The killing of nine police officers in less than 24 hours in Nigeria’s capital city, Abuja, has left the Nigeria Police Force (NPF) and residents terrified.
Two police officers were shot by gunmen last Sunday at about 8pm at a check point near Manderegi village in Abaji Area Council of the FCT with the gunmen escaping with one of their rifles.
As the nation was yet to come to terms with the Sunday killings, on Monday, another set of gunmen opened fire on some policemen at a police outpost around Galadimawa Roundabout killing seven of them before carting away their rifles, bringing the total to nine police officers killed in what police sources have referred to as ambush.
A Galadimawa resident, Joseph Dogo, also died after a stray bullet hit him on the chest during the Galadimawa shooting. Our reporters who were at his residence at FADAMA Borehole, Galadimawa, were told that his family, including his pregnant wife, had gone to bury the 28-year-old Dogo in Kaduna State.
Daily Trust on Sunday also gathered that the police tent where the two police officers at Manderegi were killed has been evacuated. This has subjected residents to fear as they said the presence of police officers in the area reduced criminal activities.
Galadimawa Roundabout is a strategic road intersection, off the Umaru Musa Yar ‘Adua Expressway (Airport Road), which connects motorists driving from the Games Village and the National Judicial Institute (NJI) to Lokogoma and other suburbs.
The police outpost (made of a portal cabin) is situated at the roundabout and is adjacent to the Galadimawa Motor Park, few metres from the African University of Science and Technology (AUST).
The police officers usually stay in the cabin and stand intermittently on the road at night on stop-and-search duty. Residents said when they were not standing on the road, the policemen usually sat around the cabin observing motorists. Police sources said they were around the cabin when the gunmen opened fire on them.
The FCT Police Command is yet to give details of how the officers were killed, but people familiar with how the police officers operate at the roundabout, said they were usually scattered around with one of the officers standing ahead. Another officer stands few metres behind him to ensure motorists comply. A third officer usually stands on the pavement to check documents and search cars, while others hang around the cabin.
In the two cases, the officers were ambushed in what security personnel have described as “premeditated attacks.”
A tea vendor (mai shayi) at the Galadimawa Motor Park, Buhari Abubakar, said almost all the people in the motor park scampered to safety.
“It will be difficult to get an eyewitness because the moment we heard gunshots we all ran away and did not come back till the following day,” he said.
Police sources confirmed that two officers who survived the Galadimawa shooting were helping the police with information concerning the incident at the Force Headquarters.
Details are sketchy as to how the two officers survived while seven of their colleagues were killed. Sources said one of the officers escaped due to spiritual powers as he was shot several times but that the bullets did not penetrate his body.
The other officer, according to a police source, was in the mosque when the incident occurred.
“The gunmen drove to where they were seated, flashing the vehicle’s headlamp directly at them before they opened fire,” a police source said.
“Grass around the container is not good. They can hardly see what is coming to them unless they step out. Unfortunately, they were sitting down when they were ambushed,” the source said.
Galadimawa Roundabout is usually poorly lit and dreaded at night due to criminal activities. The only street lights in the area are under the Umaru Musa Yar ‘Adua Bridge, about a kilometre from the roundabout. Galadimawa community, a sprawling suburb from where the roundabout gets its name, is another beehive of criminal activities.
The Chief of Galadimawa, Tanko Zhimiko, said two residents were shot in March by gunmen in the community and one died. The widow of the deceased, Lami Dogomi, said her husband was shot at about 9pm at a petrol station where he worked as an attendant.
Chief Zhimiko also confirmed that criminals lurked at the roundabout because it was poorly lit at night, adding that pick pockets and phone snatchers loitered in the area.
“The people came and asked him to enter a car and he refused. So they shot him twice. A neighbour that attempted to rescue him was also shot in the leg,” Lami said.
“He died two days later at the Federal Staff Hospital because the bullet destroyed his intestines, while the other man was taken to Benue State for local treatment,” she said, adding that providing for their four children had been difficult.
Another resident, Zheko Awaje, said the killings brought to fore security challenges in and around the community. He said residents were now careful and conscious of their movement.
“Shops around here usually closed at about 1am because it is a busy place, but now, by 7pm people start locking their shops,” he said.
Our reporter who was at the roundabout on Friday morning reports that activities at the roundabout have been low as people and businesses do not open up until some minutes past 7am unlike what was obtainable in the area. Though the community is working on constituting a vigilante group to complement the activities of security operatives, residents said more needed to be done in ensuring their safety.
Similarly, Manderegi residents are in fear after the shooting as the police tent that provides cover for them from criminals has been removed.
A motorist in Manderegi said the removal of the police tent and check point in the area could lead to a surge in crime, adding that the officers had on several occasions prevented criminal activities.
“Recently, when a motorcycle was stolen in Abaji, it was through the help of the policemen at the check point that it was recovered and the suspect arrested,” he said.
A farmer, Ibrahim Yunusa, said the presence of policemen in the area had reduced cases of armed robbery along the highway.
“Two years ago, I could not farm here as I was always scared due to activities of armed robbers who sometimes passed through my farm to attack vehicles on the highway. But with the presence of the policemen, I cultivate my crops without fear,” he said.
Yunusa said the location of the police tent in the bush might have enhanced the ambush in which the officers were killed.
He urged authorities to provide enough men along the Abuja-Lokoja Road, especially at the Manderegi and Chikara axis, in order to checkmate incessant robbery.
“Why are the gunmen taking the guns of policemen?” a resident, Phillip Toso, queried, demanding swift police action in apprehending the suspects and restoring public trust in the police.
The Inspector General of Police (IGP), Ibrahim Idris, has set up a task force to arrest the killers of the police officers. The task force, headed by a Commissioner of Police, Adamu Ciroma, has 21 days to arrest the killers.