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Too much harassment on Abuja roads -Daily Trust Editorial

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Normal flow of traffic in parts of Abuja city was disrupted for many hours on Wednesday November 8, 2017 when those responsible for maintaining order unprofessionally rattled it. The incident became chaotic around Abuja’s Wuse market when irate taxi drivers set up bonfires and blocked major roads to protest what they called brutalization of one of their members by security operatives attached to the FCT joint taskforce.

Media reports indicate that three drivers were beaten up and taken to the FCT police command headquarters at Garki II, Abuja.The protesters, most of whom were taxi drivers, accused members of the taskforce of always extorting money from the cab drivers. The task force comprises of the police, military, DSS, Immigration and personnel of the Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps, NSCDC.

 According to some people who witnessed the incident, the fracas started when an old man parked his painted taxi close to the traffic light junction on Herbert Macaulay Way to eat in a nearby canteen. Suddenly, a member of the task force in mufti entered the cab and demanded for the car keys. When argument ensued between them, other taxi drivers intervened and pleaded with the officer to come down from the taxi cab and identify himself properly. Soon, four Hilux vans belonging to the taskforce arrived at the scene and started shooting sporadically into the air. The task force men beat up the taxi driver, bundled him into their van and drove away. 

Although FCT police spokesman Anjuguri Manzah declined to comment on the incident, director of the FCT Directorate of Road Transport Services Wadata Aliyu Bodinga, who is also the vice chairman of the FCT joint taskforce, said no taxi driver was shot dead. He said “taxi drivers are volatile people who are difficult to deal with.” He said some of those arrested by the police are touts who do not have any vehicles. Members of the taskforce are often victims of brutality from taxi drivers, Bodinga said.

Granted that taxi drivers are a menace by their common act of lawlessness and misconduct, the situation is further compounded when a taskforce that was constituted to tackle the menace also becomes one in the discharge of its duties.While we do not in any way support criminality, the approach used by the law enforcement agents to check and control lawlessness in Abuja city is alien to global best practices. It is ridiculous for a member of the taskforce to appear in mufti while on duty. Appearing in mufti to perform official duties predisposes an officer to engage in unethical conduct.  Recently, an army captain dressed in camouflage uniform without a name tag assaulted a Daily Trustphotojournalist while the latter was taking photos of an accident scene in Jabi area of Abuja.

Too many check points by VIOs, policemen, FRSC and Special Anti-Robbery Squad [SARS] accompanied by much harassment by the joint taskforce on Abuja streets, especially when workers are rushing to their workplaces in the morning, is neither the best way to boost FCT revenue nor an effective approach to checking wrong parking or tackling crimes. Many workers consequently arrive their offices late just as visitors to Abuja are also subjected to untold economic hardships through extortions. Most often, innocent citizens become victims of such checkpoints leaving miscreants and criminals outside of the highways to perpetrate their activities.

As a modern city, Abuja is no doubt prone to criminal activities. However, appropriate technology should aptly be deployed to combat crimes and source road traffic revenues. Intelligence, not taskforce, is a better strategy for combating criminal activities in Nigeria’s capital city. The synergized strength and time deployed through the taskforce to haunt taxi drivers and sometimes harass law-abiding citizens can be redirected to fight armed robbery, one chance and other crimes that dot Abuja city. Periodic meetings and open-air interactive sessions between the leadership or operatives of the Abuja joint taskforce and taxi drivers’ unions could reduce unruliness and notoriety among taxi drivers.

Daily Trust

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