The unfortunate violence that engulfed the Dei-Dei building materials market in Abuja on Wednesday, May 18, 2022, and the ill-conceived ruling of the Federal Capital Territory, FCT, High Court that retroactively granted a one-year tenure extension to the six FCT Area Council chairmen are two major events that have continued to dominate discussions in the nation’s capital.
While one has been described as a purely constitutional issue, the other incident at the Dei-Dei market is a sad reminder of how easily the fragile peace within a society could be punctuated when level heads fail to prevail and hoodlums allowed to run wild.
As it happened in Dei-Dei, an incident that was purely accidental in nature, was unfortunately hijacked by hoodlums to unleash mayhem on the society for selfish reasons.
According to reports, a lady was said to have fallen off a commercial motorcycle and was run over by a vehicle along the Dei-Dei market, killing her on the spot. But rather than follow appropriate channels to seek redress, some hoodlums within the market hijacked the situation to target economic assets, destroying a substantial part of the market and causing regrettable loss of lives and property. In the end, the FCT authorities were left with no option but to close the market to forestall further breakdown of law and order.
In a territory like Abuja that is mostly famed for its strict adherence to the provisions of law, shutting the market in that circumstance is the least that is expected of a responsible and proactive government to contain the ugly situation.
Following up on that also, the FCT Administration is reportedly working with the Dei-Dei market and community leaders, as well as the political authorities in the area to increase the presence of security in the market and this, in my humble view, is a welcome development.
Also worth pointing out is the effort made by the FCT Minister, Malam Muhammad Musa Bello, to dispel the false reports, which circulated on social media, that the incident was ethnically and religiously motivated. Malam Bello’s proactiveness is quite commendable because in an era of social media, where people have been known to act out of order, based on false reports or fake news, any action to debunk fake reports in moments of crisis is indeed a step in the right direction.
Also worthy of praise are the efforts made by the security agencies and community leaders in containing the violence to ensure that it did not degenerate.
But as timely as these interventions may have seemed in mitigating the crisis, there are however a small section of the society that believes what happened in Dei-Dei could have been averted if the ban on the activities of commercial motorcycles, popularly known as Okada, had been enforced in the area. In this regard, it is pertinent to mention that the ban on Okada, as I understand, is being implemented in phases in the FCT and not an outright ban on their activities as is being speculated in some quarters.
For instance, while Okada operations are outrightly banned within the city centre and some estates like Gwarimpa, they are however not banned within the satellite towns and suburbs of the FCT, as well as the Area Councils. Understandably, this is due to the critical role they play in the transportation value chain in these areas, especially at the beginning and terminal points of movement.
Moreso, the idea that has been consistently communicated by the FCT government is to have Okada and Keke gradually phased out in the satellite towns and other areas as the provision of infrastructure continues to improve in the FCT. In that sense, it would be wise for FCT residents to exercise patience and understanding while efforts are being made to actualize the gradual ban.
On the much-disputed FCT High Court judgment that suspended the swearing in of new Area Council Chairmen, along with Councilors, kudos must also be given to the FCT Administration for the way it has gone about in addressing the issue in line with the provisions of the law.
It could be recalled that Malam Bello explained in his public address that based on the order of the Court, the FCT Administration was compelled to suspend inauguration of the newly elected officials to avoid a situation where there could be irreparable damage.
However, in line with the provision of law also, the FCTA, in addition to expressing displeasure over the incident, has approached a higher court to appeal the judgment and seek the true position of law on this matter. It is now left for the reputable men within the judiciary to do what is right by upturning the judgment in line with the provisions of the law.
But while FCT residents await the judgment of the Appeal Court, calls have been made for calm and patience to allow the due process of the law to run its cause.
Already, the FCT Minister, Malam Muhammad Musa Bello has joined other well-meaning Nigerians and youths in the FCT in expressing conviction that the judgment is faulty and cannot stand the test of time. Other notable legal luminaries have also spoken along this line and they are all in agreement that it is only a matter of time before justice prevails on the matter.
Until then, residents of the FCT must hold fast and wait for the outcome of the appeal court process which hopefully will deliver a favourable judgment in the FCT.
Akilu writes from Gudu District, Abuja