The abduction on January 2, 2024 of Al-Kadriyar sisters, their father, Masur, 16 others and the tragic killing of one the young and promising girls, Nabeeha, a First Class graduate of Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria, as well as killing of Mansur’s younger brother, Abdulfatai Al-Kadriyar, amidst frantic efforts with security operatives to locate the hideout of the hoodlums and apprehend them, appeared to be the peak of recent resurgence of full blown insecurity in the Nigeria’s capital city of Abuja. On the fateful day, the criminals stormed the Al-Kadriyars residence in Zuma 1, Bwari area of the Federal Capital Territory, raided freely and launched attacks on the family and other victims.
It was a devastating experience for the affected ones and another disaster and sad tale to relate to the nation.
Ahead of Al-Kadriyars and others’ kidnap saga, residents, groups and other stakeholders have raised serious concerns on insecurity in some parts of FCT, in particular Bwari area, which has a concentration of public establishments, apart from residential facilities.
As such many believe it would be wrong for anyone to expect that the ravaging insecurity in the FCT would be curtailed substantially even with the recent arrest by the Nigeria Police Force of Chinaza Philip, a suspected notorious kidnapper who had been terrorising the FCT and its neighbouring States. The suspect was arrested on January 18, 2024 by the Kaduna State Police Command and was handed over to the FCT Command on January 19, 2024 for further investigation.
The same thing applies to many marathon engagements the FCT Minister, Nyesom Wike has been having with different stakeholders, including: Abuja traditional leaders, security agencies and Council Chairmen, among others.
On Wednesday last week, Wike convened a meeting of traditional leaders, seeking their support to strengthen the fight against insecurity in the FCT. The meeting was attended by members of the FCT Council of Chiefs and the Chairmen of its six Area Councils. Again, last Friday, he facilitated a town hall meeting. In attendance were: security agencies’ representatives, Council Chairmen, other critical stakeholders and residents.
At the interactive session, Wike gave the commitment that he would be calling meetings of all traditional leaders, Council Chairmen, as well as all security agencies. To complement that, the Minister directed the six Council Area Chairmen to hold mandatory monthly security meetings with key stakeholders in their domains.
Wike’s latest moves are mere policy statements, but what action follows his directives? Of what effects are they and how do FCT residents feel about his pronouncements and their fate with respect to security in future?
The FCT Minister must be confronted with the obvious facts that Abuja residents are not seriously impressed. In other words, they have little or no hope for an improved security situation. The reason for this is that some of them are being hunted by previous and latest terrible insecurity experiences.
A special report published last week showed the anxiety and high expectations of many residents in the capital city. Among the crucial comments in the report was the case of late Greatness Olorunfemi, who was a victim of “one chance”. Olorunfemi was stabbed and thrown out of a moving vehicle along the Maitama-Kubwa Highway. The sad incident happened on September 26, 2023. Incidents like this and the latest abduction spree informed why the residents declared that now, they sleep with their eyes open!
If this is the reality we are faced with, what are the options available for President Bola Tinubu and in particular Minister Wike and others who are connected with the security in the capital city?
First, it’s very clear that the once vocal, boastful and daring Wike is presently somewhat weakened and obviously distracted from his primary assignment as a Minister by the leadership tussle between him and his political godson as well as successor, Governor Siminalaye Fubara of Rivers State. Wike should know that he is the one in charge of Abuja. Therefore, he must be seen to be totally in charge, without a divided interest. As the seat of government, the FCT must be secured for government activities, private businesses, diplomatic services and social life to thrive unhindered.
However, if Wike can’t afford not to be preoccupied by the politics of his State, then he should tender his letter of resignation to focus on the politics ofRivers State. He should return to Rivers State to consolidate his hold on the political structure he built while in office as governor.
However, if he wants to keep his present job, he must go beyond mere pronouncements. The Minister himself gave the hint last Friday that the FCT security architecture requires more funding – for sophistication, expansion and digitisation.
In his address at the town hall session, Wike exposed that some of the security agencies in the FCT did not have the needed equipment and operational vehicles to perform optimally. He stressed: “They don’t have the needed logistics and communication gadgets, yet, we want them to perform wonders, we want them to perform miracles. If they don’t have information, they will not perform miracles; if they don’t have information no wonders would be performed.”
Having admitted this deficiency, the solution and option for Wike here is to initiate and work on launching a FCT Security Trust Fund. If this is done, the territory’s authorities could plan and fund its security independently and efficiently. Lagos State, under former Governor Babatunde Fashola, blazed the trail in this regard and residents are witnesses to the fact that the initiative, which was taken over 16 years ago, is still functional, relevant and sustainable. Following this, it has continued to receive support from voluntary donors, including a recent N1 billion by business guru, Femi Otedola. In all senses, the Lagos State Trust Fund has been a success story. So, Wike requires a LSSTF template to advance the security of the FCT.
Wike also needs to pay attention to happenings in the States sharing borders with the FCT. Geographically, Abuja is central to States like Kaduna, Kogi, Niger and Nasarawa. The States are with large and expansive land space. And they have their security challenges owing to this. It thus allows for crimes to be perpetrated easily. The forests in the States have become havens for hardened criminals and their infamous activities.
We urge Wike to work on building relationships, synergy and collaboration with the neighbouring States Governors to ensure that criminals do not use their territories as base to strike in the FCT. The synergy is very key as it is a well known and established fact that the hoodlums after committing crimes escape to the adjourning States. Therefore, regular security interaction with the Chief Security Officers in the States is very important.
And such synergy should be extended to everyone who has a stake in the FCT. Which is why we understand clearly the frustration of the representative of the FCT in the Senate, Senator Ireti Kingibe, over Wike calling her bluff when she made moves to see him. Frustrated by Wike’s snub, Senator Kingibe lamented: “Part of the problem we are having is that there is a big disconnect between the FCT Minister and elected officials – myself and the members of the House of Representatives. The truth is that the Minister is new to the territory. We are the ones who have historical knowledge of the area. It is imperative that we work together.”
It’s appalling to hear a key stakeholder bemoaning the reluctance of the man at the centre of the conversation to collaborate with willing hands. We can understand two factors that might have influenced Wike’s cold disposition to Senator Kingibe. The first is different political affiliation. While the lawmaker belongs to the Labour Party, Wike himself is of the Peoples Democratic party, the first Nigerian opposition party. And the ruling party, which appointed Wike, is the All Progressives Congress! Are we having an inconvenient marriage here? If yes, does political party affiliation really matter in the subject we are dealing with here? On a security matter? No, that shouldn’t be.
Another vacuum in Senator Kingibe’s outburst is the approach of her invitation. The call to Wike by Senator Ireti was personal, whereas, we are dealing with the issue of public and national interest. Wike might not oblige personal invitations if sent hundreds of times! Again, no thanks to the approach.
Having said these, the measures that have been taken by previous administrations on insecurity in the FCT is very relevant on this subject. This takes us to the Closed Circuit Television project in Abuja.
When insecurity took centre stage in the FCT, during his tenure, former President Goodluck Jonathan initiated the project. The contract was awarded to a Chinese firm in 2010. Jonathan’s Minister of Finance, Olusegun Aganga, led the Nigerian delegation to sign a Memorandum of Understanding in Beijing, China. The project was expected to be funded from a $600 million financing portfolio secured as a soft credit loan. The loan had interest repayable in 10 years, after an initial 10 years of moratorium. The immediate past President Muhammadu Buhari administration was said to have spent $460 million on the project. Yet, no result as we speak!
Following a public outcry, the House of Representatives in October 2019 made a move and engaged former Minister of Finance, Zainab Ahmed, on the failed project. Ahmed owned up and revealed: “We are servicing the loan, but on the project, we will have to ask the FCT authority because the project was deployed in the FCTA. I have no information on the status of the CCTV.”
It’s sad that despite the legal action taken by the Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project and judgement by Justice Emeka Nwite of the Federal High Court, Abuja in May 2023, directing Buhari’s administration to account for the spending of $460 million on the failed contract, nothing up till date has happened! In the public interest, we call for revisit of the all important but abandoned suit.
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If this project had succeeded, the security situation in FCT would have improved, so the ravaging resurgence could have been prevented. Even if it happens, resolving it would not have been this challenging.
We urge President Bola Tinubu to maintain his “no sacred cow” stand if Minister Wike fails to rise up to the occasion. He should not spare him. He should be quick and firm to take the right decision, which ultimately, is in the public interest. The security of life is what we’re talking about. If the President fails to be decisive on this matter, we may yet have a repeat of an agonising experience like the Al-Kadriyars and other victims.