A young lawyer colleague of mine at The Abuja School of Social and Political Thoughts (TAS) called me in despair a few days ago during the night. In a One-Chance robbery, his sister had been taken hostage. I called up two top contacts in the police to pass the concern. One answered. Luckily, the young lady who had been robbed survived the ordeal of being thrown from the criminals’ fast-moving car. She spent days in the intensive care unit, unable to speak from shock following the near-death encounter.
Some persons have died in similar experiences here in Abuja. A typical case was Greatness Olorunfemi who was recently pushed off a One-Chance vehicle and died in the hospital after being refused care by the Maitama General Hospital staff. This prompted Uju Ohanenye, the minister of women affairs, to issue a pre-action letter on her death to the negligent Maitama General Hospital staff.
Not long ago, the federal capital territory was the safest place in Nigeria, which makes sense given that it hosts the Aso Rock, Nigeria’s seat of power. Then, a large number of Nigerians moved to Abuja, particularly from states plagued by terrorism and banditry. But today, Abuja no longer holds that tranquility and innocence as a wide range of criminals now claim the city as their own.
From all indications, Terrorists, and bandits were among the criminal groups that migrated with the population. Several areas in Abuja, including AMAC where Aso Rock is located, have all seen daring kidnappings, armed robberies, and other violent crimes. Months earlier, terrorists had the effrontery to confront the Nigerian military in Bwari Area Council, Abuja.
Fortunately, Nyesom Wike, the newly appointed minister of the Federal Capital Territory, made combating insecurity one of his top priorities as soon as he took office. Using the right strategies to address the One-Chance threat in the federal capital territory is one area he needs to focus on. A sort of heist known as “one-chance” involves luring unwary passengers into commercial vehicles with thieves inside. After that, the robbers attack and take anything of value from the victims and push them off the moving vehicle.
Although One-Chance has been operating for a long time, its current evil operations and growth in Abuja have given rise to new worries that call for new strategies. These are not the same small-time thieves that they formerly were. Now, bandits and terrorists appear to be running the One-Chance kidnapping and robbery business. They do not only rob their victims of their money and belongings; even worse, they shove them from their fast-moving vehicles.
When a person is forced from a moving vehicle to die or suffer injuries, it transcends beyond simple theft. It’s comparable to a hate crime – a crime motivated by prejudice that happens when a perpetrator picks on a victim because they are thought to belong to a certain social group or class.
A hate crime could be a conventional crime with a bias component, such as murder, arson, or vandalism. What the One-Chance robbers are doing is not your typical thieves stealing cash and jewelry; if they were, they would just slow down and encourage their victims to jump out and run for their lives.
This is how many of their victims have passed away. And their victims who made it through are physically and mentally damaged. Even though the survivors were fortunate to survive, their near-death experiences often caused them to develop posttraumatic stress disorders (PTSD) in addition to physical impairments. By the way, experiencing or witnessing a traumatic event can set off a mental health condition known as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Intense anxiety, nightmares, flashbacks, and uncontrollable thoughts about the incident are the usual symptoms.
One is certain that with the appropriate transportation regulations FCT and the states should be able to contain One-Chance threats as well as other types of crime and criminalities. The urban transit system in Abuja is disorganised. In addition to near nonexistent urban transit infrastructure and busing schemes, there is no organised taxi system.
Simply observe from any main road in Abuja. What should be cabs is the majority of flimsy cars moving around the busy highways. Since many of them transport passengers along predetermined routes, they are commonly referred to as “Along.” The driver would be plying and sticking out his flying left hand as the way he hails the passengers. And this is happening in the so-called Africa’s most renowned and best-organised city – Abuja.
Although innovative Bolt and Uber online call-up cabs seem to have stepped up to the plate, they have also become less organised in recent years. A lot of their cars should be off-road for a start. Many of them don’t have air conditioners; therefore they can’t offer the little comfort they advertise.
What’s more, there is a high-security risk associated with the way these private taxis run. First of all, because they are unbranded, the Traffic Police, FRSC, and Vehicle Inspection Office (VIO) cannot readily distinguish between vehicles intended for commercial use and those that are genuinely private. Criminals who have infiltrated the chaotic commercial transportation system in Abuja can therefore take advantage of the members of the public who are anxious to reach their destinations. Some of these cars have numbers, some foreign, on the back of them that are different from the numbers on the front. Some don’t have vehicle numbers at all.
The first step is to brand Abuja cabs and commercial vehicles. Yes, the minister should think about giving Abuja commercial vehicles an identity. Anybody who wishes to use their cars for commercial purposes must have the law or an executive order compelling them to paint them the approved colours.
It is necessary to apply the same regulation to Bolt, Uber, and other online call-up cabbing services. The fact that this car is an Uber or a Bolt, or whatever, must be marked with a large sticker or colours that are visible and readable from a distance. These distinguishing features will be very helpful in locating and apprehending criminals who have embedded themselves in these commercial vehicle operations to rob, kill, and maim innocent and unfortunate Nigerians.
These distinctive features would help residents of Abuja recognise genuine commercial vehicles, and security personnel will also find it simpler to apprehend criminals who carry out their evil activities. Nigerians who continue to hitch rides in unbranded vehicles would only hold themselves accountable for their misfortunes if something goes wrong after these safeguards are put in place.
Many claim that painting the cars in the Abuja cab’s colours would increase the cost of transportation. Even if this is true in the near run, the financial impact will eventually disappear with time. It is also a cost that has to be borne to ensure the residents of Abuja City’s safety.
Now and then, we come across police advice instructing people in Abuja to avoid and not to get into private automobiles, or “kabukabu” as they are known locally. Many commuters are forced to use the routes and kabukabu because they have no other options to reach their destinations. Thus, it begs the question of why law enforcement is reluctant to install security patrols and traps for criminals in such areas.
To put it mildly, the increasing insecurity in the FCT is shameful. The Federal Capital Territory’s new administration under Nyesom Wike needs to put on its thinking gear. To tackle the issue of urban transportation security, Wike needs to trademark commercial vehicles and taxis in Abuja. The branding should include creating a central database that allows each operator of a commercial vehicle to be identified and tracked with ease. With the aid of technology and branded cabbing systems, One-Chance robberies and other violent crimes will be facing extinction. It will also add to Abuja City’s aesthetics and contribute to Wike’s efforts to recover Abuja’s master image.
· Dr. Law Mefor, an Abuja-based forensic and social psychologist, is a fellow of The Abuja School of Social and Political Thoughts; [email protected]; Twitter: @Drlawsonmefor.