ASO CHRONICLE The task of securing Abuja’s busiest motor park
Federal Capital Territory (FCT) residents were jolted by the recurring security threats in the country, having witnessed bomb explosions in different locations in the city since Boko Haram insurgency became a major security threat to lives and property in Nigeria.
Just when the residents were relaxing their security guard and beginning to think that Abuja is now a safe haven, bomb blasts occurred in two satellite towns of Nyanya and Kuje, killing scores and injuring dozens of people. This sad incident has however, put residents on alert again. In recent times, crowded places like motor parks, market places and police stations have been the targets for terrorist.
Utako Motor Park is one of the busiest motor parks in the city. It has been a melting pot of sorts for commuters and transporters. It can be regarded as the hub of transport companies, due to its proximity to several private transport companies plying several routes in the country.
Though the motor park has not witnessed bombings, with the closest explosion occurring few metres from it several years ago, measures put in place to forestall such occurrences have always been a concern to members of the public.
“I recently travelled to Offa, Kwara State and each time I stepped into the park I’m always extra careful,” Dayo Salami, a resident said.
Just like Dayo, many residents visit the park with great caution. “I do not always stay long at the park; the moment passengers alight from my vehicle, I find my way out immediately,” said Musiliu Adegoke, a taxi driver at the park.
A commercial driver that plies south western states, who simply gave his name as Ayo, said he is always watchful of ‘illegal’ movement around the park and always ensure that nobody drops luggage indiscriminately.
With residents extra careful, taxi drivers exercising great caution and commercial drivers always watchful of illegal movement, is the park as dreadful as it seems? The fear expressed by the residents, commuters and transporters might be occasioned by the many entry points, large number of touts and few security operatives in the park.
There are more than 13 roads in which people can access the motor park, said a source in the office of the developer authorized by the Abuja Municipal Area Council (AMAC) to manage the park.
The source said securing all the paths is still a challenge for the authorities, though he added that the park’s management are intensifying security measures.
Road transport unions monitor some of the major entry points at the park. Members of the National Union of Road Transport Workers (NURTW) and National Association of Road Transport Owners (NARTO) respectively manage the first and second gates respectively. At the LUBON gate, another access point to the park, police officers are seen, but some residents said they are not always there.
Some pedestrian entrances have been barricaded with iron bars while about three have been blocked. Some security personnel have been stationed with a metal detector at other entrances. They search bags and frisk commuters as they enter the park. Yet Uche Julius, a resident said security in the park is far from expected though he commended the efforts of the park’s management.
Julius said the park is over populated with scavengers, touts, as well as food and alcohol hawkers. He said many of these people are homeless and without jobs and they sleep in vehicles.
“If we are protecting ourselves from bomb blast, what about from pick pockets, and thieves,” he said.
A source in the developer’s office managing the motor park, which pleaded anonymity, said less than six of the entry points are manned by security personnel. The porous entrances, he said, raise concerns.
However an official of the AMAC/Developer, managing the motor park, Ike Christopher, said surveillance cameras were installed at strategic locations in the park. He said the surveillance cameras, managed by professionals, would forestall any security threat. He added that it has been helping in ensuring the safety of lives and property at the park.
He dispelled information that the cameras seen at the top of several buildings and some entrances at the park are not functional saying, “I can assure you that all the cameras are working. They are all connected to this building where all the activities in the park are monitored.”
According to him, there are over ten cameras mounted at various locations to add up to other security measures already put in place.
“At the LUBON gate, police officers are always stationed to check people coming and leaving the park,” he said, while he also told Aso Chronicle that a police outpost is in the park and soldiers patrol the park daily.
He said some entry points have already been blocked, while the management was working to ensure that all entrances into the park were well monitored.
The chairman of NURTW, Lagos Unit, Moses Alexandra, whose team is responsible for the first gate at the park said they did not have to wait for the government before
they put in place necessary security measures.
He said his men are stationed at the entry point in the park, saying that residents need not be alarmed when at the park as all entrances at the park are secured.
Moses said members of the transport union search all vehicles before allowing them to enter, adding that security measures at the park have not been relaxed since the 2014 bomb blast.
When Aso Chronicle asked him if his men were well trained, he said: “Nobody can be well trained not even the police. If they said they are well trained they only want to deceive people. But we are well prepared for any emergency.”
At the second gate, a NARTO official who would not give his name said the union members take the responsibility seriously because their source of income depends on it.
He added that the union members would stop at nothing to ensure that commuters are protected within and around the motor park.