Irate taxi drivers set up bonfires and blocked major roads in and around Abuja’s Wuse Market yesterday protesting the brutalization of their members by security operatives attached to the FCT task force.
Daily Trust learnt that three drivers were beaten up, thrown into security vans and taken to the FCT police command headquarters at Garki II, Abuja.
Witnesses, most of whom were taxi drivers, accused the task force comprising police, military, DSS, Immigration, Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC), of always extorting money from the cab drivers.
A taxi driver, Ameachi Igwe, who spoke with Daily Trust, said he was at the scene when the whole fracas started.
“What happened was that an old man parked his painted taxi close to the traffic light junction by Wuse Market on Herbert Macaulay Way and was eating nearby. Along the line, one of the task force members in mufti entered the old man’s car and demanded for his car keys and when they started arguing, I tried to intervene and asked the officer to come down from the car and identify himself properly. Then his colleague came from nowhere and I sighted about four of their Hilux vans coming towards me so I ran and they started shooting in the air.
“It was then one of our colleagues, Tony, as you can see I am holding his palm slippers, I was the one who called him because he was somewhere eating. The task force team caught him and beat him to coma and shot in the air sporadically. I don’t know if the bullet hit him but they threw him into their van and took him away.”
The angry protesters demanded that the task force should be disbanded, accusing members of the team of extortion and brutality.
Movement was impeded on major highways in the city centre connecting to Wuse, Berger and Mabushi as motorists spent hours getting out of the jam.
When our reporters visited the police command, those arrested were seen squatting on the ground in front the building. Their lips were swollen up with clots of bloods on their lips and noses.
The FCT police spokesman, Anjuguri Manzah, declined to comment on the incident, saying the commissioner of police will issue a statement on the incident.
A police officer on the task force team, whose name tag identified him as Yusuf Yaro, said the taxi drivers attempted snatching a rifle from an immigration officer who was on the same team.
However, the director of FCT Directorate of Road Transport Services, Wadata Aliyu Bodinga, who is the vice chairman of the FCT joint task force, told our reporters that the situation has been put under control. He said the public should disregard the rumour that a taxi driver was shot dead.
He also said that the situation will be dealt with appropriately.
He explained that taxi drivers were volatile people who are difficult to deal with, insisting that the task team were often the victims of brutality from the taxi drivers.
He also said he has never received any report of extortion from any member of the public. He said what the drivers pay is a fine imposed by a mobile court.
“Abuja is a federal capital and it is supposed to be kept clean but people come with all sorts of vehicles and park on the highway blocking people from moving. That is exactly what happened today and these are people that are not normal; they are very volatile and at the slightest thing they begin to react. Like these people that were arrested some of them don’t even have vehicles, they are all touts. So I will stress again that no person was killed,” Bodinga said.
He said the police were still investigating the issue and more facts will surface.
Source: Daily Trust