Major roads in Abuja were locked down on Wednesday by taxi drivers protesting the alleged shooting of their colleague by the Joint Task Force at Wuse, a busy commercial hub in the city.
The angry men made bonfire on the Muhammed Murtala Expressway, the Herbert Macaulay Way, and Berger Roundabout paralysing vehicular movement and commercial activities.
Details of the shooting of the unidentified driver was hazy, but the protest was said to have started from the scene of the incident with other cab drivers blocking the roads with their vehicles and disused tyres which they set on fire.
The blockade on the Murtala Expressway was subsequently removed by some youths on the instruction of a combined team of soldiers and policemen which had earlier shot tear gas canisters at a stone-throwing mob on the Wuse flyover.
Some of the drivers said they blocked the roads to demonstrate their displeasure over their constant harassment and intimidation by the JTF which was set up to rid the Federal Capital Territory of miscreants.
The Treasurer, National Union of Road Transport Workers, Berger unit, branch 2, Kareem Adesanya, said the JTF operatives were fond of extorting the cab drivers, noting that they also physically assaulted them and damaged their vehicles for no reason.
He said, “The Joint Task Force members have always extorted our members for no reason. If they arrested a driver, they would extort at least N7,000 without issuing receipt. What happened today (Wednesday) was that they shot a driver at Wuse and took him away; nobody knows if he died or not.”
Adesanya said his union had complained to the Federal Capital Territory Minister, Mohammed Bello, without any response, adding that the drivers were tired of the harassment by the security operatives.
A driver, Olajide Aderemi said the JTF had arrested him thrice, adding that he had to cough out N6,000 each time he was arrested.
He said that the JTF once damaged his vehicle and destroyed the engine after it was driven several kilometres without coolant in the radiator.
“They abandoned the car at the National Stadium after they had destroyed the engine and they still collected N6,000 from me. They never told me the crime I committed, they simply hijacked the vehicle at Lugbe, drove it away and abandoned it at the stadium,”he narrated.
Two drivers, Olarenwaju Abdul and Anthony Eya complained about the ruthless manner the JTF operatives treated Abuja cab drivers, noting that they had no respect for their human rights as citizens.
They asked the FCT Administration to create motor parks for them, noting that many vacant spaces could be converted to loading bays for the taxi drivers.
Commenting on the situation, an activist, Augustine Okechukwu, called on in the minister to withdraw the JTF personnel from the streets and meet the leadership of the drivers union to resolve the issue.
“The minister should call the JTF to order or withdraw them from the streets; The drivers union have leaders whom he could invite to a meeting to address the issue of extortion and harassment by the JTF personnel,” the lawyer said.
When contacted about the alleged shooting, the Chief Press Secretary to the minister, Cosmas Uzodinma, said he wanted to get to the root of the matter. He promised to give an update later.