• Thursday, February 29, 2024
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Hope rising: A review of security situation in Kuje, Abuja

Hope rising: A review of security situation in Kuje, Abuja

Nicholas Ibenu, a security expert, shares some of his experiences and professional security advisory regarding challenges facing the Kuje Area of Abuja, and solutions, as he went on a security excursion in the area.

Kuje is a local government area in the Federal Capital Territory in Nigeria. It has an area of 1,644 km² and a population of 97,367 at the 2006 census. Kuje also has suburbs and hamlets with inhabitants. According to prior reports, these areas have been faced with security threats, including kidnapping for ransom and criminal hideouts, which are now said to have reduced drastically.

We have heard reports of security incidents in the Kuje Local Government Area of Abuja, out of curiosity I set out for a security excursion. Upon my arrival, I visited many communities in the area, where the issue of kidnapping has been reported on several occasions. I visited places like Tukuba, Sabo Kaduru, Kohodahami, Chida, Sabo, Gawu, Geye, Kwaku, Kanzo, Gadiri, Mapi, Gbetu, Kabi, Sabo, Robochi, Dafara, Gaube and Abaji; the boundary between Lokoja and Abuja.

The major challenge here is kidnapping. The area is predominantly occupied by Gbagyi, Gede, Gwari, Hausa, Fulani, and minor ethnic groups like Idoma, Igala, Ebira and others.

I met some of the traditional chiefs, including; Irimiya G-Isana, chairman of the community; Zakari Madaki, Imam of the Central Mosque; Adamu Tanko, Seriki of the community, and the naval chief, NNS Kuje Navy barrack.

Kuje is divided across categories of Site A, B, C and Pegi Village; from where one can access the inner villages.

Kidnapping, which ravaged the area some time ago, is now said to have reduced drastically due to the help of the Navy Special Forces in the community.

During my time there, one of my major challenges was my inability to communicate in the Hausa language, which is the lingua franca in this part of the country. That challenge made them see me as a threat. To access the inner villages, I have to disguise myself as a farmer at times.

The community is developing; the reach of the Nigerian Navy is fast bringing development in the area. At times, by evening, I associate with the villagers to hear their perception, I follow them to farms to see how they live their lives. The community is excited over the presence of the Navy, which responded to their complaint swiftly.

While I commend the Nigerian Navy and the Navy Barracks chief, Pegi-Kuje in particular, for their unrelenting ability to swift into action in times of challenges, I would also make a few suggestions that may improve the security and well-being of the area.

There is a need to provide security lights in the community, because once it is 7:00 pm, everywhere is dark. This could be dangerous, especially for people who are not familiar with the community.

I cannot walk in the community once it is dark except if I am within the barracks. In my investigation, 8:00 pm is considered late in the community.

Also, the government should complete the road from Kuje to Pegi because the residents have experienced many kidnapping incidents on that stretch of road.

The government should consider doing something about the link road, otherwise known as ‘Bush Road’ that leads to Pegi or make it more accessible.

This will help mitigate security threats. My first experience from the ‘Bush Road’ to the community was very terrible.

I thought I was on the wrong route, as we have to drive through for over 10 minutes on a road flanked by cashew trees.

The One Thousand Unit and the ‘Bush Road’ are the major roads in the area. The Nigerian Police Force and vigilante group are also trying as they work in sync with the Navy Special Force.

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As a result of this collaboration, there is a checkpoint during the day, but it is abandoned from 6 -7 pm.

I passed through the checkpoint between 7:30 pm and 8:30 pm and I felt like I was going to be kidnapped because of how dark it seemed and the trees that gave it a dangerous shed.

A similar road also leads from Pegi village to Dafara and Gaube. My first experience going to Dafara from Pegi was, in fact, my most daring one.

I thought I had been kidnapped when we were moving through the bush, no house, no infrastructure, only cashew trees and small hut houses with Fulani inhabitants.

I quickly told the bike man to return me back to the barracks but he kept on driving at speed not knowing he could neither hear nor speak English, I had to forcefully stop the bike and turned him back. From what I gathered, the bike men are usually the major victims of the kidnapping activities, because once they are caught, they coerce them, or they kill them without remorse.

But they do not report suspicious activities, because right from where you hire them, there are informants who could give information about how new the bike is, or about the passengers they are carrying. Recently, three kidnappers were arrested by the Navy in the area. The personnel living outside the barracks are also helping the security situation in the community since you do not know who is who, it is easier for the good guys to discover the bad guys at a glimpse.

Government should look towards extending electricity there, improving the road condition to ensure swift response to intelligence reports and focusing more on clandestine intelligence. My observation here is that, once development, like an improvement on roads, setting up infrastructure, and creating business opportunities that may attract people to the area, among others are in place, the kidnappers will shift inwards.

In less than six to seven years, the rapid development the Navy barracks has brought has also expelled the kidnappers from their hideouts in the inner villages, while the civilians now have access to the Navy medical facilities, transport system, school, and others.

According to Irimiya G-Isana, the community leader, “In 2021 we had an incident of kidnappers around the Bush Road. There are two roads coming into the community; one leads from the Bush Road and the other from One Thousand Unit. The Navy has been very instrumental here, since their presence here, the kidnappers have gone back to the inner villages. Initially, once you are caught by them and you don’t comply with them, they kill you instantly. The Navy also patrols and the vigilante groups too. The kidnappers usually stay on the roads that lead to the villages. We thank God for keeping us alive and we also thank the barracks chief of NNS Kuje for patrolling occasionally, which also has helped to instil fear in them.”

According to Adamu Tanko, Seriki of the community: “The community is thriving now, unlike before when kidnappers expelled everybody here. Security-wise, before the presence of the Navy, this community was a kidnappers’ hideout because of the many mountains here, but the challenge we have is the neighbouring villages in Tukuba where the kidnappers have shifted to. Today, when I got to my farm at Tukuba 2, we sent our dogs forward and there were gunshots immediately. We knew they were the ones that fired. We do not stay in farms too long in that area, but we are very grateful to the Navy Special Forces that have pursued them into the inner villages. We know, when development starts going to those places, they will continue shifting inside till they will not have a hiding place again.”

According to Zakari Madaki, a retired government teacher and also the Imam of the central mosque, who has lived in the community since 1981, “I have lived here since 1981. I was a government teacher at Garki village during Shehu Shagari. I went on to Robochi before I became the Imam of this central mosque in Pegi, Mauhta. In this particular area, the issue of kidnapping has reduced drastically since the presence of the military. In the aspect of community crisis, we have lived in peace with ourselves for many years, in this mosque, any tribe can worship and this has also promoted peace and tranquillity. Just last week over 30 people were kidnapped with their wives and children but the security forces from Lokoja invaded and rescued those people kidnapped. Last year around June, or July, a man Danlamin was kidnapped and a ransom of N11 million was requested from him and he was held for a month, but security forces from Nasarawa invaded and rescued him. In this particular area, the Navy is also trying, when there is any issue, they will respond with their patrol van and our prayers have been helping.”

Zaharaddeen Bala, a social engineer, who is also a resident of the community, gave his brief experience and suggestions:

“The process of any community development is typically focused on enhancing the quality of life for everyone who lives and works within that community. A number of strategies may be used to work towards these goals for a better life, including security, creating incentives for new business and construction of roads in the community. The roads that link this community to Kuje Town are a bit bad; we also appreciate the ongoing road project coming into the community.

“The major challenge facing us here before was kidnapping, since the presence of the Navy, it has reduced drastically and shifted to the inner villages. Due to the good understanding between the Navy and the people, people have been going about their daily activities peacefully. In the past, hundreds of people had been expelled from their own homes due to Kidnappers’ activities. But now, hundreds of civil servants have relocated from Kuje to Pegi, this is as a result of peace and security that has been restored within the community.

“So, my suggestion to the residents is to have environmental awareness and develop an interest in their immediate social situation, and also report any activity by any person or group of persons that can be a threat to the entire community and that will aid the progress of the Navy and their efforts to maintain lasting peace in the community.”

.Ibenu is a security intelligence expert, reporting his security analysis on challenges confronting the Pegi-Kuje community in Abuja, Nigeria.