Before Tuesday, November 2, 2021, Giri, a community in Gwagwala, site of the University of Abuja, had not been in the bad news like Kuje, Kwali, Pegi and Tunga Maje communities of the Federal Capital Territory, FCT Abuja.
The latter have been faced with serious security challenges. Bandits invade them and take away residents for ramsom at will in spite of their proximity to Abuja,the nation’s federal capital city. Residents of these areas have been living in fear.
Although security agencies have been battling the men of the underworld terrorising these areas, they have refused to give up. Not many had known the community reputed for being the host of staff and some students of the university.
But Giri, on the mentioned date, joined other communities of the FCT to experience banditry when heavily armed men invaded the University of Abuja Staff Quarters about 1am and made away with some of the university lecturers ,staff and their children after over two hours of unchallenged operation.
The victims included a professor, Joseph Obansa of the Economics Department of the university, his two children, a deputy registrar, Mallam Sambo, Dr Ferguson Tobins and two children of Prof. Bassey Ubom of the university’s Faculty of Environmental Sciences.
Experiencing such an attack and abduction some 45 kilometres away from the nation’s federal capital city sent fears into the residents of Abuja in general. The fact that the operation was said to have been carried out by the bandits for almost two hours without challenge from security agencies, especially given the proximity of the area to some major military formations around, also worsened the people’s apprehension.
“If armed bandits can storm Giri, operate for almost two hours and take their victims into the bush unchallenged, what can they not do to anybody within the FCT?” a furious Giri resident, Madaki Aliyu, asked rhetorically in the midst of friends while discussing the unfortunate situation. “This sad development is an indication that nobody, even those who pride themselves of being in the city centre, are not safe,” he said sadly.
Madaki Aliyu is not the only one who shares this thought. Many residents of the nation’s capital believe that insecurity, being driven by armed bandits in Abuja, has reached a crescendo. Apart from bandits who abduct for ransom, there are so many other security challenges, ranging from kidnapping, ritual killings to other forms of criminality.
Some people have argued that the abduction at the University of Abuja isn’t the first incident. To them, the latest incident only came to the limelight, drawing both government and public attention because of the environment and people involved.
“When I look back to the incident in Kaduna where bandits made their way into the Nigerian Defence Academy, NDA, killed and made away with a top Nigerian Army officer,I don’t lose sleep on the Abuja university incident. “The security architecture is weak, that is what all these incidents point to. I implore authorities to redouble their efforts in safeguarding the people.
“A lot more can still be done before the situation gets out of hand because as I’m seeing today, our insecurity is gradually worsening and this can be salvaged before we get to a point of no return,” he said.
A joint team of security operatives comprising personnel of the police, Nigerian Army, and the Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps, NSCDC, had rescued the abductees on Friday,three days after the incident.
Prof. Bassey Ubom,whose children, one of them a nine year old boy,was also taken away,said he escaped the invaders by hiding in the ceiling when they stormed his house the fateful day.
His action, he explained, was because of his belief that they were assassins who were only on a mission to eliminate him ,given the seriousness in which they traced his whereabouts during the raid.
He wondered what could have been his fate if he was caught by the invaders. “They shut and destroyed all the bulbs, I didn’t know what was really happening but when I finally came out from the ceiling, I was told that even my neighbours were taken away,” he said.
But regrettably, Ubom could not celebrate as his children were taken away by the invaders. He wondered what they could be going through there in the bush with their abductors. Looking at his wife who was also taken but released by the invaders,” he said:”We are here but our children are there in the bush.
“A nine year old boy trekking in the forest now with the sister with only a night gown. I don’t know what would have happened to me if they had gotten me because they were very serious when they were asking about me.
“We don’t know who is who anymore in this country. “
He continued: “ The situation is getting out of hand. Something has to be done immediately “as he regretted that “the poor are the ones suffering.”
Ubom’s daughter, who identified herself as Praise, said although she was not around in the house when the said incident occurred, she, nonetheless, explained that” my mother was taken away too but released.
We don’t know the reason but my younger brother who is just nine years old was beaten and taken away.
“Before releasing my mother, they slapped her when she said she had no money which they demanded for.
“My younger brother who was asleep was woken up with a machete they hit him before taking them away”, she said while crying. Relief may have come the way of friends, families, associates of the abductees and the university community in general following the safe and successful rescue of the victims by joint security forces and the university’s security personnel on Friday. But will the incident be the last in the nation’s federal capital city? Time shall tell.
Nwachineke Onyeke Chekwube reporting, Obinwannem news writer / November 6, 2021