.
A handful residents, who spoke with SaharaReporters,described their efforts to get help from the police after being attacked as heart-breaking and hopeless.
Idowu, a National Youth Service Corp member, who fell victim to ‘one chance’ robbers recently, told SaharaReportersthat she least expected that such incident could happen to her in a place like Abuja, Nigeria’s capital. Narrating her ordeal, she said, “It happened to me on a Monday morning when I was going for Community Development Service.
“I boarded a cab at Lugbe under bridge before Shoprite and a lady was seated at the front while two men were at the back seat. I joined the lady in front.
“After a while, because of the size of the lady, the driver complained that it wasn’t comfortable for him.
“The lady gave me her bag to hold while she tried to adjust the seat. But after she claimed she couldn’t find the adjuster, she told me to give her my bag to hold so that I could do it from my end of the seat. Before I knew what was happening, she stole my phone and money in the process.”
Idowu said that when she tried to raise the alarm about her missing items, the driver and the two other men, who had pretended not to be aware of the plot all along, became violent and shoved her out of the vehicle.
She added, “I went to Area 8 Police Station to report the incident but they asked me to pay N20, 000 before they could look into the case.
“I told them I was just robbed of N15, 000 and a new phone in a city I am unfamiliar with but they insisted that the only way they could help me was if I could produce N20, 000 so that they could track the phone. I couldn't afford that amount, so I went home disappointed.”
Close shave with death
For Ayuba Raji, a media practitioner, who was returning home after a tiring day at work, his encounter with a criminal gang in the city is one that would take a long time to be erased from his memory. According to him, the sad incident had left him emotionally scarred for life.
He said, “It was a very traumatising experience for me. I had just closed from work around 8:00pm and left Mississippi area in Maitama to take a cab around Nicon Junction.
“There, I met a friend named Samuel and we both boarded a cab going to Area One.
“When we got to the National Stadium area, the taxi diverted to another lane. I became apprehensive at that point and asked the driver why he had diverted.
“One of the passengers suddenly pulled out a gun and asked Samuel and I to cooperate or else we would be shot dead.”
Speaking further, Raji said his attackers parked their vehicle under a bridge near the Abuja National Stadium, forcing him and his friend to lie on the ground while they robbed them.
He added, “When I went to the police station, they wanted to collect money but when they found out that I was a journalist, they became afraid and begged me not to report them.
“At the Customary Court in Zone 2, I was charged N6, 000 for affidavit to list all the items I lost to the hoodlums.”
Robbery in front of a police check point
Oyedele Omokagbo, a photo journalist, told SaharaReporters that he was robbed and physically assaulted by a criminal gang in front of a police check point.
He said, “It happened on a Friday night when I closed from the office and wanted to see a bereaved friend at the National Hospital.
“When I alighted from the car I boarded, I was ambushed and attacked. Even though I ran for safety immediately I came across them, they caught up with me after a short distance and collected everything that I had on me.
“The irony of my experience was that there was a police check point in front of where I was attacked.
“When I approached some of the policemen there, they asked me why I passed through that place because the place wasn’t safe.
“I went to the police headquarters in central area to report and was asked to pay N20, 000 in order for them to look into the case. I was shocked and left the place in anger.”
Vigilante to the rescue
Following the disturbing trend in Nigeria’s capital, most neighbourhoods in Abuja have now come up with their own security arrangement to protect themselves and their property from ruthless criminal gangs.
According to Uzochukwu Moghalu, a resident of Utako community, they have had to rely on local vigilante groups to stay ahead of robbers and kidnappers in the city.
He said, “In Utako area where I live, we have taken it upon ourselves to defend our neighbourhood by employing a vigilante group to protect our environment.
“Last week, there was an incident of burglary in our area and the vigilante group arrested the situation quickly.
“The police have failed us and that is why we have to protect our neighbourhood ourselves.”
Blaming the rising spate of crime in Abuja on poverty, a middle-aged man, who identified himself only as Mantali, said, “There is poverty that is why all these are happening.
“Small businesses are not allowed to thrive. The government cannot stop people from coming to Abuja, they just need to create more jobs.”
Efforts to reach Force Public Relations Officer, Frank Mba, for comments were unsuccessful as his telephone line failed to connect at the time of this report. A text message sent to his mobile number had yet to be responded to as well.