By Magnus Eze
There was pandemonium at the Mr. Biggs axis of Obafemi Awolowo Way, Jabi District in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) last Thursday, when some hoodlums stormed the Jabi Command of the Vehicle Inspection Office (VIO) of the Directorate of Road Traffic Services (DRTS), to protest the arrest of a taxi cab operator.
The taxi driver, whose name could not be obtained, had been apprehended by a team of VIOs on duty in the area and directed to drive his vehicle into their nearby premises.
Trouble started when the cab driver instead of complying, zoomed off. But one of the officers who had hopped into the cab allegedly dragged the steering with him making the car veer into the Jabi outlet of Mr. Biggs.
It was a miracle that no life was lost. Regardless, it attracted a large crowd including taxi operators, passers-by and in a twinkle of an eye, the cab operators joined by some hoodlums took over the area.
They blocked the road leading to Jabi-Airport, while some others marched into the Jabi Command of the traffic agency threatening fire and brimstone. The mob descended on and vandalised property including vehicles parked at the VIO premises.
While this happened, the Area Commander of Jabi DRTS alerted the Ministerial Joint Taskforce on Security in the FCT, which immediately rushed to the scene to control the situation and ostensibly protect their office.
An eyewitness said the hoodlums saw hell once the security teams stormed the place in about 15 vehicles. The Divisional Police Officers (DPOs) of Utako and Life Camp also reportedly rushed to the scene.
The joint taskforce comprising soldiers, policemen, personnel of the Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC), Nigeria Prison Service, National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA) and Federal Road Safety Commission (FRSC) among others, descended on the hoodlums; arresting some of them in the process, while others scampered for safety.
Some innocent persons were allegedly manhandled and assaulted in the ensuing operation. One of them was Ikechukwu Ibe, a photojournalist with Daily Trust Newspaper, whose pair of trousers was torn and camera smashed.
An Army Captain who led the operation said no journalist had the right to cover the incident, hence he ordered that Ibe be bundled into the Prison van. He was detained at the Life Camp Police Station.
Another person who allegedly recorded the happenings with his smart phone was also arrested after he had been assaulted and his phone destroyed by the security personnel.
Daily Sun gathered that the recalcitrant taxi driver got more than he bargained for as he received serious beating from the soldiers, who eventually handed him over to the police, while his damaged cab was evacuated to the VIO yard in Wuye.
When contacted, Public Relations Officer (PRO) of the Directorate, Kalu Emetu denied that the officer dragged the steering with the cab driver.
He told Daily Sun that the driver was accosted for wrong parking. When asked to provide the vehicle particulars, it was discovered that the vehicle had no papers.
“The officer entered his vehicle and the taxi driver drove off threatening that somebody must die. Everybody thought it was a joke, but surprisingly, he headed straight to Mr. Biggs eatery and rammed into the place. But luckily, nobody died,” Emetu stated.
He added that other drivers there joined forces with some hoodlums and almost lynched the officer before he managed to escape from the scene to the Area Command.
The spokesman also confirmed that the Area Commander informed the Director, DRTS, who in turn had invited the ministerial joint taskforce to protect their Jabi office.
Emetu further disclosed that the officer involved could not make formal report to the headquarters on Friday, having been hospitalised for the assault he received from the hoodlums.
He however, assured that the Directorate and the Police would get formal report on the incident by Monday.