The indiscriminate sale of sharp cutlasses in traffic at some bus stops and junctions in parts of Abuja, the Federal Capital Territory, is causing panic among residents, motorists and passengers.
It was discovered that the presence of menacing-looking hawkers clutching handfuls of sharp cutlasses is fast becoming a common sight during peak traffic hours at some bus stops in the FCT.
The development is more prevalent at junctions in the outskirts of the FCT, particularly along the Kubwa expressway.
The uneasy feel associated with the development is heightened by the fact that, in most cases, the hawkers selling the cutlasses are able-bodied young men.
Some residents, motorists, and passengers who expressed concerns at the development said they usually feel frightened and unsafe at the sight of the cutlass-wielding youths who hawk the implements.
A civil servant, Emeka Onyekwere, who spoke concerning the development wondered whether the FCT authorities and the security agencies are aware of the development.
“I was afraid the first time I saw youths wielding cutlasses in the traffic, I thought they were bandits or hoodlums who were attacking unarmed motorists and passengers. It was quite shocking because I never expected that cutlasses would be openly hawked in traffic. I wonder if the (FCT) authorities and the security agencies are aware of this,” Onyekwere said.
One of the hawkers, who identified himself as Abdullahi, noted that it would come in handy if there was a need to defend the household in the event of an attack.
“You need one in the house,” Abdullahi said, adding that the cutlass has very strong and sharp steel.
A closer examination shows that the cutlasses could indeed pass for swords, and appears to be specially made for combat.
“You can also use it to cut grass and kill snake around the house,” Abdullahi added when asked if the machetes are only meant for ‘self-defence’.
However, he admitted that some motorists and passengers whom he approached with the weird wares complained about the cutlasses.
“People usually complain about the cutlasses. Sometimes when I approach a vehicle to display the cutlasses to people inside the car they will tell me not to come closer. I notice that some people are scared when they see the cutlasses but I don’t know why they will be afraid. We are just selling goods just like other hawkers here,” Abdullahi said.
Motorists and passengers who are alarmed at the sight of cutlass-wielding youths in the traffic are not the only ones that are worried over the indiscriminate, uncontrolled sale of the materials.
Interestingly, some other traffic hawkers, and roadside traders at bus stops, are also uncomfortable with the public parade of the ‘arms’.
A fruit-seller at the Phase 4 Junction on the Kubwa expressway, who simply identified herself as Mrs. Justina, said the presence of the cutlass-hawkers is a major cause for concern for other traders.
Justina explained that the hawking of machetes in the traffic at the junction was a relatively recent development.
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“It was not so long ago that they started coming with the cutlasses to this junction. At first, some of us complained and told them to leave and at that time they were being very careful because people said the police will be brought to arrest them. But nothing like that happened and they are now operating freely,” Justina said.
While the other traders have learnt to mind their own business, Justina noted that they are still afraid of the cutlass-hawkers. On a particular occasion, according to her, one of them inflicted machete cuts on another hawker over an argument. “Whenever you have a misunderstanding with them, they will threaten you with the machete,” she added.
As further observed by Justina, “nearly all the young men that are hawking the cutlasses are from a particular part of the country“, a fact which, according to her, makes the development even more worrisome.