ASO CHRON­I­CLE The task of se­cur­ing Abuja’s busiest mo­tor park

Daily Trust - - ASO CHRONICLE - By Taiwo Adeniyi & Onyekachukwu Obi

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.

PHOTO Onyekachukwu Obi

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