Since birds have learnt to fly without perching, the hunter has also learnt to shoot without aiming. This axiom best describes the options being considered by cab drivers and commuters who are devising new ways of outwitting criminals in the FCT who disguise as normal citizens. EMAMEH GABRIEL reports
In the recent times, Abuja has recorded many forms of criminal activities like car snatching, kidnappings and assassinations and while authorities are battling to end these scourge, the criminals are perfecting new methods of operations to beat security.
Like every other father or breadwinner of a house does daily to put food on the table for the family, Okesola Kehinde, a taxi driver in the FCT had left his house as early as 5am while other members of the family were still asleep. His hope was to bring home the bacon for the family for the next day even as the children in the house rarely see their father or know where the daily bread comes from.
Unfortunately his story turned out sour on this fateful day as his encounter with a gangland dashed out his hopes.
Kehinde was rushing to pick one of his customers when he was accosted by four well-dressed youths, two males and two females, believed to be in their early 30s who requested he took them around the city for shopping as it is usually the practice in the FCT.
From Nicon Hilton to Sunny Vale and then Prince and Prince, from where he was asked to drive them to Mararaba in Karu. While taking them around the city, he became easily accustomed to them because of the cosy conversation. Kehinde’s hope was ignited as he had come to the conclusion that the remittance for that day for the owner of his cab was ready, so he could use the rest of the day to make more money for himself and go back to his family.
Things turned out not to be so for him. Arriving Mararaba, he was asked to divert to a street where one of the girls behind the car pointed a pistol on his head and asked him to surrender all he had with him.
‘’I had with me the N15, 000 I made the previous day which planned to add to what I was going to make today and remit to the owner of this car, that money was taken by them,” Kehinde who was also dispossessed of his mobile phone by the syndicate, told LEADERSHIP Weekend.
“I’ve been driving in Abuja for 10 years, I have never had this kind of experience.”
While Kehinde was still wondering what hit him and what he was going to tell his family, Hauwa Usman, an applicant who had plans of relocating to Abuja had her baptism of fire in the hands of this syndicate but in a different way.
With her little savings, she came for a job interview and decided to visit a relative a day after. At Berger Junction, she boarded a taxi with some young men who pretended to be heading to her destination. Not familiar with the routs in the FCT, moment later she could only realised that she was in the wrong taxi with the wrong people who took her to an isolated destination, brought out knives and threatened to stab her if she fails to surrender her hand bag.
Without hesitation, the frightened lady handed over her belongings to her captors. But that was not all. She was shown a gun to prevent her from screaming or making any move that would create suspicion and was asked to take out her debit card and move to a cash dispenser (ATM machine) where she was forced to withdraw her entire N70, 000 savings.
Having realised nothing was left in the account; they threw her bag back to her, pushed her away and zoomed off. Hauwa has yet to recover from the shock!
The case of Onekpe Maureen could be best imagined as one that could throw anyone in her shoes into confusion. She had also boarded a taxi around Berger where she met two other young men who also pretended to be passengers like her. On their way, one of them alighted and moment later the other did.
While he came down, he pretended to have left something on the back seat of the car but his motive was rather different. He grabbed the unsuspecting Maureen by the hand and forced her mobile off her hand and then scampered.
‘’It was only then I realised that the driver was one of them,” Maureen still in shock recounted. “He waited and watched the thief took my phone from me while I was shouting and dragging it from him and when he succeeded, the first question the driver asked me was: I hope he didn’t take the money in your waterproof?
‘’It was through his question that I realised that they were together. There was money in that waterproof but I told him nothing was in it because I knew he was only trying to find out if I have other valuables on me.
‘‘I had to ask him to stop and to allow me alight.”
Maureen also revealed that a similar case occurred to her and her sister-in-law at about 7pm around the traffic light at Central Mosque on Tuesday October 14 2017. The two ladies were waiting to cross the busy road when some hoodlums emerged from nowhere and attempted to snatch their hand bags.
She said a strange man just opened the car door and started dragging their bag but he failed because she held firmly to the bag and their screams attracted the attention of other passers-by.
She told LEADERSHIP Weekend that she has learnt their lesson advising other ladies to hold their bags firmly if they must carry the bag on their body.
The story of Kehinde, Hauwa, Maureen and her sister-in-law are just a few of the numerous cases attack on commuters and taxi drivers in selected areas within the Abuja metropolis.
The interesting thing is that the syndicates operate using different strategies, which makes it even more difficult for their would-be victims to perceive or suspect them.
‘‘It has become a source of serious concern to us and we have continued to warn people to be cautious of the kind of vehicles they board,’’ said Usein Usman, Admin Manager, High Capacity Terminal, Abuja Transport.
‘‘We have a lot of unpainted vehicles and they are causing serious security threat to the people and transporters in Abuja. That is why most time we arrest them when they stop to pick people outside the park. We continue to receive complaints of unregistered vehicles robbing people after picking them along the road. That is why sometime we impound cars picking passengers along the road.
‘‘Some of them have even come complaining of lost documents but unfortunately we couldn’t help them because they didn’t take taxi from the park. We have a lot of missing documents here brought to us by drivers in our park. People who left them inside their taxi come back here to get them because they know where they must have left them.”
He said that the incidence corporate robbery has become a daily occurrence in the FCT.
Etiem Ufong, a private security expert, told LEADERSHIP Weekend that, though it is always difficult to identify criminals disguising as genuine taxi drivers, people can avoid being victims of corporate robbery.
‘‘Some taxi drivers who indulge in the practice operate as gang. They know themselves and it is a network. They are all over, even in the park you think is safe,” Ufong said.
‘‘It is always good to be on a safer side by avoiding situations that may expose you to these crime syndicates. For women, when you see three or more guys in a car, do not try to board. Most time because people are in a hurry, they don’t look well before boarding a car. That is the best time they take advantage of you.
‘‘For crying out loud, transportation in the FCT is really affordable compare to other cities in the country. Why would people expose themselves to danger and even lose more than what they think they want to save? With N300 to N500, one can take a cab to anywhere within Abuja, except in cases where the person is going far.
‘‘Taxi drivers should also be mindful of the strange people they lift. Some fall prey easily because a passenger dresses flashy and the driver thinks he is a gentle man.”
Ufong said the FCT is ripe enough to have a comprehensive data of transporters operating within the city, “by so doing it would be left for Nigerians to choose between the genuine ones and those they can’t be identified.”
While others have suggested that people should be vigilant because their safety can’t be fully guaranteed by the government, Mr. Inabefor Silas, also a private security expert said both government and private bodies can partner in the provision of surveillance cameras across city centres to minimise the ugly trend.
“This thing is no longer news. To me I think by now people should begin to devise means of transporting themselves within the city, said Mr Israel Onuwa.
“There are registered cabs all over the FCT like Ubar. It is cheaper it is just that people are not aware of the advantage such transport options offer.
“To be on a safer side, I don’t contemplate what takes me around the city today. It’s only a question of contacting the nearest cab and within minutes, the service is brought to you.”
According to several reports, the police in the FCT are aware of these developments and there have one cases too many already reported. Efforts by LEADERSHIP Weekend, through text messages and calls, to speak with the spokesperson of the FCT Police Command was fruitless.
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