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Mpape: Inside Abuja community under siege by cult, criminal gangs

Mpape, an Abuja suburb in Bwari Area Council in the Federal Capital Territory, FCT, is gradually becoming a hotbed for heinous crimes, ranging from handset…

Mpape, an Abuja suburb in Bwari Area Council in the Federal Capital Territory, FCT, is gradually becoming a hotbed for heinous crimes, ranging from handset snatching along the streets as well as burgling of houses to robbing residents at gunpoint.

There are also cases of deadly cult clashes and attacks that often leave residents scampering for safety and deserting their domains.

Many victims have lost their lives in the process, with others surviving with life threatening injuries.

The hilly town, that once served as the host community for quarry mining activities in Abuja, has proximity to the high brow area of Maitama, as well as many army barracks, among other locations in the capital city.

This, among other reasons, have endeared the area to many, especially the low-class citizens, who need to spend low transport fare to connect with the city centre where they work or do businesses, in comparison to other FCT residents that live in distant locations.

Mpape is also host to a number of Abuja broadcast media houses, which were attracted by the high altitude that the hilly town presents, to boost both transmission signal spread, as well as strong microwave line of sight, in connecting to the multimedia channels platforms.

However, the surge of gang members’ activities in recent years, make it difficult for the residents to either leave or get back to their domain or places of work, respectively, in harmony, as they may fall victim to such cult groups, which at times lead to loss of lives.

central part of the town where market and panteka share boundary 2


Residents who spoke to the Daily Trust Saturday narrated how the gangs used to waylay their target mostly while trekking on their way to places like garage, home, market, or even worship centres.

The troubled areas as mentioned, include: Back of Crush Road, old Berger quarry site, Gwari village, Mashafa Road, Kaduna joint junction, Unguwar Rimi, Usama junction, Ajegunle, Bakassi, GRA, Better Life junction and Gope, among others. In some instances, the attackers reportedly move in groups to raid their target.

A pastor in Mpape community, Rev Danladi Mai-Iko narrated how he witnessed about five phone snatching incidents in the area where he leads a church. He said the place is not far from the First Bank branch in the town.

He said, “There is a food vendor named Hannatu at the front of my church, whose android phone was snatched recently. A gang of such boys confronted her where she does business, and brought out a knife. The next thing they did was to seize her phone, and leave the area comfortably.

“Just about a week ago, they went into two hotels around the same area, and seized phones of every occupant on sight.”

Mai-Iko said there is hardly a day without such experience in the community.

Another resident, Abdullahi Bello narrated how some residents are finding it difficult to attend the early morning Muslim prayer at mosque in some neighbourhoods, due to the fear of being attacked by such gangs.

He said two soldiers in uniform were robbed of their mobile phones about two months ago.

This, according to him, has led to the eviction of people from part of Panteka market, which was described as one of the hiding locations of such boys, in the past.

Bello explained that most of the time, the boys operated between ten to twenty in number, saying they mostly lay ambush around 6 am, or later in the evening beginning from 6 pm.

“They seize hand bags from women as well as every valuable item of passersby. The only way to survive is to give them what they need once confronted, otherwise, one stands to lose his life for demonstrating a little resistance. And no security men can save one from their attack, Bello said.

Fidelis David who is the head of operation of the Civilian Joint Task Force in Mpape community said “The more we fight the menace, the more it keeps happening.”

According to him, most of the boys they arrested and handed over to the police hardly spent two weeks before they would get their way back to the street.

“The issue is with the court, I think, as the police would do their needful by arraigning them before the court after we hand them over to them for further investigation, and subsequent prosecution. But somehow, the boys would be bailed out, and return to their activities afterward.

“We have carried several joint operations with the police and at times with the soldiers, leading to the recoveries of exhibits like weapons, machetes, and charms, but the challenges are the court processes, David lamented.

The vigilante leader said there is no specific period of the gang’ operation, as according to him, they can strike at any time, either in the morning, noon, or night.

“It’s not only street snatching, as they are also involved in breaking into people’s homes, and robbing them of their belongings.

“Such situation had led to a revolt about two weeks ago, as youth were so angry about the situation and that had resulted in a mob action resulting in the killing of two suspects in the process, David disclosed.

The Civilian Joint Task Force leader who simply described the boys’ activities as simply cult, said a break into their hiding some time ago, resulted in recoveries of locally made rifles, cutlasses, and power generators, among others.

Asked about who are majority of these gang members, the local security leader simply said, “To be honest with you, majority of these boys are ‘Panteka boys’ from northern part of the country, and based on our available record, they lead with about 90 per cent, he said.

Alhaji Abbas Bello is the Chairman of the Hausa/Fulani community in the Bwari Area Council, and one of the elders in Mpape community.

He said he along with other leaders had resolved to take the issue to the head of the DSS in the Bwari Area Council in Bwari town, looking for a different approach, after several attempts from part of the police did not yield the desired result, as he explained.

“The DSS leader had assisted us with his personnel, and together with our local vigilante, we raided several gangs’ hideouts, where about 40 of them were arrested, and taken to the police DPO of the Bwari division.

“We were so lucky in that evening as it was raining at the time, so we sneaked into several locations and caught them unaware. The DPO kept them for about two days and thereafter they were conveyed in two buses and handed over to the FCT Police Command headquarters.

“Some of them that were found to be arrested for the first time were handed back to their parents with warning that if they were caught in the future, the parents would also be arrested along with them.

“Those that were found to be notorious were taken to the court and got jailed. Most of the boys are known to the people, with some of them defying arrest, as they would jump into their homes during the security raids and have the backing and shield of their parents.”

Alhaji Bello said he feels better now as according to him, a trusted person was elected as the leader of the Hausa community in the town, vowing to tackle the menace collectively.

In a phone interview, the district head of Mpape, Musa S. Fada who was not at his place during the visit, said the activities of the gang members get worse during rush hours at the sunset.

He also said they take advantage of rainfall to deploy themselves to several places at the same period to terrorise the innocent citizens.

He narrated how they attacked some shops at a location not far away from his palace.

He said the hoodlums attacked Gwari village where they set many shops ablaze as well as looted the facilities in the process.

“It started around 7 pm and continued up to 9 pm on that fateful day,” the chief added.

He commended the efforts of the security and vigilante, asking for the government to empower them with the operational logistics in order to deal with the situation, just as he lamented on the lack of adequate manpower on part of the police.

“We need additional manpower of the police, operational mobility, as well as additional new formations like outposts.

“The police in my community are really short of manpower, and need more outposts. We need additional formations to look over locations like Ajegunle, Mashafa Road, among other areas.

“Let them also be empowered with mobility capable to operate around both nooks and crannies of the terrain”.

Daily Trust Saturday reports that one of the recent victims of phone snatchers in the community was a journalist with the Liberty TV/Radio that operates on the edge of the community.

The victim, Joel Waksi, an On-Air Personality (OAP) with the radio wing of the media, left the station around 9 Pm penultimate Friday and headed to the central part of the town where he resides, only to be attacked along the way by suspected phone snatchers.

The Group General Manager (GGM) of Atar Communication, the owners of Liberty TV/Radio, Balarabe Muhammad said it took four days before the remains of the victim was located at the Kubwa General hospital’s morgue, where the police had taken it to.

He said the victim who had experienced a similar attack about two months back and was treated below the abdomen where he was stabbed, did not survive the recent attack of the gang who stabbed him around neck.

His remains were taken to his home state of Abia last Sunday for burial.

Effort to get the reaction of the FCT police command was not successful. A message sent to the command’s spokesperson, S.P Josephine Adeh, and later a reminder, were not responded

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