By Omeiza Ajayi – Abuja
Suspected thugs working as “revenue officers” for the Abuja Municipal Area Council AMAC on Tuesday went on rampage at the Games Village junction attacking a camera man attached to the office of the Minister of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Godwin Ameh as well as three officials of the Department of Outdoor Advertising and Signages DOAS.
They equally seized his camera before he was rescued by some policemen and operatives of the Directorate of Road Traffic Services DRTS.
However, no fewer than 11 of the suspected thugs have been arrested and detained by men from the Wuye Police Division.
The assaulted DOAS staff are Ebere Nwokocha, Emeghara Justice Ebere and Alhaji Haliru Ismail.
The Area Council “revenue collectors” who were mostly made up of young men reportedly brought in from a south-south State had in the past clashed with DOAS in the discharge of its mandate.
Trouble started yesterday when the Council revenue collectors impounded several branded vehicles and imposed fines on the owners. Upon complaints from the affected residents and organizations who had already paid their Mobile Advertisement Rates to DOAS and obtained advertisement permits, the department moved in to secure the release of the impounded vehicles.
However, the situation degenerated when a certain Terry Okan, now at large, led over 30 suspected thugs armed with hockey batons and sticks to assault the officials of DOAS and journalists who were at the scene.
While journalists and others scampered to safety, the thugs abducted three officials of DOAS, with the two sides later ending up at the Wuye Police station.
On how they ended up at the station, Vanguard gathered that an argument had ensued among the suspected thugs as to what to do with their abductees.
While some said they should be pushed out of the vehicle, others suggested they be dumped at the Wuye Police station, where 11 of the thugs incidentally ended up behind bars.
Briefing journalists outside the Wuye Police station, Director of DOAS, Dr Babagana Adam who also escapes being hurt said; “I was called by two persons in particular and several have sent text messages.
“One is Brooklyn hotel, Lokogoma who called me yesterday that his vehicle has been confiscated. I pleaded with him not to pay anything that extortionists that I will speak with the Director of Security to come me rescue them.
“The second one was Access Bank that called saying their vehicle had been attacked. The third one, I cannot immediately remember the name now because of the circumstances.
“I felt since we have three policemen and the team, we could go and liberate them and release the vehicles. We did not go to fight. We just went to talk as we did at Utako junction where they listened to us and released the vehicles.
“When we took those extortionists to the police station, we were talking of that other vehicles had been detained, only fr us to come back and then we were mobbed by the thugs that have been brought, as we learned, from outside the FCT.
“And they are thugs as you can see they look like bouncers, and they were imported into Abuja just to settle that scores that DOAS should not collect the Mobile Advertisement Rates from FCT residents. It is to the Glory of God that some of us are standing here.
“If FCT wants high internally generated revenue and standards, we need to protect those who do the work. We need more security, not to molest but to do the work. Some of us have the zeal to work, we do not want to be arm chair executives, which is why we are in the field”, he said.
One of the DOAS staff who was assaulted, Ebere Nwokocha called on relevant authorities to assist the department in the discharge of its mandate.
He said; “Our assignment is to make sure that every vehicle that is branded collects a permit to operate.
“There is a law that backs that and all the six Area Councils in FCT had gazetted that law and handed over their rights on mobile adverts to the DOAS in 2012. However, since that time, a cabal in AMAC has been defrauding the government to the tune of over N1.8 billion.
“Just last month, the director of DOAS published an advertorial that the collection of mobile advert has been handed over to his department and residents were to pay into a TSA account not the way the so-called task team is collecting cash”, he said.
When the suspects were interviewed by journalists, they said they were recruited by one “Peter” and are staff of the department of “Loading and Offloading of the Abuja Municipal Trade and Investment Company”.