By Nicholas Kalu, Abuja
Residents of Pegi, a satellite community of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Abuja, cannot afford to sleep with both eyes closed on account of the unhealthy security situation in the area.
Situated in Kuje Area Council and boasting a population of about 7,000 people, the community, which is divided into five zones of A to E, is under the administration of the FCT. This is because the satellite community is populated mostly by people who were relocated from Idu, Karimo and Gwagwa communities in 2006 when their houses were demolished by the FCT administration.
According to the residents, Pegi was provided by the government as an alternative settlement with a promise that the necessary infrastructure would be provided for residents.
Today, however, the residents are living persistently in fear of kidnappers, armed robbers and other criminal elements who have laid siege to the community. Many of the residents attribute the problem to the near absence of basic amenities, particularly a good access road.
A visit to the community, which is about 80 minutes drive from the city centre, revealed that its only access road, the 14.7 km Pegi-Kuje-Dharafa Road, is in a terrible shape. The residents complained that most of the robbery and kidnapping incidents in the community occur on this road, as criminals take advantage of its poor condition to stop waylay motorists and rob or abduct them.
Lamenting the wave of crimes in the community, the Chairman of Pegi Residents Association, Mr Isaac Taiwo, said it was not receiving as much attention as it should from the relevant security authorities.
On October 7, last year, a 44-year-old officer of the Nigerian Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC), CSC Aku Attah, was shot dead by kidnappers who had stormed the community and abducted nine persons. The abducted people eventually secured their release, but it was not until after they had paid huge sums as ransom.
More recently, on June 24, 2020 specifically, four people, including two visitors, were abducted on their way out of the community. The abducted four were released after about 10 days and after they had paid ransoms, Taiwo disclosed in a chat with our reporter.
Lamenting that such criminal acts had become a common occurrence, Taiwo said it was only recently that the police established a division in the community after the residents protested against the growing cases of insecurity they were facing. While appreciating the effort, he said there is still much left to be done, because with only one patrol vehicle and inadequate number of men to cover the five zones in the community, there was not much that could be achieved.
He recalled that just last week, a gang of armed robbers operated in an estate known as 1,000 housing units, robbed eight families and made away with their loot without any resistance.
Taiwo, who lamented that such instances of kidnapping, robbery and killing were too frequent, said something needed to be done urgently to address the situation so that members of the community would be at ease.
Moshood Atonda, a resident of the community, who almost lost his life in an attack in 2018, reiterated the need for the relevant authorities to intervene as soon as possible in order to avert further loss of life and property of the inhabitants.
Atonda recalled that he was shot in the back on December 5, 2018 while he was returning from work at about 7.46 pm and his vehicle was sprayed with bullets. He also recalled that two naval personnel who attempted to rescue him were shot at by the assailants, but fortunately, they all survived after beating back their attackers and managaing to get him to a hospital that night.
Narrating his experience, he said: “I was coming from work around 7.46 pm. The next thing was a gunshot on my back. They laid an ambush and fired at me. My car was sprayed with bullets. It was God that just saved my life.
“In fact, I bled for 40 minutes until my body changed to white. I was rescued by some navy personnel who were also attacked by the criminals.
Two naval officers were also shot when they came to rescue me. It was like we were in Sambisa Forest. In fact, I call this place Sambisa Abuja.
“Before I could get to where I could be treated on that night, it was around 2 am.”
Atonda begged that relevant authorities should do something about reinforcing security in the community as well as attend to necessary infrastructure and amenities that would make life easier for the people.
He complained that since they were relocated to the community with promises that the area would be developed and given the necessary infrastructure, nothing had come of it since then and they had been abandoned to their own fate.
The Chairman Elders Forum of Pegi Community, Chief Ignatius Anoruo, who has been living in the community since 2006 when they were relocated, said they were promised that every amenity needed for the development of the satellite town would be made available, but nothing had come of it.
Chief Anoruo, who linked the high rate of crime in the area to lack of basic amenities, especially the link road in the community, urged the government to urgently intervene in the problem.
He said: “The issue of Pegi is not one that just started today. I happen to be one of the early settlers here since 2006.
“Before we came here, we had reached an agreement with the government. There was a master plan that was given to Pegi. A lot of promises were made. A lot of amenities were promised. A good road network was promised. Unfortunately, none of them has been fulfilled until today.
“The zeal and the mind of (Nasir) El-Rufai, the former Minister of FCT, if really his plans were executed, Pegi would have been one of the best satellite towns.
“Unfortunately, everything stopped immediately he left office. Many contracts have been awarded here, but the culverts, the internal road and the road that leads into the estate, none of them has been executed till today. We have made many appeals but to no avail.
“These have contributed to the incessant killings, robberies and other criminal acts in the community, because if really we were given what was promised, we would by now have got a very good road, and a satellite town that would stand the test of time.
“As I am talking to you, we have no school, hospital, market or water. At least the first thing we should do for our children is give them quality education, but there is no school here they can attend.
“And look at the risk we face following the bush path every day. And the bush path was even constructed by us because there was no access road here. We opened the road by ourselves.
“So, this is why we are witnessing constant cases of kidnapping in the community. Even the security men themselves cannot go to that road with their arms and ammunition because of the nature of that place.
“We have appealed and are still appealing that the government should come to our aid. We did not bring ourselves to this place. They brought us here and promised us all this.
“If there is any budget meant for Pegi, they should release it. We are ready to monitor and ensure that everything is implemented.
“We are appealing that the government should come to our aid. We are suffering.
“As for the last (kidnapping) incident, to be sincere, the Nigeria Police is trying. Since then, they have deployed their men on the bush road for 24-hour surveillance. We thank the Commissioner of Police in the FCT for this.
“We are also appealing to him to help us upgrade the division given to us by giving them more arms, personnel and patrol vans. It will help us a lot to collaborate with them and see how we can curtail the incessant killings, armed robberies and kidnappings in Pegi.
“We do not want Pegi to be a notorious place. We want it to be a famous place where people would like to come and live. They should not allow us to die before they would come and reclaim this place.”
Anoruo expressed appreciation to the police for recently establishing a division in the area, saying before then, they had no police presence at all, as they were attached to Kuje Division.
“One thing is to establish a division, another thing is to equip the division,” he said.
“So they should arm them and give them more personnel and more vehicles. They are humans like us and without these, they cannot work.
“So, we appreciate them and are ready to partner with them and do the needful for us to save our lives and those of our children.
“That is why some of us are facing these security challenges and kidnappings. When you go out in the morning, you come back in the evening.
“That evening they (criminals) would monitor you and block the road. Some of our women have been raped. Some people have been paying through their noses to rescue themselves from kidnappers. That is what we are facing.
“If they give us what we deserve, I believe that kidnapping and armed robbery will be curtailed,” he said.
The community’s General Secretary, Hon Charles Anozie, said most of the amenities they have were provided through self help.
“Most of the things here were done by us the residents. If you talk about electricity, it was us that brought light to Pegi.
“I came here in 2006, and there was no road, light, water or security. We paid through our noses to build a road for ourselves. We bought transformers and wired everywhere with light.
“When you talk about security, we also have vigilante groups who we pay to secure ourselves. For water, we have boreholes or wells.
“Generally there is nothing really the government has given us here. If you talk about hospital, you see us rushing pregnant women in the middle of the night to Kuje. Some give birth along the bush road; just to tell you how bad it is.
“As of today, there is no hospital and no doctor. These are some of the things we have been passing through.
“Last week, armed robbers came to 1000-Unit Housing Estate and were robbing from house to house. Eight families were robbed.
“In terms of security, we are really passing through hell. We are like chickens that hawks come to pick any time they like. That is how we are in the hands of criminals.
“We are appealing to government to come to our aid.”
The Chairman Zone A of the community, Pastor Alex Chukwujendu, said: “Pegi was a relocation centre from Idu Karimo. I have lived here since 2006. Since then, we have been passing through a lot of difficulties in the community.
“Security wise, a lot of robbery attacks have been happening in the community, especially on our bush road. Many times, criminals would block the road and attack the community’s members returning home from work.
“As early as 7 or 8 o’clock in the morning, they would block the road and start to rob people.
“There was a time, they shot one of our residents and it was God that saved him. He was rushed to Gwagwalada Hospital and, fortunately, he recovered. That was in 2010.
“After that, they blocked the road and attacked a police officer, ACP Haruna. By the grace of God, he survived it, but it was not easy.
“At times, we would be running helter-skelter from attacks by criminal elements. We take risks on our own without any weapons to secure ourselves from criminal elements.
“We are appealing to government to help us in the area of security. We thank God that the Commissioner of Police came last year and we have been given a police division. We hope they can work effectively with us so that this security problem would be reduced to the barest minimum.
“The road is another challenge that contributes to the security problem we have in the community. If you are driving and trying to manoeuvre some gallops and potholes, that is when they gain access to block you. So, if the government can come to our aid and give us a good road, it will help to solve the problem.
“We are also asking if the Commissioner of Police can give the division more patrol vehicles to patrol the five zones in the community. As at now, they have just one patrol vehicle, which is not adequate.
“At this particular time, we beg the CP to do something to help us safeguard lives and property in this community.”
Joe Uhunmwangho, a security expert and resident of the community, urged that the security operatives on ground be adequately equipped to combat the problem of insecurity in the area.
Legal Adviser to Pegi community, Chuks Agba, who narrowly missed the June kidnap incident, said it has been an unsavory experience for them all through.
He said: “The government appears to have abandoned us to our fate. It is unfortunate that taxpayers, responsible men and women, some of them retired civil servants who have spent a greater portion of their lives serving this country, are being subjected to such horrible nightmares just because they find themselves as residents of this community.
“This is a call on the authorities concerned to step up to ensure that this community is not wiped out.”