There is uneasy calm within the Hausa community at the Central Mosque, Owerri Road area of Enugu, following a crucial meeting between the community leadership and riders of tricycles (popularly called Keke NAPEP) of Northern origin at the weekend, over the murder of seven of their members.
A similar meeting scheduled between the Enugu State Commissioner of Police, Nwodibo Ekechukwu, and leadership of the Northern community did not hold as the CP was said to have travelled outside the state on official engagement.
According to one of the leaders of the community, Alhaji Yusuf, “The CP’s trip outside the state prevented us from meeting with him. But we may still have the meeting as soon as he comes back to Enugu.”
The meeting the Hausa community had with Keke operators, among other things, deliberated on the possibility of stopping the tricycle operators from night operation, persuading them to have one single union, interfacing between them and the dealers of tricycles who sell to the operators at outrageous hire-purchase prices it was gathered.
“The Northern community is facing pressure from the owners of the tricycles sold on hire-purchase to the Keke operators. The leadership of the community would like to negotiate the prices for them. Some of them signed N1million while others signed N800,000 with the dealers. And they pay N15,000 to the Keke owners weekly. That’s why they do the night operations in order to meet up. So, we want to start negotiating for them,” one of spokespersons of the community, Alhaji Mohammed Lawan said.
“The leadership of the community here advised them to stop operating in the night because attacks and snatching of tricycles were done at night,” Alhaji Lawan said. Daily Trust recalls that in the first week of March, the Nnorthern community raised alarm over the sudden disappearance of three of its members, and consequently appealed to the Enugu State government to quickly improve on the security situation of the state.
The three missing members - Nuhur Tahir, Musa Nuhu and Idris Lawan - were all commercial tricycle riders whose permanent base was the Enugu Central Mosque Unit, Owerri Road. Nuhu and Musa hailed from Doguwa LGA of Kano State while Idris was from Kafin Hausa LGA of Jigawa State.
It was gathered that both Musa Nuhu and Tahir were last seen in the community on Saturday March 6, 2016 when they left with their tricycles for their usual business but never returned. Also, Idris Lawan left with his tricycle the next day, Sunday, March 7, 2016 and up till the time of filing this report, he has not been found, nor his tricycle located.
As if that was not tragic enough, towards the middle of March, yet another Keke operator from the Central Mosque Unit, Owerri Road, Enugu, twenty-five-year-old Sule Lado was also declared missing with his Keke, bringing the number of victims to seven. Lado, married with kids, hailed from Bunkure Council Area of Kano State.
However, while Lado’s corpse was found when two suspects led security operatives from the Anti-Kidnapping Unit of the Enugu Police Command to the spot he was buried in a shallow grave, the corpses of Tahir, Lawan and Nuhu are yet to be located.
Sometime in January 26 this year, three decomposing corpses of missing tricycle riders from the Central Mosque Unit - Sule Babangida (22), Ashahabu Dauda (30) and Samaila Abdullahi were discovered and exhumed from a shallow grave at a building site at Ugwuaji in Enugu South LGA of the state.
Deputy Chairman, Keke Riders Association, Central Mosque Unit, Owerri Road, Abdullahi Zubairu recalled that Lado’s brother informed the community about his disappearance. The members then reported at the Ogui Police Station and the State Police Headquarters who immediately radioed other stations including the CID and Anti-Kidnapping Unit. But there was relief among members of the community as operatives from the Enugu State Police Command Anti-Kidnapping Base led by their commander, Supol Alex, arrested two of the suspected criminals during the week.
State Police Public Relations Officer (PPRO), DSP Ebere Amaraizu, told Daily Trust that police detectives are working round the clock to find out what actually happened, to fish out the criminals.
Amaraizu did not state whether the police have made any arrest or not, but a source said some arrests have been made in connection with the killings. “We are working on it and I believe the police will get to the root of the matter,” Amaraizu said.
“When the police arrested the two suspects, they led the police to the same Ugwuaji area where they killed and buried Sule. The corpse was exhumed and later reburied at the cemetery,” Zubairu said.
When asked why they targeted Keke operators of Northern origin, one of the suspects said: “They are the ones we can easily convince to convey us at night; if we tell the Igbo keke riders, they are usually suspicious and decline.”
When Dahiru, Nuhu and Lawan were declared missing, a search party of about 100 people was formed and they combed every nook and cranny of Enugu, according to the Deputy Chairman, who added that the search party combed Emene Road, Enugu/Port-Harcourt Express Road and Ugwuaji area but up till now the missing persons have not been located.
The community said that its members have been living peacefully with their host but wondered how things could have suddenly gone awry that lawless elements have set up a criminal gang specialized in kidnapping and killing tricycle operators of Northern extraction.
The Chief Imam of the Enugu Central Mosque, Alhaji Rukalmeni Saeed, and the entire Northern community were delighted over the arrest of the suspects. “The community was becoming worried over the disappearance of its members, resulting in suspicion of hostility by the host community until the police arrested two of the murderers who stated how they charter commercial tricycles to lonely areas, attack and kill the operators and thereafter take their tricycles to Anambra State for sale,” he said.
Reacting to the development, President of Enugu-based human rights group, the Civil Rights Realisation and Advancement Network (CRRAN), Barrister Olu Omotayo, asked the state government to ensure that “no stone is left unturned in apprehending all members of the killer gang behind these dastardly acts,” adding that “We demand that all those involved in the dastardly act be made to face the full wrath of the law.”
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