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Old, shady Berger Junction on way to ‘resurrection’?

It was because of this, among other reasons, that former minister of the Federal Capital Territory, Malam Nasir el-Rufai ordered the immediate clearing of the…

It was because of this, among other reasons, that former minister of the Federal Capital Territory, Malam Nasir el-Rufai ordered the immediate clearing of the junction. In compliance with his order, men of the Abuja Environmental Protection Board (AEPB) arrested hawkers and other people who dared display goods at the junction. The Nigerian Police also intensified efforts to rid the place of criminals. These efforts paid off as the area became clear and wholesome.

However, of recent, trading and criminal activities are surfacing in the junction. Every evening, as early as 4pm, traders as well as hawkers display their wares at the junction. They arrange themselves in a row from the entrance of the petrol station to the edge of the bridge. The traders hold the materials up, shouting to draw attention of passersby.  Girls, too, hawk bananas, groundnuts, sachet water, maize and other popular snacks.

“We used to come here after we were chased away from Wuse Market,” says Mohammed Yakubu, a seller of soft drinks. “By 4pm the men of AEPB usually send anybody selling outside the market away or seize wares. At that time we usually leave the place and come since they don’t come to this place.”

“We have to come here to sell,” says Jacob Sule, a seller of pirated CDs at the junction. “They have been chasing us away wherever we go, so we have decided to be coming here every evening to make quick sales before the AEPB people get here.”

But the AEPB seldom come, hence giving them time to make passengers waiting to catch vehicles to their various destinations. The passengers also find the presence of the hawkers as opportunity to do last-minute shopping. “There is no reason why people should not sell here,” said Esther Moses, a corps member. “The people are actually helping people who do not have the time to shop because of tight schedule. Some people even buy water here to quench their thirst.”

“Like at Wuse Market, these people sell cheaper things,” says Saeed Adeshina, as he tries to purchase a shirt from one of the hawkers. “Not everyone can afford to go into the big shops in the city.”

While the presence of the hawkers is seen by some people as a way of doing last-minute shopping and impulse buying, the security situation is a thing of concern to many. Weekly Trust found out that criminal activities have started returning to the junction. Cases of pocket-picking, purse-snatching and general harassment are rising.

“There is never a day here that somebody will not cry out that his or her money or other belongings are being stolen,” says Abubakar Jimoh, a mechanic. “It is so rampant now that everybody is always wary of the person next to him. Men usually hold their pockets tight, while women hold their bags to the chests when entering vehicles here, because that is when pickpockets usually strike.”

“Last week I boarded a taxi and the driver said it was going to Kubwa,” says a pedestrian, Patrick, “but immediately I got in, I found out they were about taking a u-turn. I told them I had changed my mind and I came down from the car.”

Police Public Relations Officer, Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Moshood Jimoh, told Weekly Trust that the police are aware of activities of pickpockets at the junction, on which they have made many arrests and the criminals charged to court. He said: “But people have to be vigilant, because not everybody at the junction is there to board vehicles. People should also report any case of such immediately to the police outpost by the junction.”

“I was rushing to enter a bus to Bwari around 7pm,” says Omolewa Aanuola, a resident of Bwari, “when I discovered that somebody was tugging at my bag. I tried to hold the bag tight. Eventually I secured it, but I later noticed that the handset I put at the side of the bag was missing. One has to be vigilant here. It reminds me of rough Lagos bus stops. It’s getting worse by the day.”