Abuja Protest: Police arrest suspects as normalcy returns

Protesters blocking vehicles and harassing motorists driving around Wuse market.

The FCT Police Command said that it arrested some suspects in connection with the disturbance between operatives of the Directorate of Road Transport Services (VIO) Task Force and cab operators at Wuse area of the Nigerian capital.

The command’s spokesperson, Anjuguri Manzah, in a statement on Wednesday, however, said that normalcy had been restored.

He, however, did not mention the number of suspects arrested.

“Some hoodlums who were trying to take advantage of the false rumour to cause problem in the FCT have been arrested and investigation is in progress,’’ he said.

He said that the disturbance followed a misunderstanding between operatives of VIO Taskforce and cab operators at Wuse.

Mr. Manzah said that contrary to speculations making rounds, no life was lost, nor was anyone injured during the disturbance.

The spokesman reiterated the command’s commitment to protect lives and property in the territory.

He advised members of the public to always follow the right channel in expressing their grievances instead of resorting to self-help.

He enjoined residents to go about their lawful businesses as adequate security measures had been deployed by the command.

PREMIUM TIMES reported how the incident caused traffic gridlock for several hours in the Nigerian capital.

The taxi drivers alleged that a soldier in the VIO team shot a taxi driver whose health condition could not be ascertained.

The cab operators blocked most link routes to Wuse, forcing motorists to take alternative roads.

Many commuters were also stranded as they could not get vehicles to take them to their various destinations.

In a reaction to the protest, some taxi drivers under Painted Abuja Taxis (PATs) dissociated themselves from the incident.

Shehu Yar’Adua, the chairman of the group, told the News Agency of Nigeria in Abuja that the protest was carried out by miscreants.

He said that speculation that the protest was because a taxi driver was killed or injured by the FCT Joint Task Force, JTF, was not true.

Mr. Yar’Adua said the injured person was not a member of PATs but a private driver, who was with his family. He said the driver had a problem with the JTF that resulted to fight.

“When the incident happened, the people around thought he was our member and I think in the course of the fighting, he fell down.

“That was what people saw and then concluded that he was shot dead by the JTF and this is not true.

“The information came to us but before we could investigate, all roads leading to Wuse market were barricaded by miscreants, who took advantage of the false information,” he said.

He said the situation was brought under control with the support of security agencies and other stakeholders, adding that PAT was in cordial relationship the VIO.

Earlier, the protesters had alleged that a commercial taxi driver was shot by the task force.

Some of the protesters said the task force was being used to frustrate the operation of taxi drivers.

James Ibe, one of the protesters and a commercial taxi drivers, said he had regularly been arrested and made to pay fines of between N7,000 and N25,000 to bail their vehicles from the task force custody.

Mr. Ibe noted that most of the drivers were graduates, who took to driving because of failure of the government to provide employment.

Segun Adebayo, one of the protesters, said the continuous molestation and frustration of lives and efforts of the drivers to make ends meet was discouraging.

“The government did not give us jobs, we have on our own decided to provide for ourselves and now, our efforts are being frustrated.

“It is with this driving that we are feeding our families and meeting up with other financial obligations,” he said.

Mr. Adebayo appealed to the FCT minister to intervene in the matter to ensure that taxis were allowed to load and discharge passengers in the various designated motor parks in Abuja.

Dauda Musa, another protester, said he was recently arrested inside Berger Bus Stop by four military men, six police officers and other security agents in Abuja

According to him, they arrested his vehicle along with some others and “we were made to pay N25,000 each for alleged illegal parking inside a bus stop.”

He said the security personnel and task force had always operated without their name tags, alleging that the task force was exploiting drivers.

“We have had enough of this Joint Task Force in FCT, they have never allowed taxi drivers to earn a living for themselves,” he said.

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