PICKPOCKETS are operating freely at the ongoing national convention of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Nigeria’s ruling party.
There are several complaints of missing phones, cash and other valuables at the Eagle Square, venue of the convention.
A media officer at the national secretariat of the APC in Abuja told The ICIR that he was dispossessed of his phone while entering the Square.
“My phone was in my pocket and I was carrying a bag. By the time I entered the Square after pushing through the large crowd at the gate, I could no longer see my phone,” the media officer, who asked not to be named, said.
Initially, calls to the phone rang out without being answered.
But after a short while, further calls to the phone indicated that the device had been switched off.
The media officer, a staff of the APC, was not the only victim of the rampaging pickpockets.
The ICIR’s correspondent observed several other people who reported to the team of security agents manning the gate that their phones, cash and other valuables were stolen.
A woman, who appeared close to tears, said she was dispossessed of her purse.
“The purse was inside my handbag. I have money, my ATM card and one of my phones in the purse,” the woman said while narrating her ordeal to the security agents and people around the location.
A middle aged man, who was dressed in the colours of the APC and wore a tag that identified him as a delegate, was seen complaining bitterly about his missing phone.
The man blamed the security agents at the gate of the Square for the development.
“If they had made it easier for people to enter there will not be a crowd at the gate. These criminals are taking advantage of the crowd at the gate,” the man said in a short chat with The ICIR.
The ICIR observed that a large crowd, including delegates, officials and others with accredited tags, were finding it difficult to enter the Square.
The gate which led into the Square was manned by security agents including the police and men of the Nigeria Security and Civil Defense Corps.
The security operatives kept the gate closed, forcing a large crowd to gather, struggling to enter the main venue of the convention.
A small space was opened just to allow one person to pass through the gate. But the upper part of the small space was blocked and people can only pass by bending down.
At some point, the security agents had to resort to violence in order to keep the crowd in check as people rushed the gate in a bid to force their way inside.
The security agents used batons and whips on members of the crowd.
In the ensuing stampede, several persons broke through the gate and rushed inside. But many people also lost valuables as pickpockets capitalised on the chaos to operate freely.
The ICIR further observed that a number of youths were arrested by the security operatives for alleged involvement in the criminal activities.
The suspects, some of whom were beaten up by the security agents, were forced to sit on the bare floor at a makeshift security post by the gate.
The security men also tried to warn those entering the Square against the activities of the pickpockets.
“Hold your phones! Hold your phones!,” some of the security personnel shouted as people struggled to enter the main venue of the convention.