…We’ll evoke jungle justice, say victims
By Fred Ezeh
Mararaba, on the outskirts of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) Abuja, is a popular satellite town . But that fame is now becoming infamy on account of some untoward happenings that unfold daily.
Right now, the town is attracting unusual attention as a result the rising robbery rate, allegedly involving motorcycle riders, otherwise known as okada, and hoodlums.
While the hoodlums are accusing okada riders of being behind the crime, the latter are pointing fingers at the hoodlums. What is obvious is that passengers and residents of the area are at the mercy of the two.
Erstwhile Minister of the FCT and incumbent Governor of Kaduna State, Mallam Nasir el-Rufai, had banned okada in the capital city in 2006. But subsequent administrations relaxed the order. Now the activities of commercial motorcyclists are raising huge concerns in the FCT.
The population explosion in Mararaba has also made it fertile ground for criminals to operate freely, even as they recently turned their attention on motorcycle operators.
Investigations by Daily Sun revealed that the hoodlums now disguise as passengers to execute the attacks on motorcyclists. Most of the robberies are in the early hours of the morning or late at night, when there is little or no force to resist them.
Old Karu Road, Abacha, Mammy Market and Kabayi, as well as Orange Market and Aku village are some of the major flashpoints where such nefarious activities take place.
While some of the okada riders linked the experiences to the current economic hardship, which, according to them, has led to an increase in the number of unemployed youths, with dire consequences, others simply view it as the effects of laziness and desire for quick and easy money by some elements.
Arguably, a large percentage of the workforce in the FCT resides in the Mararaba axis. This has been responsible for the high traffic gridlock experienced on a daily basis by motorists, as they try to manoeuvre their way to their workplace located within the city centre.
As a result of the gridlocks, most commuters often patronise okada riders to avoid being late for work. This has also encouraged many unemployed youths to join the commercial motorcycle business.
Some victims of the robberies, in interaction with our correspondent, noted some flashpoints that require the attention of security operatives. They equally shared experiences of how they were robbed by the hoodlums who they said usually disguised as passengers to disposes them of their fortune.
Kabayi and Abacha road
Two victims who identified themselves as Surajo Adamu and Hassan Ahmed told our correspondent that criminal activities have been on the increase in the densely populated area, especially in this period of poverty and hunger due to the negative economic situation in Nigeria.
They equally said that the hoodlums have been successful in their acts due to the uniformity of the motorbikes. “Many of the bikes are of the same brand and majority of them are neither registered nor have number plates,” they said.
The okada riders equally appealed to security operatives to provide them with security or they would be forced to find alternative means of self-defence, which may be disastrous.
Surajo, an okada rider in the Kabayi axis, said that he had encountered the gang twice along Kabayi road.
“While I was lucky to escape the first attempt, the last one was on a Tuesday morning, when two young men flagged me down at about 5am and wanted me to take them to a particular area in Kabayi. We agreed on the fare and I took off.
“We were barely half way in a lonely and dark place when they ordered me to stop. I obeyed because I thought that they have reached where they were going. Immediately I pulled off the road, one of them pulled out a pistol and pointed it at my forehead. The second brought out a short knife and they began to attack me until I became unconscious, no help came, and they made away with my bike.
“I made several efforts to recover the bike but all to on avail. I took the case to the police station but it made no difference. Lack of registration number and the uniformity of the motorbikes were the major challenges in the recovery process,” he said.
Orange Market and Aku village
Orange Market and Aku village seem to be the worst spots, according to a commercial motorcyclists, Abdulsalam Nazif.
He told our correspondent that okada riders in these areas have decided to mete jungle justice on whoever they catch in the business of motorbike theft, “But my fear with jungle justice is that an innocent soul could be lost in the process because opportunity is not provided for the accused to utter a word.”
He went ahead to narrate the story of how one accused motorbike thief was caught in Orange Market sometime back and was chased up to Nyanya, where he was caught and set on fire by the mob.
Nazif said that he has never been a victim of motorbike theft, but the stories and experiences of those who have fallen victim have taught him a lesson and also kept him informed on their ways of operation.
He equally lamented that the rate at which okada riders are killed in the area was becoming alarming, and solicited the intervention of the authorities.
Nazif said, “Hardly would a month pass without the mutilated body of an okada, rider apparently murdered by men of the underworld, either sighted in the bush or left lying on the street, while his fortunes are taken away by the hoodlums.
“We have informed our union leaders and they have promised us that they are working closely with the police and other local vigilante groups to apprehend the criminals,” he said.
Meanwhile, some commuters that confirmed the development accused the okada riders of being the major perpetrators of crimes like bag and phone snatching as well as armed robbery.