By Tunde Johnson
There was commotion in Abuja on Wednesday as irate taxi drivers set up bonfires and blocked major roads in and around Wuse Market, protesting the brutalization of a fellow taxi driver by members of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) task force at about 10 am.
Elendu Reports can report that the angry protesters demanded that the task force should be disbanded, accusing members of the team of extortion and brutality.
An eyewitness account revealed that the Joint Task Force of Vehicle Inspection Office (VIO) with security operatives approached a taxi driver at the Wuse market in the morning and demanded for his key but the driver objected he had not committed any offence since he was at the bus stop which culminated to his untimely death.
A taxi driver Aluku Christopher who witnessed the event told our Correspondent that task force officials approached the driver at Wuse bus stop and demanded for his key but declined because he was at the designated position for commercial vehicles.
Christopher added that when the driver refused giving his key to the official, a military personnel attached to the VIO used his gun butt to attack the driver who sustained severe injury and later said to have died according to some accounts.
Uche Okorie another taxi driver said the drivers were on the street to say no to excesses of the VIO with its security cohorts.
Okorie revealed that the VIO officials do not allow the taxi drivers to pick or alight passengers at the designated bus stop.
“Last week, a disguised task force officer stopped me along Jabi to Berger and entered my car, his second then removed my car key that I was not supposed to stop.
“I gave them N5500 for them to allow me to work,” he said.
Another eyewitness, also a taxi driver, said the driver, who was only identified as Tony was caught up unaware by the task force who beat him up with the boots of their rifle into a state of coma.
Eyewitnesses said the melee broke out when a member of the task force who was in mufti jumped into a parked taxi and demanded for the key of the cab from the driver.
Ameachi Igwe, a taxi driver, who spoke with our Correspondent said he was at the scene when the whole fracas.
“The joint task force came this morning to harass drivers with unpainted taxis along Berger-Wuse route. What happened was that an old man parked his painted taxi close to the traffic light junction by Wuse Market on Herbert Macaulay Way and was eating nearby.
“The man was not feeling too well but he still came out to look for money for his family needs, but along the line, one of the task force members in mufti entered the old man’s car and demanded for his car keys and when they started arguing, I tried to intervene in the matter and asked the officer to come down from the car and identify himself properly.
“Then his colleague came in from nowhere and I sighted about four of their hilux vans coming towards me so I ran and they started shooting in the air and started throwing people into their vans.”
He added that: “It was then one of our colleagues, Tony, as you can see I am holding his palm slippers, I was the one who called him because he was somewhere eating and his wife and his child were waiting for him to take them to the hospital. The task force team caught him and beat him to coma and shot in the air sporadically. I don’t know if the bullet hit him but they beat him to state of coma and threw him into their van and took him away.”
Movement was impeded on major highways in the city centre connecting to Wuse, Berger and Mabushi as motorists spent from one to two hours getting out of the jam.
Responding, Wadata Aliyu Bodinga, Director of FCT Directorate Road Transport Services,who is the head of the task force team told our reporter on phone that the situation has been put under control. He said the public should disregard the rumour that the taxi driver was shot dead.
He also assured that the situation will be dealt with appropriately as he does not condone brutality.