Abuja residents have expressed mixed reactions over yesterday’s sudden disappearance of several military checkpoints within the city centre, with some saying the development could expose the city to more security risks.
This is coming on the heels of dismantling of military security checkpoints scattered within the Abuja metropolis, as part of the tough security measures throughout the just concluded yuletide period, barely 48 hours into the resumption of work, after workers observed the official Christmas and New Year Holidays.
However, these reservations are pouring despite worries in some quarters that their continued stay would further worsen the chaotic traffic situation in the city.
Recall that rarely two days to last year’s Christmas celebration , residents woke up to discover sudden mounting of military security checkpoints at various strategic inter-changes and junctions within parameter of the Federal Capital City (FCC), in addition to some existing checkpoints on various entry points to the city, due to the country’s prevailing insecurity.
Precisely, on Tuesday (December 23, 2014), Abuja residents closed from work, and were suddenly accosted by several military Check points on major roads within the city, thereby causing a heavy traffic gridlock and pains for them.
Investigation revealed that military personnel had restricted vehicular movement around the busy Berger -Wuse route, Nnamdi Azikiwe Expressway, Kubwa/Zuba Expressway, AYA round about, by Abuja/Keffi road, and amongst others, throughout the yuletide season.
It was observed throughout the yuletide season, soldiers mounted roadblocks, where motorists were forced to drive on a slow pace, while suspicions vehicles were pulled over routine security checks.
Not left out, residents moving on foot especially those carrying big bags were also subjected to a lot of scrutiny; it continued till Monday, when workers resumed work after the yuletide season.
According to a cross section of residents, who spoke to Peoples Daily, in separate interviews, there are doubts over the rationale for the relaxing of the tighten security measure, which manifested in the sudden disappearance of the military check points from the city centre.
They expressed concerns over the development, as there was still need for them to continue checking, because of the increasing mass movement of people (old and new settlers) into the city, giving that the greater percentage of the residents are yet to return from the yuletide break.,
A resident, Okon Kingsley, who expressed worry over the development, noted that there were still more security threats in the air, as people are still moving into the city with a lot of bags and other things, which may be used to smuggle dangerous weapons into the city.
He said that he was shocked and sad yesterday, when he discovered that the military check points at Apo round-about and Berger Bridge were nowhere to be found.
“I was very sad when I discovered that there were no longer military check points that were mounted before Berger and Apo Roundabouts, along the Nnamdi Azikiwe Expressway.
“Because the emergence of the check points gave me and other residents a great sense of security in the city, especially while plying the route throughout the yuletide period.
“And, most of us had wished that be left on duty, at least till the end of this month (January), as normal activities are still on snail speed, but the government knows best.
“Yet, I would want to appeal to the authorities to bring back some of these check points, to help beef up security within the city centre, given the prevailing security challenges in the land,” he stressed.
Another resident, Mallam Ali Kabiru, said although, the check points mounted within the city centre had brought a lot of hardships on commuters, but with it was worth the while, given the peaceful atmosphere it created during the yuletide season.
According to him, the people are ready to pay any kind of sacrifices that would help lessen the current security threats they are faced with, while pursuing their daily bread.
“It is better to have these military checks on our streets, if it would allay our fears over the rising insecurity in the country, that’s was why am still to come to terms on the reasons for their sudden removal by the government,” he added.
However, some residents, who expressed joy over the development, told Peoples Daily that the continued stay of the military check points had already started having its toes on the commuting public, even with the large chunk of the populace are still yet to return from their yuletide break.
They said although they were taken aback by the turn out of events in the FCT (the emergence of more military check points) during the period, but they had expected the ones within the city centre to disappear, after the festive period.
According to them, the tough security measure especially in the city centre worsened their plight throughout the festive period, therefore continuing same would only further plunge the people into more woes.
Meanwhile, Peoples Daily observed that, life and economic activities are gradually returning to Abuja, as major roads and streets which were hitherto empty, have continue to experience increased in both human and vehicular traffic around them.
With both civil servants and private business men returning to their places of work and business to commence the activities for the year, most offices and shops are beginning to come alive with a lot of activities.
Most FCT residents, who spoke on the resumption of work, said that they were glad to return to work after the end of the official yuletide break.
Recall that most of the offices and shops were hitherto closed for activities during the yuletide season, in celebration of the just concluded Christmas and New Year festivities.
However, it was observed that, activities are still on slow pace in the city, as some shops and offices are still under lock and key, whereas activities in most motors parks were on high tempo.
“Even with the expiration of the public holidays declared by the federal government for the Christmas and New Year Celebrations, everyone is expecting that as the dust raised by the period to gradually settle, and by next week, life would fully return to Abuja.
“But I can’t wait to resume work next week, because I have missed doing my work and colleagues,” says one Kunle Samuel, who was spotted around Berger bus stop, along Wuse market road.
Also, another resident, John Okey, who was seen at the Peace Motor Park, in Jabi, just as he alighted from a 14-seater bus that brought him back from Enugu state, noted that he feels refreshed after enjoying a lot of rest during the yuletide break.
“For me., am glad that these two-week holidays, affording me with the opportunity which I have been longing for, to spend good time with my family members.
“I have rested enough, and I feel very much refreshed and revitalized to face the challenges and prospects of the New Year with positive attitude.
“Just before Christmas, I travelled to my home town in Enugu state, along with my family, and I was able to make myself and my family members happy, and return safely back to Abuja, to resume work next week,” he stressed.
Similarly, at Jabi Motor park, in Utako District, one Mrs. Talatu Musa, who returned to the city, from Kwoi, in Jaba local government area of Kaduna state, pleaded for return of peace which had eluded her people a very for long time.
“Imagine, things that we hitherto do to celebrate the Christmas and New Year have been shelved aside, because of insecurity in the state.
“Because, there is fear of attack by either the Boko Haram terrorist group or the fulani herdsmen, and as a result, many of the activities to make the season memorable for the people of the town have been put on hold until lasting peace is restored.
“Government and whosoever is saddled with ensuring the restoration of peace in the area should come to our rescue, because the joy of life and living is fast going away from us.
“Burnt houses, deserted places, pain and agony increased poverty and hunger are what is boldly written on the faces of our people. May God come to our help,” she expressed.
Also, a resident at Apo, Christy Ibeh, who said that she I returned back from the village on Sunday, and on reporting to her office on Monday, she observed that activities around the city were picking up slowly.
“Business is not yet normal as before, as even inside the market is not filled with people, there is no much activity, as many offices and shops remain closed.
“People are still returning back from the New Year and Christmas celebrations, we believe by end of the month, life will come back fully.
“Because from my observations, some residents have returned to the city, but have not started their normal businesses, as they are still putting things in order at their homes before opening their shops for business,” she stressed.
“It is normal that by the first full week of the New Year, activities are on slow pace in Abuja, as most residents will not return till the end of the week, or even by month end, because of the high cost of transportation.
“We are hopeful that more people will return to the city by next week, and the city will come alive with its normal activities.
“Already, business activities are gradually picking up from where it stopped last year, as there is steady increase of vehicular and human movement around, following the official resumption of work,” says another resident, Ben Akin.
Further checks revealed that in some places in the area, business activities in most suburb areas of the FCT have almost picked upfully, while the city center is only recording slow but gradually increase of activities.
It was also gathered that the slow take off activities in the city may not be unconnected to fears of impending crisis, waiting to explode happen either during or after the forthcoming general elections, in February, forcing many people, who had traveled out, to remain where they are until after the exercise.