Joseph Chikporomaha Anyanwu, a 47-year-old commercial tricycle (Keke NAPEP) operator and father of three little kids left home like every other day to ply his trade. Likely thanking God for seeing him through another day of work, and celebrating his sales for the day, he commences his journey back home to his family. However, little did he know that he was to breathe his last that night, Wednesday, September 23, 2015; he was murdered on his way home at New Kuchigoro, opposite Games Village.
His lifeless body was found all battered, the next day, Thursday, September 24. According to the police, Mr. Anyanwu was a victim of an armed robbery attack. Funny enough, the leadership of his union, the tricycle operators union at Durumi, Abuja, affirmed that many of their members had been murdered in similar manner, around the same axis. “It is becoming a very serious matter; we do not know what the police are doing, but they have to help us because we do not know who will be next. These boys (robbers) just attack our members on their way home, take their money, and in some cases kill them,” one of the officials told Nigerian Pilot.
The attack and murder of Mr. Anyanwu is however not an isolated case, as residents along the Abuja Airport Road complain of the alarming rate of robbery and burglary in the area. From Kuchingoro, to Lugbe, the story appears to be the same. Armed robbery attacks at bus stops late at night have become a major occurrence. Pywoyi bus stop and the pathway to Piwoyi village is one black spot. Residents dread the bus stop as well as the long stretch of road between the bus stop and the village, especially at night, and in the early hours of the morning, as these hoodlums lurks around only to unleash mayhem on unsuspecting and innocent residents.
According to John Maduka, who lives in Piwoyi, “I received the beating of my life the day I fell victim. They took my laptop and phones. I closed late that night and I had no choice than to go home, but if I had known, maybe I would have stayed back in the office. I was beaten mercilessly as if I was a criminal. After ransacking and dispossessing me of my valuables, they disappeared into the bush around the bus stop.”
Another black spot is the pedestrian bridge by the Police Sign Board bus-stop in Lugbe. What makes this particular case even worse is that the Lugbe Divisional Police Station is just a stone’s throw away from this bridge where the hoodlums operate. A recent case was when an Alhaji coming back from Dubai on a business trip was attacked some two months ago, dispossessed of his property, and stabbed to death. Unfortunately, even the protest by residents did little to attract the concern of the police or other relevant authority.
Robbery attacks at home are another trending thing in the settlements along the Airport Road. A cross section of residents who spoke to Nigerian Pilot Saturday all lamented how they lose sleep as a result of incessant armed robbery attacks, which has made them form vigilante groups, since the police does not seem to be ready or willing to act. They complained that the police is never there when distress calls are placed to them. “When we call on the police, they do not respond. Even in cases where we apprehend these criminals and hand them over to the police, they are seen in the area within a couple of weeks,” one resident lamented.
A number of residents cited the case of a popular Indian hemp peddler who is believed to be involved in armed robbery and other vices. “The guy lives in the bush between Peace Village and Tudun Wada (both villages within the FHA, Lugbe). He sells Indian hemp, and poses as a vigilante, along with his boys. Several times, he has been rounded up by residents and handed over to the police, but each time he returns and continues to terrorise the area.
Many of us are afraid. Even now, I am only talking to you because you agreed not to use my name and take photograph of me, otherwise I will not speak, because we suspect, and we have good reasons to do so, that they work hand in hand with the police.
Otherwise, why will the police never respond to our distress calls? And with December just by the corner, only God will help us. That is why you see that everyone has resorted to self help,” one resident, a civil servant said.
In the last three weeks for instance, residents of Zone 7 in Lugbe village have hardly slept with both eyes closed as the hoodlums have continued to raid the area night after night with at least one death recorded. The unfortunate victim, a young man said to be in his early 30s, had refused to open his door when they knocked. According to his neighbour, a single lady who lives in the area, “the robbers then destroyed his door with their gun, shooting into his house, and when they gained entrance, they shot him on his stomach. By the time they left and people came out, he was found in the pool of his own blood, with his intestines spilled out on the floor. He was rushed to the hospital but died eventually. That night was hell and since then I cannot sleep at night,” she recounted.
According to a motorist Yinka Olushoga, he was on his way from Wuse to Lugbe, when around the Dantata Bridge; his car ran out of fuel. He immediately rushed to Garki Area 1 to get fuel, but that upon return, he was dragged attacked by hoodlums, dragged into the bush and was beaten mercilessly, before he was dispossess of his phones, cash and other belongings.
Apart from the highway, the criminal act of some okada riders is also a source of worry. Late in the night, some of them rob their passengers of their phones and money. They stop in dark spots as though there is a fault with their motorcycles, only to rob their passengers. They are usually armed with knives and daggers. The Pyakassa Road, Tudun Wada/Peace Village road are notorious for this. “As a matter of fact, most of the pedestrian bridges along the airport road, are no go areas especially at night because these criminals are always there, readily waiting unsuspecting and helpless victims,” another resident said.
For those living within the Federal Housing Estate in Lugbe and other housing estates, the story is even worse. In addition to robbery at night, they are also faced with burglary, breaking and entry during the daytime when they must have gone to work. Muktar who lives in Sector F, FHA, Lugbe recounted his experience where these hoodlums scaled the fence into his compound, and made away with all the gas cylinders and generator sets they could lay their hands on.
This has become a trend now and no one seems to be safe as the fences around their houses, including the wire fencing, seems to do nothing to help residents any longer. This has made many residents, especially within the various estates along Airport Road to resort to buying guard dogs. Little wonder that veterinary doctors and clinics have been thriving in the area.
Speaking with this newspaper, one veterinary doctor in the area said, “Yes, many people now own dogs in this area because of the cases of theft and robbery. But the fact is that sometimes even the dogs do little to help. Just recently, one of my customers who owns four German shepherds (dogs) called me to tell me that his dogs all died mysteriously within the space of a week. And that the day after the last of the four dogs died, robbers attacked him in his house, threatening to shoot him dead if he refuses to open his door. They robbed him at gunpoint, telling him to get more dogs if he chooses to. It was then he knew they had something to do with the death of his dogs. He had to immediately order for another dog, but this time a full grown one.”
In virtually all the corner shops within the FHA Lugbe, veterinary clinics exist, with still many doctors who do not operate from any of these clinics, but still enjoy huge patronage from their clients whom they visit to render home services.
The popular “One chance” is another regular occurrence along the Lugbe axis. Posing like the regular driver and passengers, these criminals lure unsuspecting passengers into their vehicles only to dispossess their victims of their valuables – cash, phones, laptops, jewelries etc.
Anyone without any valuable is usually dealt with mercilessly and pushed off the moving vehicle. Initially, they used unpainted vehicles, but with the sensitisation of commuters on the risk of boarding unpainted vehicles with no means of identification, they have switched to the use of even painted cars for their nefarious activities. Their activities are not restricted to a particular time, as they operate all through the day- morning, afternoon, as well as at night.
Phone snatching along the airport road is also increasing on a daily basis. These ones board the vehicles and pose as fellow passengers. But on getting to a destination of their choice they alight from the vehicle, snatch the phone from the unsuspecting passenger(s) who must have been fidgeting with their phones, and dash into the bush.
A victim narrating his ordeal said it happened close to the city gate, where policemen are permanently stationed. According to him, the criminals waved their cab like passengers, the unsuspecting driver stopped to pick them, only to discover they are criminals, after they had snatched the phone from the passenger seated in front of the cab. He said he went to the police to report, but he was told it was dark where they entered, that they could not pursue them.
Responding however, to the allegations levelled against the police by residents, ASP Anjuguri Manzah of the Police Public Relations Department, FCT Police Command, Abuja, told Nigerian Pilot Saturday, that the police are doing their best to curb crime not only in the Lugbe axis but also all over the Federal Capital Territory. He revealed that acting on distress call that armed robbers were operating at an estate in Lugbe axis recently, operatives of the Special Anti-Robery Squad, SARS, attached to the command arrested three members of the gang that carried out the robbery operation in the estate, while one of the cars stolen from the estate was traced and recovered in Masaka, Nasarawa State. He said efforts have been intensified to recover the other cars stolen and arrest other members of the gang currently on the run.
“In addition, the Commissioner of Police, FCT has ordered the constant raid of all identified criminal hideouts in the area. The Command has embarked on the tactical deployment of uniform and plain cloth police operatives on static, foot and motorised patrol. Members of the public are advised to take advantage of the 24 hours FCT Police Command distress lines to always alert the Control of any distress situation, which will receive prompt response.
The numbers are: 08032003913, 08061581938, 07057337653 and 08028940883, responding to questions from Nigerian Pilot Saturday, said the police are doing their best to curb crime not only in the Lugbe axis but all over the seat of power,” the police spokesperson said.
But for residents, they cannot wait for respite from these men of the underworld as they live and sleep in fear.