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INTERVIEW: Abuja is safe… we’re taking pre-emptive steps against bandits, says FCT CP

INTERVIEW: Abuja is safe… we’re taking pre-emptive steps against bandits, says FCT CP
September 15
10:37 2020

There has been an uptick in cases of banditry and kidnapping in communities within the federal capital territory (FCT). A recent incident is the attack on Tunga Maje, a suburb of the FCT, where about 20 people, including an 11-year-old boy was kidnapped. There was also an incident in Life Camp area of Abuja. The rising security challenges in the nation’s capital have got everyone talking. TheCable’s Fredrick Nwabufo had a chat with Bala Ciroma, FCT commissioner of police, who said emphatically the territory is safe.

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TheCable: Why the sudden spike in cases of banditry across the borders of the FCT and even within the city?

FCT CP: I don’t think we have had banditry in the city centre. We have had challenges in our border communities. Rubochi axis, Kabimonguro in Kuje. Of late, the one we had is that of Tunga Maje. Let me tell you; in all of these instances, the geographical terrain is a very difficult one. But that notwithstanding, we felt that this is a very serious challenge that we should all ensure that we counter. Therefore, what we have done is that we have chosen significant settlements within all these areas that we are talking about and have had a physical deployment of our personnel there in order to ensure that our presence is felt and that we impact meaningfully security-wise in these areas.

Talking about the increase in crime, you may have noticed one or two cases where people come out to complain. Normally, it is a difficult period for us. ”Ember months” are a difficult period for us. But we have taken that into cognizance; we have been able to plan properly. We have enhanced our deployment; our anti-crime activity; our patrol, both covert and overt. These are all intensified. This is the period where people want to increase their struggle trying to make a living in-view of the Christmas celebrations as well as the New Year. You find out that there is an increase in criminality. But we have taken this into cognisance. We have been able to deploy more anti-crime patrol as a measure to deal with crime. This has ensured that the relative stability enjoyed in Abuja is maintained.

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TheCable: About the border areas; you mean the topography of these places, like in Tunga Maje is the cause of the spike in bandit activities?

FCT CP: I won’t say the terrain is responsible for the banditry in these areas. The terrain doesn’t make bandits. The bandits only take advantage of the terrain – where you cannot get to by vehicle. There are certain locations you would have to drop your vehicle when you get there and take motorcycles. But still, you get to certain locations where motorcycles cannot ply, then you have to go on foot to get to an isolated location where these people are. That is why when we are talking about difficult terrain, we are talking about the difficulty in terms of movement in these areas. But there is a holistic approach in terms of ensuring and enhancing security, not only in the FCT, but in neighbouring states by security agencies. If you have noticed, in Nasarawa state, their camp has just been dislodged.

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TheCable: Some personnel of the FRSC were kidnapped and two killed on a road in Nasarawa on Monday…

FCT CP: That is in Nasarawa state. I am more concerned with the FCT. There is a synergy among agencies. That is why you have seen the dislodgement of the camp by the military. What we are doing now is that we are mopping up to ensure that we don’t have the spread into our area. You would agree with me that we do not have much of banditry in the FCT. What we have is that once a while the bandits try to come in from other territories foraying into our territory and then go back.

TheCable: But there was a bandit attack in Life Camp?

Fredrick Nwabufo with CP Ciroma

FCT CP: We considered that and we have ensured that we up security there. It is now hard for criminals to find a terrain that is conducive for them. I know that out of curiosity you have been there. You will find out that it is a forest. If you go through you will burst out at Gwagwa-Karmo axis. Previously, we never had any of such case there; now that we have recorded one incident, we have upped our deployment there. Not only in Life camp axis, but on other side as well, to ensure that they cannot move into other areas.

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TheCable: What about in the border areas from where these bandits enter the FCT?

FCT CP: As I told you, it is about us adjusting here and there. Reading the situation and being able to anticipate right, and being able to deploy appropriately to contain the situation. In Karshi, we have complemented our normal deployment there with police mobile force (PMF) personnel. There is a divisional police station there. Why we did this is simple. We realised that they may be a “spread effect” of people (as I told you) coming in from dislodged areas. Therefore, we read it right. We said what do we do to prevent strikes from happening in Karshi? So we said the best is to improve our presence and capacity in this particular location. When you block one point, they try to create another opening.

Our operations are both overt and covert. On covert, we don’t want you to know of our (the operatives) existence so that we don’t compromise their identity. Overt – we have them because we want you to know that we are there. That is why you see one or two meeting points here and there; just to establish our presence in that particular terrain. There are several anti-crime activities that we have pursued together. Except if you sit and we fix the jigsaw for you; you will not understand why we are doing certain things. Certain times you find out that we intensify raids and you feel as if we are just harassing people. We have got information, that there could be a possibility of cult activities in that location.

What we try to do is that we establish ourselves, even if it means groping in the dark. We deploy physical patrols and meeting points. We also engage in intelligence gathering within the locality. I want to assure you that, not minding the fact that the terrain is a very wide one – we can react to any situation. We may not be verbose as you think, but we have machinery that reacts to any situation, and if need be we fortify them. Fortunately, all agencies are in synergy; the military is with us. We may not patrol together, but they are with us.

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TheCable: About the attack in Tunga Maje, we understand that the kidnappers are demanding ransom. What is the police doing to ensure the rescue of those abducted?

FCT CP: I don’t think I will give you the details of the rescue mission. Definitely, we are responsive. We would not allow things to go like that without acting appropriately. I don’t want to jeopardise the lives of those that are in custody.

TheCable: Can you say emphatically that Abuja is safe?

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FCT CP: Yes, I can emphatically say that Abuja is safe — relatively. We are in Nigeria – we are witnesses to that. We know what is happening in other locations, and you know what is happening in Abuja. We do recognise the importance of Abuja to this country. We do recognise the fact that whatever picture is painted of Abuja is what the international community will deal with – and therefore, we take security in Abuja seriously. There is nobody that matters in terms of security that I will go to his office and say that this is what we require in terms of security that will not give us within their means.

FCT Rapid Response Squad

TheCable: On the cases one chance-operations, what is really happening?

FCT CP: If you have spoken about one chance a year and a half ago, maybe I would have told you, yes, that is true. But for quite some time now, we have beaten one chance down. You know it is an opportunistic offence. People don’t care about which vehicle they enter — without taking security precautions. They enter whatever vehicle. And these guys know that people are desperate and take advantage of that and perpetrate crime. But since we came in, liaising with other security agencies as well as road transport unions, we have been able to apply ourselves properly in locations we have seen that there are a high flow of commuters – like Berger Junction, Area I Roundabout and Wuse Market — to see if we can fish out any suspicious vehicles. Our mere presence there gives people comfort and scares criminals away. The strategy has paid off. We have been able to bring it down to the barest minimum.

This is not saying we have not recorded any incident. But once we get information as to where these guys perpetrate the crime; we try to take pre-emptive measures and get intelligence that we need to make an arrest. This accounts for 50 percent of our success.

TheCable: So, once again commissioner, is FCT safe?

FCT CP: I will tell you again, FCT is safe.

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