Over 200 violent attacks have been recorded across all six area councils of the Federal Capital Territory since President Bola Tinubu assumed office on May 29, 2023.
The incidents led to the death of no fewer than 87 residents of the FCT, while 176 were kidnapped within the period.
The figures were sourced from Beacon Consulting, a local firm monitoring security issues in the country, and several media reports on violent attacks, including kidnapping and killings in the FCT.
Since the assumption of office of the Minister of the FCT, Nyesom Wike, on August 16, 2023, there’s been a rise in violent attacks in the nation’s capital.
The FCT is facing alarming surge in insecurity, prompting concerns among residents and the authorities. The capital city, once considered relatively immune to the prevalent security challenges in other parts of the country, is now grappling with an escalating wave of criminal activities, particularly kidnapping.
According to a 2020 report by SB Morgen, Abuja was ranked 11th among locations with frequent abductions, a stark revelation of the evolving security landscape in the region.
Over the last three years, close to 50 kidnap cases have been recorded in Abuja, involving over 200 persons. The severity of the issue becomes more apparent when examining the data from January 2021 to June 2023, revealing approximately 40 recorded cases with 236 victims. Between October and December 2023 alone, there were 13 recorded kidnap incidents, impacting 80 victims.
These incidents are not isolated to specific areas but have occurred in various locations within Abuja, including Gwagwalada Kuje, Lugbe, Pegi, Abaji, Keti, and Kwali. What is particularly concerning is that these incidents seem to occur unchallenged by security agencies, allowing criminal elements to operate with impunity.
The economic toll of the rising insecurity is substantial, with confirmed ransom payments totalling N653.7m between 2021 and 2022. Residents and businesses in the affected areas are bearing the brunt of the security challenges, and the impact on daily life and economic activities is becoming increasingly pronounced.
The most notorious among the incidents over the past seven months includes the abduction of seven persons, including six girls kidnapped on January 5, 2024, in the Bwari Area Council.
Latest amongst the incidents was the abduction of the wife and one of the in-laws of a lawyer, Cyril Adikwu, on Thursday, January 18, at the Nigerian Army Post Housing Scheme in the Kurudu area of Abuja.
The incident, according to a neighbour of the victims, occurred around 10pm in the Phase 2 area of the estate.
Also, on January 7, 2024, armed men abducted 12 from an estate in the Bwari area of Abuja.
On December 12, 2023, a total of 23 residents of the Dei-Dei community in the Bwari area of the FCT were also abducted.
A nursing mother and three children were kidnapped in Abuja on December 12, 2023. An Abuja-based musician and his band members were kidnapped on December 18, 2023, while two persons were kidnapped in the Mpape area of the FCT on July 16, 2023.
Following a rise in the incidents, Nigerians have called on the Federal Government and the security agencies to find a lasting solution to the problem.
The Inspector-General of Police, Olukayode Egbetokun, on Wednesday launched the Special Intervention Squad in the FCT to curb the activities of kidnappers and bandits wreaking havoc, especially in border towns within the territory.
The squad is charged with patrolling and securing the communities in the border areas of the FCT, and intervening to curb and mitigate violent attacks in the nation’s capital.
Following the inauguration of the SIS, its operatives commenced patrol across the FCT and border towns, villages and hamlets.
The Force Public Relations Officer, Olumuyiwa Adejobi, who spoke with one of our correspondents in an exclusive interview, revealed that the deployment of the officers would be all over the FCT, with more attention to crisis-prone areas and exits out of the city.
He added that the creation of the SIS was aimed at addressing the security concerns in the FCT.
“The deployment will be all over, with more attention to crisis-affected areas and exits out of the city. It is a general operation aimed at addressing the security concerns in the FCT,” Adejobi said.
The Commander of the FCT SIS, Bennett Igwe, who led the operatives on Tuesday in Bwari, Kawu, Kubwa and Gwagwalada, among others, and into Niger, Nasarawa, Kaduna, and Kogi states, told our correspondent that the SIS operatives would be stationed in the borders and would be moving in and out of the FCT to apprehend bandits and other insurgents disturbing the peace of the capital city.
He added that the SIS was under the command of the Inspector-General of Police at the Force Headquarters hence its operatives were not limited by borders.
Igwe said, “We are here tonight in Kawu, where about 23 persons were kidnapped. As you’ve seen, we’ve toured the whole of Bwari, and we have shown the criminals that we are ready and we want our people to be at peace.
“As we’re stationed here and patrolling Bwari, our other officers are also currently patrolling other border towns in the FCT; our operatives are patrolling Gwagwalada, Kubwa, Maraba, and other border towns, villages and hamlets. And we’re moving in and out of the border states of Kaduna, Nasarawa, Niger, and Kogi. We will flush the bandits out and return peace and harmony to the FCT.”
The scourge of abduction, which has strangulated social and economic activities in the North-East and the North-West, has spread nationwide as bandits and other criminal elements have moved their operations into major cities across the country, especially the FCT in recent times.
The hoodlums, who hitherto operated on highways and in rural communities, have in recent times escalated their attacks on residents of Abuja, Lagos, Enugu, Kaduna and other urban centres.
Unveiling the SIS at the Force Headquarters in Abuja on Wednesday, Egbetokun said the alarming rise in criminal activities without equivocation demanded immediate and resolute action.
He noted that the approach of the police was comprehensive, adding that beyond immediate intervention, the SIS would also engage in community-oriented policing.
Egbetokun said, “As I stand before you today, I am imbued with a profound sense of duty as we confront the crisis of kidnapping and violent crimes presently afflicting our esteemed nation, particularly in and around the Federal Capital Territory.
“The alarming rise in these criminal activities without equivocation, demands immediate and resolute action from us all. It is thus with a determined spirit that I proudly announce the inauguration of the Special Intervention Squad.
“Conceived as an elite unit of the Nigeria Police Force, the SIS composed of specially trained, well equipped and highly mobile police officers, and possesses the capacity for rapid intervention and effective containment of significant security breaches, such as those currently threatening the suburb of the FCT and creating panic generally.
“This initiative is not just born out of necessity, but out of foresight, diligent planning and commitment to enhancing the already robust security architecture of our nation’s capital.”
Operatives of the SIS visited several villages and hamlets in the Bwari area of Abuja where there had been several attacks by insurgents over the past weeks.
One of our correspondents, who followed the operatives during the show of force, observed that the officers stormed Bwari with several Armoured Personnel Carriers, patrol vehicles and buses, and a helicopter.
The NPF had in late 2023 announced that the deployment of 40,000 operatives of the Special Intervention Squad who were undergoing training, would begin with Katsina and nine other states including the FCT.
The Force Headquarters also revealed that the proposed commanders, who would be in charge of the squad, would be trained in Mexico while noting that the deployment to the 10 carefully selected states was to pilot the activities of the SIS.
Following his assumption of office in June, Egbetokun announced the establishment of the SIS.
He noted that the SIS would be a standby team of specially trained officers to quickly intervene in large insecurity occurrences, adding that it was part of the a priority in his administration’s endeavour to combat the threat of violent crime.
During a recent visit to Owerri, the Imo State capital, the IG stated that the other 27 states would immediately follow the 10 pilot states that were selected based on the recent violent crime assessment conducted in the 36 states and the Federal Capital Territory.
Adejobi noted that the SIS would not operate like the defunct Special Anti-Kidnapping Squad which was notorious for human rights abuses.
The Force spokesperson also revealed that operatives of the SIS which were drawn from the Police Mobile Force would not be involved in escort duties, while noting that the squad’s commanders would operate under the command of commissioners of police in their respective states.
In June, Egbetokun announced plans to withdraw PMF personnel from VIP escort/guard duties.
The IG, who spoke during a meeting with squadron leaders and tactical commanders at the Force Headquarters, said the development was to allow the force to take back its place in the internal security architecture of the country.
Meanwhile, while clarifying the misunderstanding in regards to the IG’s directive concerning the proposed withdrawal of the PMF from specialised escort and services for VIPs, Adejobi noted that the NPF did not intend to strip VIPs (who are legally and statutorily entitled to police escorts) of their security details, noting that doing so would be unsafe and counterproductive.
He said, “Get the message right: We understand that there has been some misunderstanding regarding the directive of IGP Olukayode Egbetokun about withdrawing members of the Police Mobile Force unit from specialised escort and services for VIPs. It’s crucial to provide clarifications to address this.
“First and foremost, let us be clear: at no point did the Force intend to strip VIPs (who are legally and statutorily entitled to Police escorts) of their security details. Doing so would be unsafe and counterproductive. Instead, the objective is to reassign the withdrawn PMF personnel to the recently established Special Intervention Squad.”
Two divisional stations
Meanwhile, the Minister of the Federal Capital Territory, Nyesom Wike, has directed the Commissioner of Police in the FCT to provide two new divisional police stations in the Gwagwalada community.
The minister also disclosed that from next week, police stations across the six area councils would receive new operational vehicles and communication gadgets to enhance the work of security agencies in the territory.
Wike made this known during the second in the series of security town hall meetings at the Gwagwalada Area Council on Friday.
While disclosing that some informants of kidnappers had been arrested, the minister vowed to chase criminals out of Gwagwalad, stating that their time had come.
He said, “Security is one thing the President has said he will give Nigerians, because his job is to make sure that he protects lives and property. If we cannot protect lives and property, then our being in government has no meaning. Criminals should get ready, their time has come.
“You all know that if I say something, I will do it. And as I have come here today, if you know you are one of the informants to these criminals, or you are one of the criminals too, your time has come. I and the security agencies will pursue you until you will not come near Gwagwalada again.”
Speaking earlier, the Chairman, Gwagwalada Area Council, Abubakar Giri, requested the establishment of two police divisions in Dobi and Giri to strengthen the fight against insecurity, while the Agumo of Gwagwalada, Muhammadu Magaji, also requested for the provision of a new patrol van for the police in the area.
Meanwhile, human rights activist and convener of Concerned Nigerians, Deji Adeyanju, has blamed the displacement of individuals, including scavengers, and the destruction of shanties where disadvantaged people earned their livelihood for the current state of insecurity in the FCT.
He also berated the FCT minister over rising insecurity in Abuja.
Adeyanju said the distressing reality of the poor, who had been neglected and marginalised, had made them to resort to criminal acts such as kidnapping in their pursuit of survival.
“Rather than adequately relocating these individuals and providing them with alternative means of sustenance, the minister has callously sent them to the streets, exacerbating the desperation and criminal activities in the city,” he stated.