This article was written by a social commentator, COMRADE OSONDU EKEMEZIE on the security situation in Abia State. He talks about the recent restriction placed on the operational time of tricycle riders by Abia State government as a strategy towards curbing insecurity in Aba and Umuahia.

By Osondu Ekemezie

Every part of Nigeria is facing one security challenge or the other nowadays. In Zamfara you hear of bandits attacking and killing people, in Benue it is Herdsmen, in Yobe and Borno it is Boko-Haram and recently in Abia, we now have ‘Keke Robbers’.

There’s virtually no criminal activities that take place in Aba or Umuahia these days that stories will not include that the hoodlums came on Keke.

This leaves same minds like mine to wonder when Keke suddenly became super power bike that can navigate all the rugged roads in Abia or fly through all the police and army checkpoints. “abi na their uniform yellow colour dey confuse police”?

Precisely this same month of April in the year 2018, Abia State governor, Dr. Okezie Ikpeazu extended the time of operation by tricycle operators.

Just one year on the run, he has decided to reduce their time of operation from the initial 9pm he placed it in 2018 to 7pm which he  placed it even prior to April 2018. After all elections are over someone will say!

Following what led to the entire adjustment, one will see that it all bothers on security as several crimes have been said to have been committed with tricycle especially in Aba. 

To get our facts and figures correct, it will be very important for the government of Abia State to painstakingly look at all the published reports of all the crimes committed with Keke in the state to ascertain the times those crimes took place. 

On several occasions in Aba, the commercial hub of Abia State, Warehouse owners and customers have been robbed of their hard earned monies using Keke in broad daylight. 

Reports of some criminals using Keke in the day to rob, even shot and killed a police officer on duty at a hotel in Azikiwe Road by East Street once emerged.

On several occasions, warehouses of importers in St. Michael’s Road, Jubilee Road, Market Road and Ehi Road by East have been attacked by criminals using tricycle in the day time.

These activities were all carried out with zero confrontation from the police and even zero arrest after it.

On one of the occasions, a warehouse where tricycles are being sold which is just a stone throw from the Aba Area Command was reportedly robbed in broad daylight with the same tricycle.

There is hardly any reports emerging on where tricycle was used to rob in the night in Aba, but state government in its wisdom responded to the security challenge thrown by some Keke robbers who operate in broad daylight by stopping the night commercial duties of all the riders.

It will be recalled that when an initial issue emerged that Keke was being used for kidnapping, the government also responded by asking the riders to remove the rain protective cottons which they did, but has that stopped kidnapping?

Some persons even went as far as using the matter for business by suggesting they buy one transparent white rain protective cotton from government which shows that the main aim was for money making not even security purpose.

Everyone knows very well that most criminals operate with cars, the question is can the state government ask every vehicle owner to keep their doors open simply because criminals make use of vehicles in kidnapping?

This article is not meant to support criminal activities being carried out using Keke, but is aimed at telling those in charge of security in Abia to think more from the box than making flimsy security strategies. 

Just last week Saturday, an about to Wed young man, Mr. Ugochukwu Mbadi was shot dead in a bar at No 8 Uwakwe street, off Ukaegbu Road in Ogbor-Hill axis of Aba while everywhere was bright by men alleged to have come on Keke.

Few days later, a young girl of 23, Miss Margret Stanley was also brutally murdered right in her own street around 11am at Aba Federal Housing Estate, Ogbor-Hill by young men using same Keke. 

The questions we should ask ourselves are these; why is it that with all the bad roads in Aba, coupled with all the police and army checkpoints that surrounded the city, how can Keke, with its snail like speed, disappear from police and the glaring eyes of the public after each crime? 

Again, since these keke robbers started operating, how many times have you ever heard or seen police chasing a Keke that was used for robbery and did not catch the Keke with their mighty Hilux?

The truth be told, the security problems in Abia State is not Keke and the time they operate. It is rather the inability of security agencies to map out strategies of getting criminals within their neighbourhood. 

Tell me how they will be up and doing when almost all the criminals in the city are becoming smarter than the security agents. Tell me how police will ever get them when most of the officers are busy in one joint or the other while on duty.

With all the bad roads in Aba like Obohia, Omuma, Ngwa Road, Ohanku, Port Harcourt Road, Osusu, Cemetery, Uratta and so many ones that cannot be mentioned, if you ban keke from operating beyond 7pm in these areas you also know that buses cannot ply even in the day, tell me how the people will survive? 

It is high time the government told itself the truth and embark on massive road reconstruction that will enable the police to enter areas they might have not entered for several years which gave chance for hoodlums to take over.

Knowing fully well the activities of cult boys in Aba nowadays, banning Keke and making it clear to them that everyone coming from a distance work  place who doesn’t own a car or reside in those bad portions in Aba must come back on foot.

In the year 2018 when the governor was lifting the ban on Keke’s operational time he openly said that it was done in order to ease the burden of transportation and also elongate the business hours in Aba and Umuahia.

Knowing fully well that Keke is the major system of transportation available in the current Aba and Umuahia today, is it not obvious that commercial activities will practically be crippled? Tell me, which commercial city in the world goes cold by 7:30pm? 

We can also remember then that governor Ikpeazu also warned the Keke operators against using their tricycles for criminal activities, stressing that any of them caught will face the law. Now, the question is why not catch those involved rather crippling economy activities every evening? 

Why not charge your police Commissioner, Mr. Ene Okon to rise up to his duties and see what he and the Abia State Amalgamated Tricycle Operators Association (ASATOA) can achieve if the synergize properly? 

Why not urge the police to replace those unnecessary checkpoints in the city with a more active mobile patrol team stationed at strategic places with sound vehicles awaiting every distress call from their areas of duties?

Again, most of these Keke robbers who even rob and loot warehouses do not use ordinary mask. When will even the warehouse owners help themselves with simple CCTV device? Why are people so security unconscious here?

Major robbery incidents in Nigeria today are being unraveled with CCTV without shooting a single bullet, but here in Abia, shop owners cannot even  help police at all. They’re expecting police to exchange bullets with robbers they can easily and quietly nab in their comfort zones. 

Everyone is guilty in this security mess we found ourselves and it will be better we all come out and have a town hall meeting with our leaders on the way forward instead of accepting every funny move.

Just today, a lady narrated to me how she and another girl we’re almost whisked away in that trending little bus in Aba.

She said the incident took place at the Aba main park around 8:PM last night while she was trying to enter the little bus since the government has asked Keke to stop at 7pm.

She was going to Ngwa road hoping to stop at Igbere Street. unfortunately, the bus she was trying to enter was filled with 4 guys. She said 2 of those guys were at the back seat, while one and their conniving criminal driver were in the front, with another besides the door.

In her words: “I wanted to board the vehicle until I noticed that the first lady that entered was dragging price with them. they demanded the lady pay N200 from Park to Ngwa road.

“As if that’s not enough, the lady demanded she come down, but they hesitate, while struggling with them, they stop her just in front of me and other passerby who doesn’t have the knowledge of what was happening. 

“Immediately the lady alighted from the vehicle,  she discovered that her phone is no longer with her including her bag, but the car had already zoomed off. 

“It was already late because the incident happened around 8:PM. I had a terrible experience as I trekked from park to Ngwa road then to my resident in Igbere street. I really suffered last night but I thank God that I reached safely.”

The government said that the temporary reduction in time of keke operation in Umuahia And Aba from 9:00pm to 7:00pm was to curb the rising spate of crime rate in the state capital and its environs, but the question is was that what security agencies in Abia State suggested was their main problem in arresting the security situation in the state?

Honestly we must be reasonable in this part of the world as stop fighting symptoms instead of the main illness. Aba is now more populated than before and nights are no more the nights of old. 

Those residing in Aba can attest to the fact that places like Ama-Pope, Uratta by Amaukwu, all streets in Port Harcourt Road after Uratta Junction, Ohanku Road after Evina, Obohia after Nkwor-Ngwa and so many other places have not witnessed police presence for up to 11 years! 

Motorable roads with functional street lights accompanied with a strong and active police patrol team in designated strategic places not forgetting some hidden CCTV cameras in most crime prone areas will help to curb the security challenges in Abia both night and day.

FROM THE TOWER OF TRUTH

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