Apart from the ever-busy filling petrol station along that side of the Muvsa Yar’Adua Express Road, popularly called Airport road, there was nothing to indicate that there is any human settlement in that vicinity. Yet, there lies a sprawling shantytown, slum measuring two square metres and just a minute drive away from the City Gate, older than the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) with a massive population of over one million.
Kuchingoro is a jungle community housing Gbaji indigenes and other Nigerians. Populated by settlers of Igbo, Yoruba, Hausa/Fulani extractions and even the so-called minority tribes, Kuchingoro has been an abode for majorly low income earners fixated with the mentality of living close to the city centre.
It is a settlement without government presence. There is no water, no tarred roads, no decent houses, no reliable healthcare facilities, no quality schools, no planning, no police or any other security agency and no social amenities other than the epileptic electricity.
With two major entrances, before and after the filling station, both roads right from the entrance leave visitors in no doubt of the class of the occupants. Apart from the un-tarred narrow roads, visitors are greeted with high proliferation of unkempt public toilets, functional and abandoned boreholes, charcoal and firewood supply centres, all manners of food vendors and foodstuff dealers and other human activities that contribute in making the community one of the dirtiest settlement nearest to the city centre.
Expectedly, there are churches, schools, chemist shops, police outpost, busy market, business outfits, bubbling drinking joints, short-time red-light guest inn, hideouts for Abuja runs-ladies and proximity to the road and city centre among other attractions, but they are all that Kuchingoro community can boast of, which to some are not enough attractions to entice any discerning mind to settle there.
Even as a shanty, accommodation does not come cheaply. A two-bedroom flat without water supply now goes for as high as N250,000 and they are in high demand.
For some of them that have lived there for one or two decades, Kuchingoro is a money making machine (MMM). A home away from home, the best settlement near Abuja city centre that residents should not be in any hurry to leave especially because of its proximity and closeness to Airport Road.
In spite of all these, the community seems to be gradually degenerating into an alarming security threat to both the FCT and the settlers due to constant robbery attacks. Armed men have robbed, maimed and even killed their victims without any trace. They have vandalised shops, crumbled many businesses and sent many settlers out of the community.
One of the victims was a lady stabbed to death after locking her brother’s drinking joint around 9.00pm and walking just few steps from the shop. The second victim was a pastor and POS operator. He was shot at close range and killed before dispossessing him of the proceeds of that day’s transactions. The two incidents happened in the second week of January.
The settlers and business owners said they are getting use to the constant robbery attacks on them and their businesses after several complaints to the relevant security authorities failed to yield any positive result.
They maintained that even after the appeals, the only security assurance the community could boast of is a police outpost manned by an unarmed policewoman. They added that on the two instances, all that police could do was to embark on raid, arresting any suspect they could see regardless of how innocent they could be.
A drinking joint operator told Daily Sun in confidence that the robbers have made life very uncomfortable, brutish and apprehensive to the settlers. He said they have crumbled many businesses especially drinking joints that horridly closed shops once it was 8.00pm even when it was the peak period of their business.
In retrospect of how the community has evolved from a peaceful fertile business ground to becoming a city under the siege of robbers presently, he explained: “I have lived in this Kuchingoro for more than 20 years after arriving here as an apprentice. It was fun, joy and happiness full of fund memories in those years I spent serving my Oga and the initial period I have started my own business.
“You could still meet any item you forgot at night the next morning. Business was booming with high patronage. We could operate even till 12 mid-night without fear of harassment from anybody. In fact, we really smiled to the bank then.
“But, suddenly, things started falling apart in the last few years with robbers making businesses and lives uncomfortable. It started with minor stealing and thefts then before it gradually degenerated into full blown armed robbery attacks and recently killing of their victims with knives and gun attacks.
“It has become that bad that we have recorded two deaths as a result of the attacks from the robbers within a short period. One happened last year while the other happened January this year. Their operation has become so threatening that many businesses including drinking joints close as early as 7.00pm or at most 8.00pm for fear of attacks from the robbers.
“I thank God that they have not attacked me physically even for once. However, I have lost count of how many times they have vandalised shops here and carted away valuables and goods worth thousands of naira.
“We have tried repeatedly to constitute ourselves into a vigilance group to defend ourselves since all appeals to the security agents to beef up security in this area failed on deaf ears. But we could not because many refused to make financial commitments.
“The security situation in this Kuchingoro is more than porous. No military presence, no personnel of the DSS. The only police post here is grossly understaffed as the police post always has one helpless unarmed policewoman almost all the time.
“She has hardly been of any help to our plight because each time there is reported case of robbery attack, she will rather protest that she is the only one in the office, leaving us helpless and defenceless.
“Robbery attack is one of the highest challenges we are facing here. Yes, the roads linking the community are in terrible state. There is high proliferation of unplanned toilet facilities with attendant health hazard.
“There is no government presence here like provision of portable water and other social amenities. But the combined effects of all these amenities lacking cannot be approximated with the scary robbery attacks which have become very regular in recent times.”
If he has been lucky not to be robbed at gunpoint, another resident whose, sister was stabbed to death in cold blood before his presence last year still lives with the trauma.
Refusing to put his name or that of his sister in print he begged our correspondent to excuse him from remembering the incident he has forgotten. However, a neighbour recalled that they had walked few steps from his shop after locking up around 9.00pm on that fateful day when two men came down from a car parked along the road and inflicted multiple knife stabs on her sister. She was dispossessed of her bag containing the day’s sale and abandoned in her pool of blood:
“It happened around November. They had closed shop and were walking home. As they approached a parked car, two men came down and without prompting started stabbing his sister. He tried to ask them what she did but they horribly entered the vehicle and drove off after collecting the bag she was carrying.
“The brother who called me to help them with my car to rush her to the hospital that night, told me he attempted to attack the men but had to stop when he saw other men he felt might be members of the gang. He rather decided to concentrate on saving the sister’s life already lying helplessly on the ground.
“We rushed her to Federal Staff Clinic where they battled till daybreak to keep her life but she could not eventually make it. She died in the hospital less than 12 hours of her admission. That was how we lost the beautiful lady full of life.”
Like their lady victim, the armed robbers recently cut short the life of another victim, a Deacon with the Redeem Christian Church, Abundant Grace Parish and POS operator, Dare Ayoola. They shot him and carted away thousands of naira of the day’s transactions abandoned almost lifeless.
Some claimed that the father of two was responsible for his death by making the mistake of shouting thief, thief after they had clinically collected their loot, forcing them to return and shoot him. Another account had it that he proved stubborn resisting them from collecting the money before they shot him in anger.
A resident of the area said: “No amount of money can be equal one’s life. We have recorded two incidents of attack on POS operators. While one was killed, the other is still alive to tell his story.
“The story I heard is that the one shot tried to resist them from taking the money before they shot and killed him. The other POS operator simply handed over the money to them on request. I have spent more than 11 years in this community and I can boldly tell you that these cases of robbery and harassment of residents started just few years ago.
“Disappointingly, all that the police could do was to continuously raid this place in the past one week. Instead of them to arrest the bad boys they know very well, they were busy picking the innocent ones and compelling them to pay through their noses to secure their freedoms.”
A close family friend told Daily Sun: “The account I was told on arrival early in the morning after the incident was that they had threatened him with knife and collected the money from him only for him to mistakenly come out to shout thief, thief. They came back to shoot him and equally shot on the air to scare the people around.
“He has already been buried and all we could do now is to mobilise fund to help support his wife open a boutique shop to sustain his young family. He was such an industrious young man. He struggled on his own to build the two-bedroom flat he was living with his family.”