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Kidnappings in Abuja community: Fear, panic, uncertainty grips residents — Investigation

The increased spate of insecurity across the country in recent times has been a major problem for many Nigerians regardless of their location.

However, residents of Sabon-Gari, Bwari, one of Abuja’s border communities have been thrown into perpetual fear, panic and uncertainty as they grapple with violent and sophisticated kidnappings carried out by unknown gun-men.

The border town of Sabon-Gari is mainly an agrarian community under the Bwari Area Council in Nigeria’s Federal Capital Territory, which is also a District.

Bwari is home to several Government agencies/ parastatals such as the Nigerian Law School, the Joint Admissions and Matriculations Board (JAMB) HQrs, Bwari General Hospital, the Bwari Area Council Secretariat and the Nigerian Army Camp.

There are some other academic institutions that make Bwari a choice location for residents.

They include; JAMB UTME Computer-Based Testing Centre, Kogo, Federal Government Girls College, (FGGC Bwari),  Dorben Polytechnic, Abuja (now operating from its permanent site in Garam (a border community with Niger State), Veritas [Catholic] University, and many more.

It is worthy to note that Bwari is just about an hour and thirty minutes’ drive to the Federal Secretariat, Abuja, and it has been a preferred location for majority low-income earners and a few middle-income earners in the FCT who prefer the calmness and peace of mind associated with the rural community.

Although in terms of security, Bwari Area Council have remained largely peaceful since coming out of its 2017 Christmas Day crisis.

There was communal clash between the Hausa settlers [who majorly support the Sarki on religious grounds] and the indigene Gbagyi inhabitants that engulfed the rural district of Abuja over a Chieftaincy dispute, in which two people were confirmed dead with properties including the Bwari Main Market burnt.

Today, the story is quite different with the rising insecurity across the country characterized by religious terrorism, insurgency, banditry, kidnapping, arson, armed robbery etc., the border town of Bwari has become a prime location for dangerous characters who plan to expand their criminal enterprise into the FCT.

On the 26th of April 2021, at about Monday, 12 midnight, the news of the kidnap of a man (name withheld) and his son in Tudun-Fulani community was greeted with shock and anxiety by most residents on Monday morning.

The thirteen-man assailants were reported to have stormed the community with a bus and the kidnap gang, residents claimed was comprised of three women.

This incident left a really scary impression on the minds of residents as there has not been any history of such event in the town as sporadic gunshots of catastrophic proportion, capable of engaging any imminent security resistance for over an hour was witnessed.

While the family of the abducted persons in Tudun-Fulani continued to lament the attack, residents from a nearby community, Sabon-Gari at approximately the same period of the night witnessed their own version of the same horror on Tuesday midnight.

This time the kidnappers came into the community on foot.

Eyewitness reports have it that this time they were seven in number as two of the criminals were armed with automatic rifles which were shot sporadically into the buildings of their target victim.

This second attack appeared to be more vicious and calculated as there seemed to have been several conversations about certain official transactions between the criminals and one of their target victims who incidentally was a banker.

He was lucky not to have been abducted in the end due to the strength of his burglary proof windows and doors.

Five other victims from different families in the same community who weren’t so lucky were captured that midnight and taken into captivity towards the mountain area after Sabon-Gari, LEA, Primary Health Centre.

This incident threw the entire residents into a dangerous frenzy as everyone began to recount their various horrific experiences on Tuesday morning.

One farmer (name withheld) who escaped the insurgency in the North-East, Borno state  to settle down in Bwari, spoke to our reporter recounting his daily experience in the forest areas of Sabon-Gari.

There he farms several crops including rice, beans, yams and other staple crops.

He claimed that he had been warned to stay away from the mountain part of the same forest where these kidnappers had taken their captives to.

According to him, the sight of AK-47 wielding nomads in the deep part of the bush where he farms isn’t anything strange to him long before now.

However, it is remains uncertain to categorically state the relationship between the recent kidnappers and the nomadic occupants of the same Bwari forest.

Residents of the affected communities immediately resolved to set up emergency measures to keep their communities safe by mobilizing all resident males to keep vigil throughout the night.

It was also supported by the nearby Nigerian Army Camp who had its men support the community effort.

This move actually paid off as it was confirmed that the kidnappers returned on Thursday night but met the resilient community vigilante whose large number warded them back into the unguarded forests.

The Chairman Bwari Area Council, John S. Gabaya who incidentally resides in Sabon-Gari community, has also had his fair share of insecurity.

It was reported that his son narrowly escaped being kidnapped in one of the schools in Kaduna recently.

However, if the activities of these criminal kidnappers continue to go unchecked by the security agencies several schools in Bwari could become prime targets for these evil elements as has been seen with recent attacks on educational facilities.

There is also the threat of human trafficking by these criminal elements who have been known to trade people for money, especially when their families do not have the financial means to pay their ransom.

Recall that Boko-Haram have recently taken over several local governments in neighboring Niger state, where the terrorists’ elements have hoisted their flags and continued to establish its illegitimate authority over the conquered communities.

This incident, according to the Niger State governor, Abubakar Sani-Bello, poses a dangerous and dynamic security threat to the Federal Capital Territory.

Governor Sani-Bello stated that the Federal Authorities need to immediately nip the growing insecurity in the bud because the FCT is just 2 hours from Niger state.

The sad reality for residents of Bwari, Abuja’s border community is that about 5 of the recently kidnapped victims were released on Friday morning to their families after a ransom of 5 million naira was paid to the kidnappers.

This is according to an independent investigation by our reporter who is also a resident of the affected community.

One of the victims (name withheld) who recounted his ordeal in the hands of the kidnappers said that they were ushered into the deep parts of the forest after the Sabon-Gari mountain areas as this long walk took several hours.

He claimed that he was battered and shot at several times but was divinely left without fatal injuries.

This is addition to the threat that snakes and other wild animals posed to them which left them scampering from one location to the other inside the thick forests.

One unforgettable thing he revealed to our investigative reporter was that the kidnappers had professed allegiance to Boko Haram terrorists.

Members of the affected communities have continued to call on the government through the security agencies to come to their aide before this insecurity metamorphizes into a more draconian phenomenon like the Governor of Niger State warned.

Although the Nigeria Police have tried to give confidence to the residents of Sabon-Gari with periodic patrols within the affected communities, this singular revelation of the kidnappers’ affiliation with Boko Haram appears to have given this Bwari kidnapped incident a different security dynamic.

This is considering the impact of ransom being paid by family members for the rescue of their loved ones.

It is apparent that the last may not have been heard of these criminals who metaphorically have ‘tasted blood’.

The decision of many families within Sabon-Gari to evacuate their homes within the troubled neighborhood could hardly be faulted.

This, despite the choice of others to spend the night outside Bwari while they return in the day as the security uncertainty continues to spread.

Community leaders continue to rally residents who have decided to explore several measures to resist the criminal elements.

How much unarmed civilians can do against dangerously armed gunmen, whose mission is to steal, kill and to destroy, remains a cause for worries.

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