The PICKPOCKETS operate freely during 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 Eagle Square, the convention venue.
A media officer at the APC national secretariat in Abuja said CIRI that he was dispossessed of his phone when entering the square.
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“My phone was in my pocket and I was carrying a bag. By the time I entered the square after walking through the large crowd at the gate, I could no longer see my phone,” said the media officer, who asked not to be named.
At first, phone calls rang unanswered.
But shortly after, further phone calls indicated that the device had been turned off.
The media officer, an APC staff member, was not the only victim of the rampaging pickpockets.
ICIRs The caller observed several other people who reported to the team of security guards guarding the gate that their phones, cash and other valuables had been stolen.
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One woman, who seemed on the verge of tears, said she was robbed of her purse.
“The purse was inside my purse. I have cash, my ATM card and one of my phones in the purse,” the woman said as she recounted her ordeal to security guards and people around the place.
A middle-aged man, dressed in APC colors and wearing a tag identifying him as a delegate, was seen complaining bitterly about his missing phone.
The man blamed the security guards at the gate of the square for the development.
“If they had made it easy for people to get in, there wouldn’t be a crowd at the door. These criminals are taking advantage of the crowd at the gate,” the man said in a short chat with CIRI.
CIRI observed that a large crowd, including delegates, officials and others wearing accredited badges, struggled to enter the square.
The gate leading to the square was manned by security personnel, including police and men from the Nigeria Security and Civil Defense Corps.
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Security guards kept the gate closed, forcing a large crowd to gather, struggling to enter the main convention venue.
A small space was opened just to allow a person to pass through the door. But the upper part of the small space was blocked and people could only pass by stooping.
At one point, security guards had to resort to violence in order to control the crowd as people rushed for the door in an attempt to force their way inside.
Security guards used batons and whips on members of the crowd.
In the ensuing stampede, several people broke through the door and rushed inside. But many people also lost valuables as pickpockets took advantage of the chaos to operate freely.
CIRI further observed that a number of young people had been arrested by security officers for their alleged involvement in criminal activities.
The suspects, some of whom were beaten by security guards, were forced to sit on the bare floor at a makeshift security post near the gate.
Security guards also tried to warn those entering the square against pickpocketing activities.
“Hold your phones! Hold your phones!” some security personnel shouted as people struggled to enter the main convention venue.