For Jabi residents in Abuja, Saturdays and Sundays haven’t been the same since the capital city’s youth took their love for stunt driving and racing to another level.
They have become so enchanted with their new craze that threats by Nigeria’s Federal Road Safety Corps are yet to deter them despite several warnings. Every weekend, from about 4pm, participants from all over the city arrive in Jabi with their cars, ready to show off to hundreds that come to watch every event at the former motor park location.
Originally from Sokoto State, Shehu Balarabe is a fan of the show and has been a spectator since it was held along the central mosque area in Abuja metropolis years ago before moving to Wuye and finally their new abode (Jabi) which is far away from prying eyes of road safety authorities.
‘I have always loved fast cars and stunting which is why Vin Diesel’s Fast and Furious movies are my best of all time. So for me, this is the only place I know where I can relive those moves and stunts I see in the movies. I really enjoy watching these shows and I only miss an episode when I am out of Abuja.’
In this scenario there are no rules and no umpires.
Spectators like Balarabe are sometimes not so lucky. There have been several cases of injuries suffered by onlookers due to speed, sometimes inexperience of the drivers or fans getting too close to the action.
Unlike an organised car race, or the F1, or in the movies where the stunts are stage managed, in this scenario there are no rules and no umpires. All you need is a car and an ability to do something extraordinary with it.
The spectators are there to cheer you on and applaud whenever one does a spectacular move – that’s the major motivation.
For example the hand brake turn which is an amazing skill to master is a fan favourite. According to driver Kabiru Shariff, they love it when a car on high speed makes that tremendous u-turn.
Shariff is one of the fans’ favourites in these events due to his ability to make moves with the car that others can only watch. But doing that comes with a price; the Kaduna-born youngster said he has had cause to change the engine of his BMW three times since his ‘addiction’ began.
Shariff said he had always loved high adrenaline sports.
‘As you know we were doing it in central area then Wuye before now but the police and the federal road safety were widely on the lookout maybe due to highly visible location and proximity to the Aso Villa which houses the president of the country hence the need for our new location which is far away from the authorities.’
Shariff said he had always loved high adrenaline sports which made him engaged in cycling and taekwondo before his new found love which has taken over for few years now.
‘Everything is done at owners’ risk.’
‘This is the third engine in my car, the other three got damaged beyond repair. Because of this, I have tried to stop before but find myself back again after some time, racing with friends. Doing amazing stunts with the fans cheering your name is too good to be turned down.’
On the issue of accidents, he said there have only been few cases since his time with the sport, adding that fans suffer more.
‘In my time coming to these races I haven’t seen any deaths but maybe few injuries mostly from fans who get too close. You know there are no rules or umpires, so everything is done at owners’ risk.’
According to Balarabe one of the most popular moves loved by fans is fishtailing. It’s when the rear wheels lose traction, resulting in oversteer before the driver’s maneuvering brings it under control.
The best drivers in the Jabi events are Dangiwa Jamilu, Nasko Shehu, Jonathan Moses and Isyaku Nasiru and the most durable cars are Mercedes, Ford and BMW models which keep coming back unlike the rest according to both Shariff and Balarabe.
For the restaurants, sachet water, juice and snack sellers around Jabi, business goes to a new level during these events due to high number of spectators flocking to catch a glimpse.
The only obstacle that lies in the path of these youngsters enjoying themselves are the authorities which are yet to give approval to such high-level sport that requires professional monitoring and medical personnel in terms of injury.
‘They are charlatans who just watched Fast and Furious and think they have something to offer.’
Speaking on the issue, an officer with the Federal Road Safety Corps, Musa Sani said approval won’t be given for such a show in the nearest foreseeable future due to a lot of factors.
‘The first thing is that a sport like this requires a special place made for it… not around houses or people. Secondly the persons are not professionals like Lewis Hamilton or Nico Rosberg, they are charlatans who just watched Fast and Furious and think they have something to offer.’
Shariff and co. aren’t about to give up despite the threats though, saying they will continue fighting to get recognised then streamline their activities, making it possible to participate only if you are a registered driver. They say fans will be allocated spaces to stand and enjoy.
And something needs to happen quickly. Word about the shows spreads quickly and each week the number of spectators seem to be growing.
Balarabe thinks so too. ‘Whenever you go home and tell someone about it, the following week he’ll want to follow you to see and before you know it he’d get addicted too, that’s why it has always been and the crowd keep getting bigger.’