For the residents of Abuja city centre, life has never been the same since the Federal Capital Territory Administration (FCTA) clamped an indefinite suspension on the operations of the tricycle taxis, popularly called Keke.
It has not been tales of woes for residents but expression of displeasure on how the decision has inflicted pains on them. They only have the option of been forced to trek long distances to get to their destinations or wait for hours to take a cab, which comes with an astronomical rate increase and the attack of one chance robbers and bag snatchers.
Though the FCTA said it released buses to be plying these areas where tricycle taxis were operating previously, commuters lamented that they are hardly seen on the road while some said they have never seen any FCTA city bus since the Keke ban.
Some of the commuters who spoke to Daily Sun mourned that they have been living in bondage and perpetual fears since the ban, stressing that they battle to avoid one-chance robbers taking the available taxi or stay too long at the bus stop at the expense of losing their handbags and other personal belongings to snatchers who hide at strategic points where they know people wait for taxi.
One of the victims of one-chance robbers, Mariam Ayo, narrated how she was robbed on Apo Bridge, Area 3, at about 11 am when she boarded a taxi from Area One: “I used to think that one chance robbers operate with nearly filled cab, so when I saw this driver with one passenger sitting in the front, I thought he was genuine. But to my greatest surprise, I was wrong. After I entered, he picked two more passengers at the front.
“When we got to Area 3, the man by my left pointed a gun at me, so, I wanted to scream thinking that the rest of us were passengers. The second man by my right slapped me and they shouted ‘cooperate or…’ that was when I realised that I was in the wrong vehicle.
“They collected my ATM card, brought out their Point of Sale (POS), withdrew some money in my account, collected the cash that was on me and then pushed me out of the moving car. It was not a funny experience I thank God for saving my life.
“If not for the ban of Keke, what will take me to taxi because if it were in keke that it happened, people would have noticed it and rescued me? They said FCT is not designed to accommodate Keke in the city centre, but come and see what motorcyclists are doing around Areas One and 3.
“They need to have a rethink on this ban because the masses are really passing through difficult times. This ban has also increased transportation fair, places that we normally pay N50 is now N100. Most people have resorted to trekking, which is not also safe because of bag snatchers.”
Another victim, Alice Eche, narrating how she was robbed on her way from Airport junction to Utako: “They have changed their mode of operation. If you are avoiding vehicles that are left with one passenger, you are wasting your time.
“I had stopped a vehicle that was having two passengers, then joined, but when we moved a little, he picked another two passengers. The lady among them then turned towards me and said happy weekend I smiled back at her. Then the man beside me placed a knife by my ribs and said, ‘you better cooperate, where is your ATM card?’ I told him that I was not with it he slapped me and pressed the knife harder. He said if I lie again, they will kill me and nothing will happen.
“I begged them that I was not with my ATM card, that the only thing I had with me was N20,000, and it was not even mine. They collected it and started hitting and taunting me that as big as I am I have only N20,000 and that I think I am wise for leaving my ATM at home. This thing took place in the day time but because it was in a taxi, people could not notice what was happening.”
A victim of snatchers, Adamu Mohammed, lamented: “I lost everything I had with me on my way to the office around Gwarinpa junction to pickpockets on Friday last week. It was at about 7:15am and everyone was in haste to go to work, since there was no Keke, the population at the junction was much.
“We were all struggling, when I eventually got one, I didn’t know that someone had taken my wallet. It was when I got to my destination that I discovered that I had no money on me. I started pleading with the taxi driver and there was no insult I didn’t receive from him because he concluded that I was lying. It was a bad day I will never forget, not because of the money but the insult and embarrassment it caused me.”
Calister Okeafor is another victim. She insisted the ban has brought untold hardship and caused harm to the residents. She lost her bag around Jabi garage while waiting for taxi:
“I was standing by the roadside waiting for taxi. All of a sudden, a man dragged my bag from my hand and swiftly crossed to the other side of the road. I started shouting ‘my bag, my bag, thief oooo.’ Nobody gave me attention rather everybody started moving away, that was how I lost my bag.”
Linda Dabara said life has not been easy since the ban of Keke: “I spend more on transportation and still go to work late. They said they have released buses but where are the buses? Nowhere to be found, when you see one before you get another one it will take hours.”
Henry Ogenyi said he has resorted to trekking those areas he used to take Keke previously because he doesn’t want to be a victim: “Since one chance robbers and pickpockets are now the owners of the roads, to be on the safe side, once I get to the junction instead of waiting for a taxi, I trek. Though very stressful, it is better than receiving slaps for the money I work for.”