From Fred Itua, Molly Kilete and Charity Nwakaudu, Abuja
The spate of banditry attacks and kidnappings in villages and towns in Abuja sharing boundaries with Niger State have forced most residents to abandon their homes for places they consider safe.
Daily Sun investigation revealed that the most affected towns are Bwari, Kuje and Kubwa where mass exodus of persons have been witnessed recently.
In Bwari, it was learnt that those who have abandoned their homes cited constant underreported attacks by bandits and frequent abductions of family members by kidnappers as reasons.
Residents of Bwari, who spoke to Daily Sun, said kidnapping is now a regular occurrence, lamenting that streets are now deserted at sunset, over fears that people could be abducted for ransom.
Communities mostly affected in Bwari are located around the Nigerian Law School, Veritas University and areas bordered by mountains and forests close to Niger State.
Similarly, in Pegi, a fringe town in Kuje Area Council of Abuja, residents are relocating in droves to the metropolis, as bandits and kidnappers operating in the area have intensified their activities in recent weeks.
The development in Kuje has forced major schools to shut down. Some of the schools that have shut down are SS Simon & Jude Seminary, Kuje Abuja, Louis Ville Girls, Gwagwalada and Hand Made Girls, Kuje.
Residents living around the mountains in Byazhin, Kubwa, also lament the increase in vices, such as kidnapping and rape. They said strange faces who visit the market from those mountains, occasionally, to buy foodstuffs, are becoming frequent.
Those who spoke with Daily Sun said their environment was no longer safe, as they could no longer go out freely, due to fear of being kidnapped and raped, irrespective of gender.
Chioma Okereke, a resident, said that prior to the recent development, it used to be said that kidnappers were after the rich, but lamented that today, it is no longer so, “because the hardship in the country has pushed both the thieves and other crime perpetrators to kidnapping because even when they steal, nobody is willing to buy the stolen items.”
Further investigation revealed that despite the repeated kidnappings by suspected bandits and payment of ransom, the FCT administration, led by the Minister, Muhammad Bello, was yet to summon an emergency meeting with community leaders of the affected areas, on how to address the issue.
In Kuje, about 37 minutes from the Presidential Villa, residents are not leaving anything to chance. In Pegi, which has become the epicenter of major abductions in Abuja, residents, who are majorly from the southern part of the country, are relocating to the metropolis.
A resident said the place was becoming a ghost town. “The adjourning road linking the community and Abuja is in a deplorable state. Bandits who operate in a thick forest along the road, lay ambush everyday,” said a resident did not want to be named.
She said: “I have lived and done business in this area for more than 20 years. I have never experienced the type of fear that we are passing through these days. It is just that it is not easy for one to move with his family to another person’s house. If not, we would have moved.
“The condition is becoming alarming by the day. These days, we witness influx of strange faces coming to the market to buy foodstuffs, especially during the weekend. We are really scared. Something needs to be done very fast.”
Another resident, Susan Useni, said: “This country has turned into something else. Before, when you hear of kidnappers, you would say it doesn’t concern you because it was believed to be for the rich; but, today, things have changed. They are now after everyone. This year, almost all my family fruits are wasting in the farm because everyone is afraid.
“The last group of family members who visited the farmland for harvest ended up paying ransom, depending on what you can afford. Some even paid as small as N10,000. That is to tell you how rampant it has become. Before, you hear religious workers saying they wanted to go up the mountain to pray, but now it is no longer so.”
Aminu Alhasan, said they are now after pregnant women and men.
He said: “Two heavily pregnant women were kidnapped close by here and gang raped. If not for spiritual purpose, how can a normal person settle for another man’s pregnant woman after collecting ransom? Life is no longer safe in this part of the town. On a daily basis, people are kidnapped and money collected quietly.
Despite the fact that Abuja has the nomenclature of a State, the FCT administration has always maintained that the issue of insecurity doesn’t fall within its purview. Instead, it claimed that security agencies, whose headquarters are domiciled in Abuja, should handle the issue.
Meanwhile, there was pandemonium, yesterday, at Karu, a satellite town in Abuja, after commercial motorcycle operators took to the streets to protest the killing of one of their members.
The protesters set up burn fire, attacked vehicles and passers by.
The incident, which was said to have started at about 9am saw many Christians trapped in their churches premises until about 2pm when the situation was brought under control.
Soldiers from the Army Headquarters Garrison were drafted to quell the situation which got out of the control of the police.
Daily Sun gathered that trouble started after the Okada riders found the body of one of their colleagues murdered in cold blood and dumped at a valley around the Celestial church and a Muslim cemetery between Nyanya and Karu road.
On discovering the body, the Okada riders were said to have gathered in their thousands armed with knives, stones, sticks and other dangerous weapons and set burn fire on the major roads, causing heavy gridlock and began to attack innocent persons.
Motorists caught up in the protests were forced to turn back for safety. However, some were not too lucky as they had their wind screens smashed.
On sighting the police personnel, the protesters were said to have attacked them as more of their members from Mararaba, Masaka, Ado, Nyanya, Jikwoyi and other towns in the area joined their colleagues to attack the police operatives.
It was gathered that the protest, which started around the Catholic Church in the area, later spread to Jikwoyi, as the protesters were bent on setting the divisional police command there ablaze.
Daily Sun gathered that when the police could no longer handle the crowd, they alerted the military, who immediately deployed soldiers from the Army Headquarters Garrison, to restore law and order.
When contacted, the Public Relations Officer for the FCT police command confirmed the report and said the protesters were protesting the killing of one of their members by an unknown gunman.
She also said the police were working in conjunction with the military were able to restore normalcy. She, however, did not indicate weather or not the police arrested some of the protesters.