The Federal Capital Territory Administration (FCTA) Task Force on City Sanitation, which has the responsibility of removing illegal structures at various locations in Abuja, have met unusual resistance from residents. CALEB ONWE reports
Recent developments In recent weeks, the Federal Capital Territory Administration (FCTA) Task Force on City Sanitation, has come under attack from residents of some shanty communities in the territory. Hardly do they go out on their official duties without encountering violent resistance and attacks, sometimes from youths who feel threatened by the activities of the task force on their communities.
On many occasions, suspected hoodlums, especially those who are homeless and hibernate in uncompleted buildings and under the bridges, have unleashed their anger on the City Sanitation Officers. The most recent attack that exposed the vulnerability of members of the Task Force was at Durumi, a community located in Gaduwa District of Abuja.
Marking of illegal structures
Inside Abuja gathered that some officials from the Department of Development Control, a key components of the Task Force, had gone to the community to mark some illegal structures for demolition.
The structures were said to have been built on unapproved places. Members of the task force were not very lucky, as suspected miscreants attacked them and unfortunately, over powered the security personnel attached to them. In the scuffle, the miscreants took some of the officials hostage. A Police officer, who provided security cover for the civilian officials carrying out the marking exercise, was even more unlucky.
Attack on policeman
It was learnt that the unarmed Police Officer, who erroneously thought that his Police uniform could scare people away, almost fell under the strong fire power of the attackers.
According to a reliable source, the Police Officer was knocked down by his aggressors, who used shovel to give him a very deep cut on his head. But for a quick reinforcement, the Police Officer who was already bleeding profusely, would have died right there in the community. The bleeding Police Officer was rushed to the hospital, where he was revived.
One of the civilian officials of the Department of Development Control that were taken hostage, Kalu Amadi, said the attackers misconstrued his identity.
Amadi noted that his efforts trying to explain to the aggressors that he was only officially assigned to mark the buildings failed woefully. Narrating his ordeal, Amadi stated that his near- death experience began when his shirt was torn, leaving him half naked, before being taken hostage. Inside Abuja learnt that the saving grace for Amadi and other captives, were the rapid response of a rescue team that arrived at the scene and overpowered the attackers. It was also gathered that within three hours that these captured officials were psychologically tortured, their captors were already scheming to kill them.
Senior Special Assistant on Monitoring, Inspection and Enforcement to FCT Minister, Ikharo Attah who confirmed the attack said some officials of the Development Control attached to the Taskforce were attacked when they went to Gaduwa Community to mark for demolition, some illegal structures springing up indiscriminately in the community.
Attah commended some indigenous youths who helped in calming down the situation and working towards the release of the hostages. He also noted that, but for the quick intervention of the re-enforcement and rescue team, the miscreants would have unleashed more mayhem on the team. He added: “I was sent somewhere by the Minister and before I could arrive the scene the Police officer who was badly injured on the head and others had been rushed to hospital.
“Those who were held hostage were rescued by rescue team led by DCP Bernard Igwe. The area where the indigenous people stay was not marked. The Police will determine what happens to those who were arrested.”
Inside Abuja also gathered that within the month of March this year, the task force team suffered a serious attack along Lugbe-Airport road. In one of the occasions was when Okada riders waylaid some of the officials on the road with cutlasses. Luckily, none was harmed.
Inside Abuja further gathered that in the same month of March, Several members of the Taskforce escaped death, after they were attacked by hoodlums with stones, cutlasses and other dangerous weapons in Kuchingoro community. Five officers of the Taskforce were not lucky as they sustained various degrees of injury.
At least 10 suspects were arrested and handed over to the police for investigation and prosecution. It was learnt that the Taskforce team was in the community in continuation of its ongoing cleanup and the clampdown on okada riders violating traffic rules along the Lugbe- Airport road axis. Attah, who was among the officers who escaped unhurt, said the hoodlums apparently were angered that the shanties and illegal structures housing them under electrical high tension installations were being removed.
Attah reaffirmed that the Taskforce would not be deterred by the serial attacks by people who are opposed to the enforcement of orders and regulations needed to make Abuja a model city.
According to him, while lawless people remain defiant to orders and policies of government, the enforcement team will also remain committed to its mandate. He said: “We came here to remove illegal structures that have painted the Airport road in bad light.
We were clearing the roadsides of traders, Okada riders and all of a sudden, some hoodlums appeared and started throwing stones. “We are not deterred, the Airport road must be cleaned. So many of the structures were built under high tension wire, and we are pushing Okada riders and taxi drivers back to the community.”
The Islamic cleric of Kuchingoro Community, Imam Usman Yahaya who was also caught up in the attack, has condemned the actions of the hoodlums, saying he supported the removal of the illegal structures and fight against criminalities in the area.
Inside Abuja’s investigation showed that sometimes when the military component of the Task Force is not in the team, the operation will be very vulnerable to attacks. A reliable source also revealed that the security agencies that work under the purview of the FCTA Command and Control Centre, were always complaining of not having enough weapons to resist attacks.
A security personnel who pleaded anonymity, revealed that most times the team was made up of both Police and Civil Defence female officers who are not armed.
It was also revealed that most times they embark on the city sanitation exercise, without adequate tear gas canisters to ward off attackers. Another member of the team who also wanted to remain anonymous, queried: “How can you send officers out for an enforcement task, without enough tear gas?
How many officers do you see carrying guns among us here?” Inside Abuja gathered that the FCTA Command and Control Centre in the Department of Security Services, is an arm that coordinates activities of all security agencies involved in the enforcement team.