– The Sun News

When FCT authorities took on traditional rulers over crime upsurge

By Fred Ezeh 

Security is critical to the survival and development of any nation and its citizens. As much as it is the responsibility of the government, as enshrined in the constitution, to protect its citizens, the citizens and other are expected to play their part to complement the efforts of the government. 

Government controls the police, army, intelligence agency, other para-military agencies. To this end, it is expected that they put in extra effort to protect the lives and property of the people.

Regrettably, 21st century technology revolution arrived with diverse crime that was alien to the contemporary Nigerian society. Increased cases of terrorism, kidnapping, cultism, drug abuse and other sophisticated crimes have forced government and individuals to change their approach to crime prevention and security in general.

Youth unemployment has always been identified as the root cause of crime upsurge in major Nigerian cities and towns. A report released recently by the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS), indicated that 18.8 percent Nigerians are unemployed. 

The data further confirmed that over seven million Nigerians lost their job in the past one year. This development resulted in increase in crime, thus putting more pressure on already overwhelmed police and other security agencies.

Government officials and other members of the elite who could afford high cost of security either hire private security or request for increased police protection.

Security experts and public analysts have suggested that the services and wisdom of the traditional rulers and other community leaders be used to arrest the growing youth restiveness and crime in various locations.

These people believe that local community leaders and traditional rulers have good knowledge of every individual in their community, which is critical for crime prevention.

Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Abuja, has consistently being described as one of the fastest growing cities in Africa. Such growth and development, undoubtedly, come with challenges,  among which is security.

In spite of mansions in Abuja city center, it is surrounded by satellite towns and other slums where over 80 percent of its workforce resides. The workers commute from these satellite towns every day to their various work places within the city center where the cost of living is beyond the reach of an average FCT resident. 

Unfortunately, the few bourgeoisies who could afford the high cost of living in these highbrow areas get the full attention of the FCT administration including the provision of adequate security. 

While the “elite” enjoy all round security and surveillance from the police and other security agencies, the poor and the middle class are pushed to the satellite towns where there is little or no presence of security. 

Apparently overwhelmed by the increase cases of insecurity in these satellite towns, the FCT administration adopted the use of traditional rulers and community leaders to protect the communities. 

They were directed to set up vigilante and other undercover intelligence groups, to monitor the movement and other activities of the people. Beside that, they were also asked to always maintain peace, unity and justice in their communities. 

While tremendous success was recorded in some communities, other traditional rulers and community leaders did otherwise thus sabotaging the effort of the FCT administration to minimize crime and criminality in FCT. 

Chairman of Abuja Municipal Area Council (AMAC), Abdullahi Candido, at a meeting with district and village heads of all communities in the Council last week mentioned the village Head of Tudun Fulani in Jiwa district, Mohammed Gwadabe, as one of the community leaders so far found to be aiding crime in his community.

This, according to him, was contrary to his responsibility as the custodian of his people’s tradition and value system, striving to maintain peace, justice and ensure security of people in his community.

The Council boss said the offence of the accused village head was that he work in synergy with notorious criminals in the community and shield them from facing justice each time they are apprehended. 

He thus directed the district Head of Filin Dabo, who ought to supervise the activities of the Tudun Fulani village head, to up his game in providing security to the community. 

He said he was aware of the challenges especially the disloyalty by the village head of Tudun Fulani, and assured him that the Council will deploy all its machineries to enforce the law and maintain peace and unity in the communities.  

Meanwhile, the district head of Filin Dabo, told Abuja Metro that the criminal activities of his subordinate have crippled several efforts at maintaining peace and security in the community. 

He narrated: “I supervised the composition of members of the local vigilante group in the community following the increase in cases of burglary, harassment, bag and phone snatching, and other social vices. 

“While the efforts were being made to strengthen the security system in the community, Gwadabe neither supported the plans nor made any contribution to the effort.

“But within the first week of the vigilante exercise, we successfully apprehended eight known faces in the community who were caught in burglary. After interrogation by the vigilante, they were taken to the police for further investigation and punishment. But to my greatest surprise, these criminals were released few minutes after I left the police station. 

“I was later informed that their bail was facilitated by the village head of Tudun Fulani on the ground that the woman who buys the stolen items from criminals is related to village head. 

“Several times has he shielded criminals arrested by the vigilante from facing justice and that has increased the confidence of the criminals in the society to continue to visit the community and other neighbouring communities with terror.

“The worst was that he embezzled the community money in his custody. The money was supposed to be used to pay the vigilante officials and solve other sundry problems. These actions led to the end of vigilante services in the community thus paving the way for crime.”

Meanwhile, the AMAC boss informed the traditional rulers that FCT Minister, Mohammed Bello, has agreed that henceforth, traditional or community leader convicted of aiding crime in his domain will be visited with stiffer punishment including deposition.

He encouraged them to channel their energy and wisdom to issues that will promote peace, unity, justice and equity to all residents irrespective of tribe, religion and political differences. 

Chairman of a unity committee that was set up to drive the campaign for peace and unity, John Bawa, appealed to the community leaders to buy into the programmes of AMAC so they could collectively enjoy human and infrastructural development. 

He appreciated the support it enjoyed from all stakeholders which heralded the successes recorded thus far in the quest for peace and unity among the people. 

He said that Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR), and other soft measures were the platforms that was adopted by the committee to achieve success in its assignment.

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