Security personnel rank high in Kabu-Kabu business in Abuja
The time was 7:15am, the journey was from Kubwa and the destination, federal secretariat through to the Office of the Head of Service, and all bus stops before the U-turn by Louis Edet House, and the driver of the space wagon Sienna vehicle? A police officer!
Such is the routine for this officer and a number of his colleagues in other security services. They daily pick up passengers on their way to the office. Everyday these men in uniforms, from policemen, to Immigration officers, men of the Civil Defence Corps, and other security men, are seen picking passengers from satellite towns to the city centre. But the question remains; why will a seasoned officer in his well-tailored uniform, with the mandate of protecting lives and property of its citizens, be seen competing with commercial vehicles for passengers?
A number of car owners in the nation’s capital use their private vehicles to convey commuters across town mainly to augment their fuelling cost, and most times such vehicles are not registered with the commercial drivers’ union. But in spite of the security risk of joining such vehicles, passengers are left with no choice because the FCT administration is yet to properly organise the transport sector in Abuja.
Among these private individuals who have directly or indirectly translated themselves to cab drivers, METRO discovered are seasoned uniformed officers of the law. One of the forms of identifying them is the presence of a belt or horsewhip on the dashboard or an ID card dangling from the rear view mirror stand.
On slight provocation, commuters who are usually unaware of the status of their supposed “driver” sometimes end up being assaulted or beaten by these drivers who are very quick to affirm their position with phrases like “do you know who I am?”
Also the touts who assist in calling passengers to a designated car, at most bus stops are equally not spared from the hands of these officers. These touts who are usually very quick to accost drivers for little hand downs when they get to their bus stops are rudely spoken to and in some cases beaten, because the officer are well aware of their illegal activities at most stop points.
Taking into consideration the economic situation in the country, METRO observed that some of this uniformed drivers use the monies recovered from their passengers to fuel and keep their vehicles on the road.
Commuters who are packed in very uncomfortable positions and still end up paying more in commercial cabs, prefer the private comfort they get with private vehicles. For instance, a seat which originally should accommodate 3 persons is used to convey 4 persons in taxis, while an officer would prefer to pick just two of three passengers.
METRO spoke with an officer of the law, who pleaded anonymity, noted that not all officers seen picking commuters actually do that on commercial grounds. He said a number of them actually just help commuters to their destination, especially with the recent fuel scarcity where passengers are stranded in bus stops.
“I am of the opinion that this matter should not be over flogged, why are we raising dust over this issue is it because they are officers? An officer is also a human being with needs and desires who equally must have some expenses of his own. He has a family and is also faced with the current fuel price hike. What if he buys his fuel at the black market, are you saying he should not recover the money he has spent while rendering a service?
“I believe that for every action there is a reason and one should be given a benefit of doubt because he is first an individual before he becomes an officer. Of which I am also aware that some other uniform officer holders use their vehicles for transportation and that is why some of them are not stopped at points of stop and search on the road” he said
Mr. Ebuka, who owns a boutique at Wuse market but resides in Kubwa, told METRO that he has, on several occasions, been conveyed to the town by police officers and he is usually aware of their status.
According to Ebuka, most of these officers are very accommodative as they do not drive rough, the obey traffic signals and they are usually more considerate to ensure that ever commuter is dropped at his desired destination
“For me I am more comfortable when I join the vehicle of an officer, once I sight his belt on the dashboard, I am quick to board the vehicle. Cases of one chance and robbery are very rear when you are in such vehicles.
“I can only add that for officers who assault or speak rudely to passenger, that should stop and they must remember that without these persons by the road they will be out of business and will have to use their little income to maintain teir cars.
While we understand the need to seek alternative sources of income, especially in an economy such as Nigeria’s, this trend of commercial driving by security men should be checked for the corporate image of these agencies. It is odd to find an officer in his outfits dragging with passengers over unpaid fares or something. Our law enforcement officers must recognise that they are called for a specific purpose which should not be jeopardized.
The FCT administration on the other hand must put an end to the transport challenges in the city. Adequate arrangements should be made to have a safe and comfortable transport system that is sustainable, so that residents of the FCT no longer have to turn to security officers for safer and comfortable transportation.