Pegi: Abuja community under siege

Abija

*Robbers, herdsmen rob, kill residents on daily basis

Every month of April reawakens sorrow and agony in Pudza family. It was the month their brother, father and breadwinner, Joseph, was brutally murdered along Pegi-Kuje Road, Abuja, in 2016.

Joseph, an indigene of Chibok in Borno State, was among those displaced by the Boko Haram insurgents but killed in Abuja by okada robbers he provided service to on that fateful night. He did not leave to tell his sad story.

However, his elder brother, Habila, told Daily Sun that the police recovered his body in a bush near the road with a severed throat. He explained that two men had paid him handsomely that night to take them to Pegi only to kill him on the road, perhaps as he battled to save his okada, his only means of livelihood.

Unlike Joseph Pudza, only recently on the same Pegi Road, a home lesson teacher residing in Abuja, precisely at 30 Estate in Pegi, Margaret Nyet, was lucky to be alive to recount her ordeal after sustaining deep machete cut on her shoulder from a Fulani herdsman who attacked her while returning from where she went to teach her students.
The attacker did not only chop off her left hand but also robbed her of her valuables. Margaret has left Gwagwalada Specialist Hospital where she received treatment but she now uses artificial limp

The pathetic experiences of the duo were just few examples of the daily ugly realities confronting the residents of Pegi and Buzukure communities in the Kuje Area Council of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT). The two communities are under the siege of armed robbers and marauding herdsmen regularly unleashing terror and sorrow on the defenceless residents without any intervention from security quarters.

Lamentably, the only security presence in the communities is the Navy Barracks and the grossly ill-equipped police station. The security inadequacy has really exposed the residents to daily attacks from robbers on the bad roads and even in their homes that are constantly burgled.

To complicate the insecurity challenge in the two settlements, herdsmen have constantly reined terror, unleashing mayhem on innocent residents along the bush roads and at their farms. The residents confirmed that the roads into the communities have become notorious for robbery and Fulani herdsmen activities, making the roads terribly unsafe.

Accessing the erosion-ravaged entrance roads into the communities comes with uncertainty. The roads paint scary picture of the harrowing and torturous experiences the residents go through on daily basis. The bush roads may be motorable, but are certainly in deplorable states that expose the users to attacks from the robbers and herdsmen using the bushes as cover.

The large expanses of economic trees at both sides of the roads certainly provide serene ambiance to behold, but the trees are hideouts for robbers and herdsmen. It is also breeding grounds for deadly snakes constantly biting the residents.

The journey to Pegi and Buzukure communities may be rough, amenities like power and potable water supply may be luxury, but despite the security and other natural challenges, the communities still constantly bubble with life.

There are good schools, well-equipped hospitals especially inside the Navy Barracks, there are shopping malls and boreholes which are products of individual and communal efforts, but the spate of insecurity has made life and living in the communities brutish. The residents are really living in bondage.

Although tenants dreads living in the communities where many landlords have abandoned their houses over insecurity, however, more and more homes and descent houses have continued to spring up. Notable areas in the communities include the 1000 housing units built to mark Abuja at 30 located at the Buzukure side while the Pegi side, subdivided into zones A and B, is a resettlement area for those displaced from Idu and Karimo areas by the FCT Administration.

Landlords react

A journalist identified as Mr. Osaz, confessed that if he were not a landlord, there would not have been any reason to live in Pegi: “We have been struggling to cope with the several robbery activities, stealing, herdsmen attacks and no government presence. Everywhere looks boring just as the staff of the Abuja Electricity Distribution Company (AEDC) keep worsening our situation here.

“The only security presence here is the ill-equipped police station. Apart from one or two policemen usually on duty, they don’t have patrol van and armoury. Most times when you report case there, they would refer you to the Kuje Police Station.

“It has become routine for most residents to hurry home before 6.00pm. Once you stay beyond that time, your heart will be skipping on how to get Okada from Kuje especially during rainy season. The robbers and herdsmen usually rob the Okada operators, forcing them to either avoid the route entirely or risk the journey by jerking up the service charge by 1000 per cent.

“Apart from the menace of robbers and herdsmen, police usually hide under the cover of ‘stop-and-search’ to harass and extort money from motorists and Okada operators at the junction connecting the two communities instead of the rough roads, the flashpoints for the robbery and herdsmen attack.

“Many stranded at night in Kuje were left with the option of sleeping over there, than risking their lives on the dreaded roads or calling their loved ones to drive out and pick them.

“Herdsmen are really terrorising the residents through robbery and invasion of their farmlands. They have continued to arrive here with their cows in their thousands on daily basis, forcing the residents to live in perpetual fears.

“It is also very difficult to believe that there is no single market here. Many have to still take the same dangerous roads to Kuje to shop. We may even face worst situation should the bridge along the road collapses. We have continued to maintain the bridge through communal efforts but its current state is beyond us.”

The harrowing experiences are not limited to the landlords alone as Okada operators bearing the brunt of robbery incidents seem to be the worst hit. Narrating their ordeals with the robbers and herdsmen, an Okada operator who identified himself as Usman revealed that they have lynched many of them.

He accused police of compromise: “Robbery along the roads is everyday anything after 7.00pm. If we are lucky the robbers didn’t collect our Okada, they will certainly not spare our handsets and other valuables. They will also rob our passengers.
“Previously, we will hand them over to the police when we catch them, but the police will release them after some time. That is why we decided to kill any of them caught even before police will know about it.

“Police are only interested in extorting money from us not solving the robbery problem. We don’t know whether they are Fulani or normal robbers from Pegi or Kuje but the truth is that they are heartless and mean to be robbing us every night.
“Those complaining that we charge too much at night don’t know what we go through in the hands of these robbers. Some of us that can’t take the risk usually stop work before 7.00pm. For those that insist on taking the journey, we charge them as high as N1000 for a journey we usually take N150. But many have realised that it is not worth the risk.”

Usman revealed that more and more cows and herdsmen are arriving the communities:

“We should be concerned because I have seen some of them with guns. They are ready to do anything because they know that the community has no police presence.”
It was the same expression of agony from the monarch and the community vigilance group. The traditional ruler of Buzukure, Chief Musa Kaura, said: “I had repeatedly appealed to the relevant authorities to come to the aid of my community in fixing the road becoming impassable, the constant robbery and the menace of herdsmen on the farming community. There is no security presence here because the only police station here is ill-equipped to handle the escalating security situation.”

“We noticed that they changed their tactics and now operate any time it is raining. We now patrol the road or hide on the road, but it is like they are more proactive than us. With only sticks and machete, the truth is that we lack the necessary weapons to fight them effectively.”

He recounted the closest encounter with the Fulani herdsmen: “It was last year when the cows ate up our beans farms. Some boys wanted to descend on the young herders but they didn’t know that many other Falani boys were hiding inside the bush nearby.

“It was bloody but the good thing was that nobody died. It took the intervention of the Fulani elders and the community elders to restore sanity that day. The problem we have is that these set of young Fulani herders are always on drug and are ready to fight.” (The Sun)

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