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Abuja daredevil armed robbers and I (my survival story) ~ by Law Mefor

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Law Mefor

The previous night I had a puzzling dream. My phone slipped out of my grasp and shattered to smithereens. I observed pieces of the phone that I had no idea existed strewn all around me, indicating that the damage was beyond repair. I awoke with a start; realising it was a bad omen and saying a quick prayer to stave off what might be approaching catastrophe. And now this, the day after.

I recently wrote about how cabbing systems can be useful in combating One Chance robbers who are on the rise in the FCT. Speak Out Africa invited me to speak on December 13, 2023, on their Twitter space about the Psychology of Deception and One Chance threat in the Federal Capital Territory, based on the popularity of that innocuous post, which was widely shared, and the fact that I am also a trained forensic and social psychologist. I obliged them.

That Wednesday was much like any other, but for the fact that I had to go to a programme sponsored by the EU that discussed the best ways to use digital technology to revolutionise farming in Nigeria. I was enthralled with the concept since it was also addressed by the Soludo Transition Committee’s Inclusive Growth subcommittee, which I had the honour of chairing. I was curious to know what was new.

Furthermore, one of the chaperones of the programme was my roommate and classmate from my days at the University of Jos. Since my classmate and I would take advantage of the chance to reminisce about the good old days, it was a double win for me. We have been mentoring each other for a long time, and his enrollment at the same time served as some inspiration for me to pursue a PhD when we did.

Due to the scheduled early commencement of the workshop and the involvement of the EU experts, I knew there would be no African time, so I left virtually at daybreak. The car needed to have its fuel topped off. However, there were lengthy lines at the few fuel stations that were open that morning. In Abuja, these fuel queues mysteriously keep resurfacing even though fuel prices at the pump are prohibitively high.

I had to get fuel on the black market since I lacked the time to wait in the queue. Even though I was driving a V6 engine, I reasoned that topping with a gallon of fuel would be sufficient in the meantime while planning to refuel before heading back home. I was in error.

After the day’s session at the EU sponsored programme, I headed towards the Conoil filling station at Area One after dropping off a friend at Utako. Through Begger Junction, I wade. It was almost nine o’clock at night and a lot of cars were rushing home on the Beger – Area One expressway. The fuel supply to my car was shut off just before Area One, at the intersection where Games Village and Area One are connected by the upcoming flyover and roundabout. Fortunately, my vehicle had an empty five-liter gallon. Every time I service my vehicle, I save the expended oil gallon for moments such as this. I was using the Bolt app on my phone to summon a ride to the Coinoil, which was located right after the aforementioned roundabout and roughly two minutes away from where my car had stopped.

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The Police had set up a roadblock there for years, so I was relieved to be stranded at the location, aware of the tales of woe by many. However, no police officer was visible that evening. I worked on phoning the Bolt driver unafraid. The cars that raced past me made wheezing sounds in my ears that changed according to each vehicle’s size and speed, but I hardly noticed them.

I was in the car for over two minutes when two robbers with knife and gun came out of the blue to attack the car from both sides. I had a quick profile look at the squat one who came from the other side, but I was unable to make out the appearance of the one that approached from my side. In a matter of minutes, they had robbed me and taken the three phones, laptop, and other easily accessible items.

Aware that I could be stabbed or shot, I offered no resistance (I didn’t want to die that kind of hero), just as I had warned the class I was teaching on Twitter earlier that day. The same route they took to disappear. That’s when I found my voice and screamed for help. None came to my rescue. Before a man driving a car that looked like a Golf dared to stop, none of the other cars did. As soon as I told him about my experience, he volunteered to take me to Conoil so I could get fuel and then come back to get my car.

“There is danger here,” the good man informed me, adding that someone was robbed there the previous week. I was so disoriented that I didn’t realise there was a woman seated in the front seat when I got to his car.

The man pointed out that the Police were only a short distance away as we started our short trip. That was when I peered and saw their patrol vehicle tucked away in the dark of the roundabout. They could see the scene of the attack well from where their vehicle was parked within the roundabout. They could see my car roll down the road and saw the heist and melee, so I was puzzled as to why they did not assist.

As we raced to the filling station like a fire engine, I couldn’t stop thinking about this. I asked the man who was driving me, “If they can’t help a citizen in such distress, why are they out here in the first place?”

“That’s the big question only they can answer,” he responded and added “We are in deep trouble with security in our country. I can’t believe Abuja will turn out like this. We should be ashamed.”

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“Why didn’t they ask me to get out of the car and leave with my possessions, which I could have kept with them so I could get fuel if they thought it was too dangerous for them?”

The man only managed a laugh, which the quiet lady huddled in the front seat even joined in.

After dropping me off at the Conoil fueling station, the kind Samaritan left. He didn’t even wait to acknowledge my gratitude. The filling station was dispensing fuel as I predicted, and there was absolutely no queue. I hoped for them and intended to refuel at the location because they sell out frequently but couldn’t reach them before the incident.

An unmarked taxi consented to return me with my fuel. I begged him to accompany me back and wait while I filled the tank with fuel. I had become understandably apprehensive. Also, I was out of cash and required the POS operators’ assistance to obtain the money to pay him.

My suggestion to involve the police officers who were hiding in the shadows near the robbery scene was echoed by the taxi driver to my great relief. We drove over and introduced ourselves, as well as the assistance we needed.

“Is that one your motor?” said their OC who sat in the Police Patrol van, gesturing to my Highlander that was just in front of us within view. He had corroborated what we had suspected without knowing it. I informed him that it was my motor indeed. He came out and we all walked up to the location, they commenced their belated pursuit of my attackers—who had vanished half an hour before—by walking around the car and wandering off. I was shaking my head, finding that humorous.

My thoughts conjured up an image of the FCT’s pitiful and real insecurity state. I was astounded to learn the hard way that Abuja, which was a few years ago the safest city in Nigeria, had given in to the criminals and that the police were now completely powerless.

“Why has the FCT’s security so badly deteriorated that armed robbers and kidnappers now operate without challenge?” I asked no one in particular.

One of them remarked for an answer: “Na so we see am o.” I looked at them in shock and disbelief, which made him add for clarity: “As you can see, these people are everywhere in this Area One, from Wuye to Games Village.”

I was stunned by the way he justified their bystander posture. When I looked at him, I felt greater sympathy. The police were completely aware of the hotspots and were unable to conduct sting operations, set up traps, or maintain constant patrols in these locations. Something is not adding up.

When questioned about the psychological effects of being a victim of a One Chance robbery at the Twitter Space lecture I gave the same day, I responded that it was chiefly posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), which I also underlined in the well-known piece I wrote about the One Chance phenomena in the FCT.

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My forte is forensic and social psychology as well as media and communication; so I could explain post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) well – usually resulting from near-death experiences, like the one I just had. PTSD provides the shock that would take time to recover.

It would cost a considerable amount of money to replace the phones and laptop I purchased for my line of business as workstations, given the falling value of the naira, the gloomy economy, and the strain of the holiday season. However, if I had been stabbed or shot by the desperate criminals, I most likely would have died, leaving my wife widowed and my kids orphans, or at the very least, I would have spent Christmas in the hospital.

Even more unsettling is the fact that my horrifying experience wasn’t unusual. In the Federal Territory, it occurs daily. Numerous deaths have been caused by this. Many have been severely injured, while countless others have lost everything. Many informed me that the thieves would abduct me and drive me around Abuja’s ATMs until my accounts were empty if my car had fuel. At least a dozen victims have come to me. I have met at least a dozen victims.

As several people have since confirmed to me, the truth is that if Area One Garki Abuja is hazardous, then nothing in Abuja, or even in Nigeria, is secure at the moment The truth is that terrorists, bandits, kidnappers, and armed robbers now rule the nation and make their presence known in Abuja. The worst issue is that the security system isn’t up to the task, which leaves the populace fearful and unable to have a good night’s sleep even in Estates. Their violent criminality and blatant boldness and impunity are melting into one. As a result, many citizens have experienced mental health problems.

So the question is, what should the citizens do? The two primary goals of government are the protection of people’s lives and property and the well-being of the populace. In what way might the Nigeria Police regain its position as the primary security force? How do we reclaim our nation from the criminals? Everybody can become a victim. It is time to take action.

Dr. Law Mefor, an Abuja-based forensic and social psychologist, is a fellow of The Abuja School of Social and Political Thoughts; drlawmefor@gmail.com; Twitter: @Drlawsonmefor.


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