Motorcycle Thieves, Owners at War in Abuja
After losing limbs and bikes to rampaging criminals, commercial motorcycle owners are fighting back a crime that has become rampant in the FCT.
Motorcycles are in droves in Kubwa, Nyanya, Gwagwa, Dei-Dei, Kwali, Abaji, Bwari and other communities. The surge in commercial motorcycling by youths has led to an attendant rise in motorcycle theft. Unlike, cars, it could be easily carried away without suspicion and easily disposed by thieves.
The ban by the Federal Capital Territory Administration (FCTA) on the operation of the motorcycles within the city centre has limited commercial motorcycle operation to satellite towns, urban slums and villages within the area councils.
Due to the rampant cases of theft which have made several commercial motorcyclists having fractures and others injuries, they have also devised means of survival which include the use of charms, knives and outright killing of suspected motorcycle thief.
“What is going on between the motorcyclists and snatchers is very serious in Kuje. The hoodlums sometimes kill any motorcycle operator that refused to let go of their motorcycle, in retaliation, the Okada people vend their anger on any suspected thief,” Martins John, a Pegi resident said.
“If any Okada person should call you a thief, you are in danger of being lynched,” he said adding that innocent people are also affected by the situation.
Having been attacked once by the hoodlums, Ghali Usman, a commercial motorcycle operator in Gwagwalada, said he would have loved to carry charms as a means to protecting himself from knife and gun but for his religious injunction.
He said several motorcyclists now have knives hidden in their clothes or under the motorcycle seats in preparation for the hoodlums.
Usman however said there are several things that come with carrying knives around as the motorcyclist would have to be fortified by charms so that “knife will not penetrate his body” if used on him.
“If you are carrying knife then you have to be sure that you have charms so that the knife will not penetrate your body because such attacks usually ends in a fight in which the hoodlums are more prepared,” Usman said.
On how he protects himself from the hoodlums, he said, “I rely on my experience and instincts in this business. There are some places I do not go at night and people I don’t carry.”
However, Kamal Salisu, another motorcycle operator in Gwagwalada said not all the thieves use force or violence to perpetrate their heinous act.
“The man used sense,” narrating an attempt to snatch his motorcycle. “I took him to Student Villa in Phase III where he met a man who pretended to be his boss. The boss now asked the passenger why he did not come with his wife, insisting that he must go and bring his wife. He now told me to give him my motorcycle while I stay with his boss.” Salisu said with his request, he was suspicions, forced the man down from his motorcycle and left hurriedly.
Solomon Daniel was not as lucky as he lost one motorcycle to the thieves. He described his experience from the hoodlums as sad and pathetic adding that he had thought he was smarter than his friends whenever they share their experiences until he met his waterloo.
“I picked a passenger from Karu Bridge who claimed to be a driver going to NNPC petrol station. He told me that police impounded his car and he wanted to see his boss so that he could collect the vehicle from the police,” Solomon Daniel who operates in Nyanya stated while narrating his ordeal in the hands of the thieves.
“When we got there, two people came out while I was trying to give him change. They pointed a gun at me that I should give them the motorcycle or they would kill me. I was left with no option than to hand over the motorcycle keys to them,” he said.
Marshay Dabo, however, said Daniel was lucky to have been robbed once as he had been a victim thrice. On one of such occasions, he picked a passenger from Nyanya Bus Stop to Mararaba. On taking the passenger to his destination, some guys attacked him with machete and snatched his motorcycle.
Dabo also said the thieves apply different strategies for different situations. Due to his first experience, he said, he was more careful and watchful of the people he carries until the second incident.
This time, and the thief used drugs on him. He slept off and was dumped by the roadside, where he was also robbed.
Preference for new motorcycles with receipts
Some of the victims said the thieves have flair for new motorcycles. Gimba Saidu said his motorcycle was stolen from his house in Dagiri village, Gwagwalada Area Council at gun point two weeks after it was bought. Saidu explained that the rise in motorcycle snatching within Gwagwalada metropolis has continued unabated.
Kamal Salisu said before he got a place where he lives, there are cases whereby armed thieves would invade where they sleep, usually an uncompleted building or shanty, requesting for their keys.
“They will go and select the better Okada,” he said. He continued, “After the selection, they will now request for receipts of the motorcycle. If you decline they will search your pockets and everywhere in the room for the receipts, money and other things,” he said.
Isah Mohammed, another motorcycle operator, said some thieves do come with trucks where they load the motorcycles. “These not are ordinary thieves. They attack with guns and force everyone to a corner after collecting the keys. They will choose the best motorcycles and go with it,” he said adding that in such cases having a rickety motorcycle could be a blessing.
Also in Kuje Area Council, Yakubu Saleh, 27, said his motorcycle was snatched at gun point at Kuchiako village.
He said the incident happened at about 8p.m. while conveying two passengers from Tipper Garage. They attacked him at a sharp bend few metres to the community.
Yakubu said the motorcycle was stolen a week after he bought it with the proceeds of his farm harvest.
Some motorcyclists in Karu said several people were attacked in the last few months, with their motorcycles and other valuables taken away.
One of the motorcyclists, Hamza Adamu, said that the attacks had become a “daily affair,” adding that in some instances, the attackers drugged their victims before carrying out the heinous act.
Salisu Mohammed was attacked twice. He said that his motorcycle and valuables were taken by the thieves after they sprinkled some powdery substance into his eyes.
“In fact, I was unconscious and left on the ground before some good Samaritans took me to my house in Mararaba with the help
of my membership identification card,’’ he said.
Also another motorcyclist, Ezekiel Daniel, said that operating motorcycle around Karu had become scary as “one does not know when the unexpected will happened.”
Narrating his ordeal, he said he was once attacked at about 7 p.m. but was lucky to have escaped with the help of some pedestrians.
Daylight not a barrier to the thieves
The activities of the motorcycles thieves are not restricted to the night, they also steal in daytime. David Alkali, a commercial motorcyclist in Nyanya had parked his motorcycle while he entered a restaurant by the roadside. He had barely settled down to eat when he noticed his motorcycle had been removed from it was parked.
He said motorcycle theft was rampant in the suburb while some of his colleagues had been killed. “At times they use weapon to intimidate us while some thieves hit their victim with iron while riding before he regains consciousness they must have gone with the Okada,” he said.
Another 28-year-old commercial motorcyclist in Abaji, Abudrasheed Abubakar, also lost his motorcycle to some suspected thieves in Naharati village, Abaji Area Council during the day.
He said he had picked two passengers from Abaji Roundabout to Naharati when he was sent by another resident who pretended to be a passenger to buy sachet water from a nearby shop. “I left my motorcycle and before I returned, they had stolen my motorcycle,” he said.
With these incidences, Isah Mohammed, who has been doing the work for more than ten years, said there is no amount of money that would make him take passengers to some locations in Gwagwalada.
“No matter how much you pay me there are some places I cannot take you during the daytime or at night. Places like Kuje Road, Chikuku, Paikon Kore road, Difa, after university hospital, behind radio house and some locations in Kutunku,” he said.
Why we carry out jungle justice
“I laboured to get the Okada and someone steal it, so it was a painful experience. I find it very difficult because the Okada is my only source of income as such I went through hard times which I had to travel back to the village to get over it.
“So, whenever we apprehend the perpetrators, we beat them out of anger because the police are not doing enough when we report cases. Rather, they will be bringing some allegations against us. That is why we do take the laws in our hands because many Okada riders have been killed like animals by those thieves,” David Alkali said.
Solomon Daniel said he was devastated when his motorcycle was stolen. “Whenever will arrest those thieves and hand them over to the police they will not punish them further so when we apprehend them, we take the law into our hands. We will beat them first before handing them over to the police,” he said.
We have successful arrest – Police
The spokesman of the FCT Police Command, DSP Anjuguri Manzah told one of our reporters that the command has made successful arrests of motorcycle thieves and prosecutions of those arrested were ongoing. He added that with the command’s proactive measures, which he said included deployments of several patrol teams and stopand-search operations, there have been minimal reports of such criminality.
He, however, said the command was not resting on its achievement but is also engaging motorcycle riders on how to safeguard themselves.
On alleged jungle justices being meted on apprehended suspects, Manzah said the command urge members of the public not to take laws into their own hands but to report any unlawful acts to the nearest police station with the assurance that the command will as usual continue to take actions to protect lives and properties in all the areas of the FCT.
But, as it is, the stealing of motorcycles by any means, may not be reduced or over soon.
A commercial motorcyclist picks a passenger in Mpape, Abuja Abdul Musa
Motorcycle operators wait for passengers in Mpape, an Abuja suburb
Most commercial motorcyclist are careful of the passengers they pick and the locations they ply.