Berger Junction has become a major market for sex workers who dress seductively and wait at strategic positions in the evening to attract the patronage.
Fred Ezeh and Charity Nwakaudu
Berger Bus Stop, Abuja, has undoubtedly assumed one of the busiest locations in the capital city. The location apparently drew its significance and name from the construction giant, Julius Berger, which has its headquarters located within the area.
It was designed with a roundabout and an overhead bridge. The roundabout serves motorists from Wuse to connect Utako and vice versa, while the overhead bridge facilitates easy movement for motorists from Kubwa, Maitama, Katampe to Wuye, Garki and beyond.
It is a place of convergence for motorists and commuters in Abuja because of its strategic position as regards transportation activities in Abuja. Unconventional transportation rule in Abuja compels all commercial vehicles from within or outside FCT to stop at Berger Bus Stop to discharge or pick passengers.
Berger is strategic because commuters could easily access different parts of Abuja due to the availability of commercial vehicles that run round Abuja.
Before Malam Nasir El-Rufai, as the Minister of FCT, the bus stop was unattractive and constituted a security threat to the entire Abuja, particularly Wuse Zone 6, 5, Utako and Jabi, which are its immediate neighbours. But steps were taken to redesign it by the then administration. This restored the beauty of the location and returned sanity.
Thereafter, calm and discipline returned to the place. Confused or new arrivals into Abuja could easily ask questions for location and get help there. Nigerians were willing to show love, care, brotherhood and other kind deeds to strangers and others that needed it.
Food, drinks and other light refreshments could also be easily found with ease, especially by dehydrated commuters that might have arrived from different parts of Nigeria for one reason or the other.
Life and business activities at Berger and its environs peaked at morning and evening hours when commuters and motorists from across Abuja and beyond were making their way to their places of work or returning home after the day’s activities.
Volume of business rises within the period. One could hardly answer a phone call at any part of Berger during the period. Loud noise from commercial vehicle operators, roadside traders, mobile advertiser and other informal business operators made it difficult for phone calls or other decent conversations.
They shout and make different unfriendly sound from one end to other, apparently drawing the attention of their targets. In addition to that, self-proclaimed magicians, herbal doctors and medical doctors take advantage of the convergence to market their products without regulations or the authorities’ checks.
Obviously, officials of the Abuja Environmental Protection Board (AEPB) have either been overwhelmed by the huge environmental abuse or might have compromised, looking elsewhere while the environment suffers constant abuse.
As a result, infrastructural facilities in the location have been damaged by the unfriendly activities of the populace. It is always a huge task for cleaners that struggle to evacuate liquid and solid wastes generated the previous day.
However, until a few years ago, Berger Bus Stop was peaceful and a place of help, especially for lost persons or new arrivals in Abuja. They easily found help to the point of temporary accommodation. But that has since changed. Crime, suspicion and fear have enveloped the once peaceful location.
Trust also left the location years ago and was replaced with fear, suspicion and brutality. Many would be surprised that, despite the presence of a police outpost at Berger, crime rate continues to rise on a daily basis, especially early in the morning and late evening.
Regrettably, it has spread to neighbouring Wuse Zone 6 and parts of Utako and Jabi districts. Precisely, Arab Junction, all through Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala Street in Utako have become havens for crime.
Like Berger Bus Stop, specialists in women harassment, pick-pockets and phone-snatchers, among others, have taken over the locations. There are indications that the criminals work closely with commercial sex workers that perch around the streets.
Joyce Nwafor, who sell groundnuts at Berger Bus Stop, said that crime has risen unimaginably in Berger in recent times. And some unlucky and careless women are the most hit. She, however, confessed that the criminals were known faces who have assumed the toga of lords of the bus stop.
She said: “No day passes without one or two ladies being robbed of their handbags or phones. The presence of the police outpost makes no difference as most of the criminals are well known by everyone at the bus stop but they have not been arrested,” she said, adding that the worst thing that could happen to any victim was to go after the criminals because they operate in group. Members will either distract the victim or direct him or her to another hideout where they could possibly collect other things left with her or even rape her.
She explained that Berger Junction has become a major market for commercial sex workers who dress seductively and wait at strategic positions in the evening to attract the patronage.
She said: “It has not been easy for we the roadside traders. Though we make impressive sales, we are not happy. We are being chased, harassed and extorted by AEPB officials on a daily basis. They seize our goods and insist that we bail them.”
Vivian Adewole who lives in Dutse Alhaji, said she had fallen victim to the criminal group. She said: “It was few minutes to 7pm on a fateful Tuesday. I just closed from work and was at the bus stop to get a vehicle to my destination when my phone rang.
“I was on the call when someone snatched the phone from my hand and walked away. It was like a movie to me that someone could do such thing in the view of a large number of people and no one responded.
“I followed him screaming, ‘give me my phone!’ Some other boys joined me in the shout. But
I never knew they were together until myself and the boys followed him to an isolated place. That was when I discovered that they were part of the group. They asked to cooperate with them or they would kill me. They waylaid me and emptied my bag before releasing me.”
Another victim, Susan James, claimed her experience was worst. She narrated her story:“It was around 7pm after I had closed from the market. As usual, people were struggling to board vehicles going to Mpape. Few minutes after we took off, the man beside me started shouting fro the driver to stop, that he forgot something and wanted to get down.
“The driver quickly pulled over by the roadside and he alighted. I did not know he had unzipped my purse and taken my money. It was when I got to my bus stop in Mpape that it dawned on me what he did before alighting.”