By Favour Nnabugwu
Robbers in Abuja, the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) now use taxis to dispossess passengers of their money and other valuables.
In fact, the activities of the robbers who pretend to be cab drivers in the city centre are assuming a frightening dimension.
The robbers operate mostly at night. They operate by carrying a passenger and driving to a lonely road. Then another member of the gang hiding inside the boot of the car comes out from behind the passenger’s seat and points a sharp object to the passenger’s head or neck.
The driver and his cohort will then snatch the belongings of the passenger and push him out of the moving vehicle leaving him with serious injuries.
There are two kinds of taxis that ply Abuja roads.
The first is charter which picks a single passenger a group to a destination without stopping to pick any more passengers and these are the regular ones that carry a maximum of five passengers usually at a park or bus stop. The second kind of taxis stop and pick passengers intermittently along the way at various bus stops.
Sunday Vanguard gathered that the new robbery tactic in Abuja, called ‘One Chance’, started with unpainted taxis but now, the painted green and white taxis have joined in the nefarious act.
Residents say they are no longer safe and it is really disturbing because it keeps happening everyday. Many of those who have been attacked are women. The ugly development has brought safety and security issues to the front burner amongst Abuja residents.
This reporter was waiting for a taxi at Area 3 and standing beside her was a woman who waved down a taxi. Immediately the green and white taxi got to her, the fat woman demanded in Pidgin English, ‘Open your boot make l see wetin dey inside’.
I promptly drew the woman’s attention before the taxi could zoom off to explain her action and, as if she was waiting to spit it out, she narrated, “My dear, my eye don see something with these taxis in Abuja. Just last week, I boarded a taxi from Berger where I have a shop to go to my house in Gwarinpa.
I observed that the driver took me through an unfamiliar route; it didn’t occur to me that he had a bad motive because I thought he was avoiding traffic only for him to stop on a lonely road not far from Gwarinpa and said he wanted to take a tool in the boot to check a fault in the cab.
Before I could say driver ‘hurry up’, he came into the cab with one other man from God knows where who pointed a dagger at me, dispossessed me of my bag and everything I had in it, then they threw me out of the cab and zoomed off. It was terrible”.
Another ‘One Chance’ incident involved a middle-aged woman who came out from a bank along Ahmadu Bello Way, Garki after withdrawing money. She boarded an unpainted Volkswagen Golf cab unknowing that four other passengers already seated in the cab were members of the driver’s gang.
Luck, however, ran out on the driver and his gang when a taxi sighted the Volkswagen car and discreetly followed the cab behind having sensed that the mission of the four men in the cab when they picked up the victim was suspicious.
While the criminal and his gang were busy robbing their victim, the taxi driver behind rammed his car into theirs thereby forcing them to stop. That was after they had snatched N57,000 cash from the woman’s handbag.
The other members of the gang escaped leaving the driver to his fate.
The shouts for help by the woman drew the attention of passersby who pounced on the driver and subjected him to serious beating. He was lynched by a mob.
In another experience, one Mr Joseph Fernadez said he boarded a green taxi around 7 o’clock on a Monday night, on his way to Dutse. According to him, as he was about to enter, the taxi man switched on the inner light.
He said when they got to a deserted road somewhere in Galadima, suddenly, there was a high volume of music inside the car, and, before he knew it, someone came from the back seat and put a knife to his neck threatening to waste him if he made any noise. He was robbed of his wrist watch, phones and documents. They then threw him out of the vehicle.
He recalled that there was nobody at the back seat when the taxi man switched on the inner light and thus concluded that the man that attacked him definitely emerged from the boot. “I guess Abuja green taxi booths are linked to the back seat”, he said.
Mr Bernard Eneki, Treasurer of the National Union of Road Transport Workers, NURTW, in Jikwoyi/Karshi Park at Nyanya, told Sunday Vanguard, in an interview, that the union impound vehicles that load in unauthorized areas without entering the park because most of those that engage in criminal activities do not enter the park; they drive pass to pick passengers on the road.
On what the union is doing about the ‘One Chance’ menace, he said, “We have our Marshals that load vehicles to various routes, like this one you see here is loading to Karshi and we know all our members here.
“If a passenger forgets any property like phone in the vehicle he or she can come to the park and tell us where he or she boarded the vehicle, from, and we will trace the number because all the vehicles loading from here to Karshi have specific numbers, so if you misplace anything in any of the vehicles we will located the vehicle and return your property to you”.
At Wuse/Berger Park, Mr Akande Sunday, a member of the Union of Painted Abuja Taxi, PAT, said painted taxis belong to a number of unions, aside the national union, NURTW, while he explained the colour type at the top of the taxi clearly states which union a taxi belongs to.
“You can differentiate the taxis with the colour on the top of the taxi to know which company a taxi is registered under. For instance, mine is painted blue which is under PAT and this other one (pointing to another taxi), you can see is painted orange which is under NURTW”, he said.
“Majority of the robberies that are being carried out by cabs are mainly by unpainted vehicles because there is nothing to identify them. For example, private vehicles are into the business of carrying passengers; if such operators commit crimes, they go scout free because no one can really identify or trace them”.
In an interview with the FCT Police Public Relations Officer, Hyelhira Daniel, on what the police were doing to curb ‘One Chance’, she said they were sensitizing FCT residents on the need to be vigilant, careful and avoid unpainted taxis.