By IRENE CHIDINMA NWOYE
Rage and disquiet continue to intensify as more and more residents of the Federal Capital City (FCT) become victims of current trend and threat of carjacking. Car thefts, which have become rampant in areas like Wuse, Garki and Gwarinpa and Utako have left law enforcement agents helpless cars get increasingly nicked at gunpoint.
The hoodlums not only do away with cars worth millions of naira, but also help themselves to other valuables of their victims including money, phones, laptops and ATM cards.
They are snatched at gunpoint and also taken away from parking lots. Mohammed Saleh, a property developer in the FCT, had his 2011 Mercedes E550, license plate FCT MS550ABC, stolen on Friday, June 8 on his way to the office to retrieve his laptop at around 10:00pm close to Sharif Plaza at Wuse 2. “They cut me off. I thought it was a bad driver so I braked really hard and before I could even finish stopping, three armed men jumped out of the Toyota Corolla in front of me,” he said. The men who accosted Saleh threatened him with guns before taking him to the backseat of his car.
“He put the gun to my head and told me to put my head down. The second armed one got into the front passenger’s seat, while the third that was unarmed drove the car,” he said. During the drive, the carjackers quizzed Mohammed on how much money he had on him. After taking the money, they also took his ATM cards. “They counted my cards and asked which one had money.
I told them. They asked for the ATM pin and I told them. They said if it was the wrong pin they were going to shoot me.” According to Mohammed, one of his abductors received a phone call and began to say things like: “Yes boss, yes boss. We are with him boss. Ok boss.” After the phone call, he informed Mohammed that he had learned that they could get N10m from him that night.
When Mohammed told his abductors that their alleged informant was wrong and he did not have that kind of money, they made more threats: “They said my family will never see me again. One of them said I wasn’t serious and asked another to shoot me in the leg.” During the ride, the abductors stopped and let him out on the Mabuchi road leading to Gwarinpa. Mohammed then took a taxi to the nearest police station. “I used the cab’s phone to tell my brothers what had happened. I went to Wuse Zone 3 Police Station and lodged a complaint.
They radioed the other police stations and checkpoints. The police told me to go to Maitama because the incident occurred under Maitama Police Station. I went to Maitama Police Station, by then it was around midnight, and I made an official report in writing. “We called someone at MTN to track my phone and they tracked the signal to airport road, Lokogoma and then lost the signal,” he said.
Despite the efforts of the robbers to stage the operation as a targeted one, Mohammed explained that the phone call was ‘rubbish’ as the carjackers did not even know how to drive the car. Chinyere Obi-Obasi, a lawyer, writer is also another recent victim of the sprees. She got the dose on Friday, July 20 at 8:00pm. “I was coming back from work in the evening and one of the robbers opened the gate of my house in Garki.
It was raining hard; all the generators were on so no one would have heard me call for help. Three men accosted me and followed me to my house, where my husband and children were. They are young people around their late 20s and early 30s. They took my jewelry, the television, our computer monitor and then the car,” she said. Fortunately for Chinyere, her car was recovered later that night. Apparently, the thieves abandoned the car after it stopped. Nonetheless, the upset mother of five encouraged residents to be careful of the people they employ into their households such as security men, plumbers, carpenters and even maids.
“People should know the background of their workers or use credible agencies to employ such people. “Abuja is not safe again. When I came here from Lagos in 2003 people could leave their doors open. Everywhere was free. Nobody followed you and there were no thefts. But increasingly now, you hear of people’s cars getting stolen even as early as 4:00pm. One of my friends went to see someone in Utako and as soon as he stepped down someone collected his car.” Apart from these few instances, there are several other incidents where the victims swallowed the pill and refuse to speak to Abuja Metro on their experience. Some of them feigned indifference speaking about them as they argue that that would not bring back the lost car.
For those lost at parking lots either at home, public functions and on the streets, the means of the use of masterkeys to unlock cars or smashing the windows to have access into them. A victim said he was at a pub and left his car key on the table when someone picked it when he lost concentration and made away with the car.
He advised those that go to rowdy places for drinks or to watch football to watch it. The carjackers also target cars locked or unlocked by remote access, and clone the range, especially those that lock their cars via remote access from a distance. But what troubles her most is: “Where are they taking all these cars to?” Doris England, Public Relations Officer of the FCT Police Command, said the epidemic can probably be attributed to unemployment and some other social pressures.
According to her when the police receive reports of cars stolen at gunpoint within the FCT, the FCT Command responds immediately. “When the report is made, it is relayed to radio transmissions and internal communications that link all the patrol teams and divisions within the FCT. The message being sent, every other police station is listening, so they are getting the message and the patrol team that is on ground will immediately swing into action, looking out for the particular vehicle that is reported.”
On how the FCT sensitises the public on security tips and its helplines, she revealed that the FCT police command has emergency numbers which have been circulating through media houses, like the FCT Command Police Programme on NTA called ‘Call The Police’ which airs every Tuesday between 9.00pm and 9.30pm.
“They can call in at any time and there will always be someone to respond to complaints and observations and relay the information to the areas and divisions concerned.” With regards to stolen ATM cards that are used, Mrs. England told Abuja Metro that they have not ‘really’ got complaints of money withdrawn through stolen ATM cards. “If we have complaints on that then our investigations will follow the trend.” She advised members of the public, particularly those whose cars are snatched at gunpoint, that it is imperative they report the incidents immediately and as lucidly as possible to the nearest police station in order to hasten police intervention. Furthermore, she urged motorists to use security tactics such as trackers, and steering locks. “They should also register their vehicles because sometimes you find out that most of these are vehicles not registered.
They can equally have the vehicle registration number inscribed on the side glasses, headlights and any other part of the car. This might be a deterrent to a car thief because the aim of someone stealing a car is to dispose of it immediately and a car that has inscriptions doesn’t really have much market value,” she said. She added that the FCT Command has made a couple of recoveries, following up cars in Nasarawa and Niger states. Even cars stolen from other states have been recovered in the FCT. Between April and July, the FCT Command recovered about 62.
This is out of some hundreds snatched. Like Mrs. England, Chinyere Obi-Obasi advised fellow FCT residents to be security-conscious and lock their cars while driving. “They should watch their backs and know if they are being trailed.” “Everybody should be his or her neighbour’s keeper. Everybody should be vigilant. When you see young men milling around parked cars, find out their mission or call the police to interrogate them.”