Opinion

Disaster In Waiting: Many Excesses Of AMAC Marshals

By Austin Okechukwu Chijioke

Executive Chairman of the Abuja Municipal Area Council (AMAC) for short, Honorable Abdulahi Adamu(Candido) happens to come away as one individual who is determined to make a difference both in his career as a journalist and later as a politician.

Though, I’m not too familiar with his trajectories in the journalism profession, but as a resident of the FCT and in whose Area Council, Candido has had the singular fortune of presiding over for the past 5 years or so, I have adopted more than a passing interest in the personality and political life of Honorable Adamu popularly known as Candido. Although I may not be able to say why Candido has turned out to be a popular sobriquet, the usual instinct is to align myself with the notion that every individual is entitled to whatever name or sobriquet could be attributed or appropriated by fans of such persons.

Looking closely at the literal meaning of the sobriquet “Candido”, one could be infected by the notion of one who is both candid and honest.

Honorable Candido comes away as one who is truly honest even as a politician. In 2020, when humanity was faced with a devastating pandemic, the honorable Chairman of AMAC floated what could be best described as hawks which he renamed AMAC marshals. The mandate of these hawks is to take out those who pack indiscriminately along the city center and environs. It must be stated here that AMAC is a relatively large council covering the seat of the nation’s power base and accommodating an impressive array of government establishments and much more. It therefore stands to reason that the city center hosts more than the usual share of human and vehicular traffic than the other 4 area councils combined. It is in this stead that one would begin to appreciate the enormity of the traffic situation and the efforts put by the government agencies to contain them. What is not immediately clear is why the so called AMAC marshals who appear mostly in unmarked reflective jackets at the inception of their creation will choose to hover around the city and environs in equally unmarked personal vehicles to perch and take out their victims in a manner reminiscent of a sting operation by a trained security operatives.

What they do is to drive stealthily along major roads to catch and arrest whoever has the misfortune of parking on the road shoulder to either pick or make a phone call. Then voom! They would swoop on their victim in a commando style with their vehicle effectively blocking the victims easy escape if ever he or she wanted to bail. Those of us conversant with the city layout know that that there has never been any road furniture indicating no parking zone especially along major roads till today to warrant the kind of treatment hapless citizens are undergoing in the hands of these hawks. More nauseating is the fact that these so called marshals will choose to look the other way even when they encounter indiscriminate parkings and obstructions by the ubiquitous taxi operators in the city. They target mainly private car operators whom they harass and compel to part with large sums of money before they are left off the hook, failing which they are further subjected to excruciating psychological torture in addition to negotiated sums of money when they are taken to their makeshift office in Jabi. In the midst of these, one pertinent question which should rightly agitate the mind is which power does an area council have to float a marshal for the soul purpose of contravening traffic offences and awarding penalties thereof. What is the place of the Federal Road Safety Corps, the Nigeria Police or even the Directorate of Road Traffic Services. Again, does it not amount to double jeopardy as our learned gentlemen would claim when one should ordinarily park in a safe place to pick or make urgent call to avoid the wrath of Road Safety operatives or continue movement to avoid falling victim to the AMAC hawks. Either way, the hapless motorist loses. If he/she packs for whatever reason, the hawks will pick him/her, if he/she drives along, he /she gets a ticket for use of phone while driving plus a referral to a reputable hospital to have such motorist’s head examined.

Complaints reached its own peak after the negative activities of the AMAC hawks that the Nigeria Union of Journalist, Abuja Chapter decided to organize a town hall meeting sometime in 2020 to have these discussed and explanation extracted from the authorities of AMAC. Good enough, Honorable Candido showed up where great turn out of residents was recorded. After listening to few of the complaints of the residents, Abdulahi Adamu in his candid manner admitted to the activities of these “hawks” adding that they have truly gone haywire and not in tandem with the objectives establishing them. He went on to reveal that a set of young men and women were being trained to take over the entire set up after striving to obtain certification for private security outfit of his council from Nigeria Security and Civil Defense Corps. One equally wonders if getting certificate for a civil security outfit is equally a legal means to illegality. At the end of the town hall meeting, Honorable Candido promised to bequeath a better organized, friendly and uniformed outfit that will complement the efforts of other formal security agencies in addressing traffic menace in the city.

It is really disturbing that months down the line after the town hall meeting, the only good thing about the AMAC marshals is their carton color khaki uniforms. Their modus operandi has not changed a bit. Yet there other groups of the marshals who wore either black or blue T Shirt whose duty is to arrest all commercial transport operators especially busses, wagons, articulated trucks etc who have the misfortune of venturing into the city center from the hours of 12pm and 4pm on each working day without the payment of N200 daily ticket. It does not matter if you leave around AMAC or not. In so long as you come in between these hours without evidence of payment of N200, you will be harassed, harangued, arrested and fined heavily. Now wait for it… You are coming in from Lagos, Kogi, Niger, kaduna or what have you, you must obtain a daily ticket to enable you traverse the city center if you are a commercial transport operator. Even so, you must send for and obtain the ticket ahead of wherever you are coming from or you must obtain a daily ticket sticker running into thousands of Naira and carry alongside your vehicle particulars and show on request from these hawks.

Just imagine how far a government authority can go to further infuriate, suffocate already suffering citizens all in the name of IGR.

Alhaji Abdulahi Adamu should understand that government exists to serve the interests and welfare of the governed not the other way around. That he received an overwhelming support to ascend the headship of AMAC for the first and second term in office is an indication that he is a good man who cared for the people. He is reputed to commute from his homestead to his office every day. The arterial roads to his village in Jiwa Abuja was always a nightmare for motorists until he became the Chairman of the Council and changed the face and road of his community for good. Again, the reputation of AMAC as the largest Area Council where both the President and retinue of federal government functionaries live would be at stake if all Candido would care for in his twilight days as Chairman is about how to extract money from the hapless citizens resident in Abuja in the name of revenue drive.

Candido please pause for a moment.

You have built unassailable reputation over the years. Scholars believe that a reputation built over a hundred years period could come crashing down like a pack of cards in a matter of seconds. Think about your reputation. You must have spent scarce resources to set up the marshals, but it is in your best interest to rejig them as a friendly and useful tool of government. Their operational procedures are giving you and the authorities a bad name. Deploy them to arrange indiscriminate parking of commercial transport operators in the city center. Let them beef up the police and traffic personnel’s efforts in this regard. Good sum of money can be fined off stubborn operators. Deploy them to arrest those pedestrians crossing the highways where pedestrian bridges have been provided in the city centers. This is how to be people-centric while making money from recalcitrant offenders. I rest my case sir.

© Austin Okechukwu Chijioke.

He is a Public Affairs commentator and a resident of Abuja, FCT.

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