Looming danger in Lagos
TO deny that since the inception of this new administration there has been a prevalence of criminal activities in the state and fail to call on the Lagos State government to do right by the people, is to play purposeless politics with the lives of Lagosians.
With the recent killing of the Managing Director of the Lekki Free Trade Zone, Mr. Tajudeen Disu, when Ibeju-Lekki villagers clashed with mobile policemen over an alleged “forceful take-over” of their land by the state government, there has been a reinforcement of the claim that Lagos has once again relapsed to the times of lawlessness and insecurity. Nothing highlights this assumption clearer than the quick succession of intense criminal activities, which have despoiled the relative peace and calm inherited from the last administration.
Before Mr. Disu was gunned down during that community fracas, daredevil armed robbers had robbed a bank in Festac Town in broad daylight, killing a mother and child after bullets from their sporadic gunshots hit the duo in their apartment nearby. A few weeks earlier, bandits had raided the neighbouring Amuwo Odofin Estate, where they carted away cash and property and also kidnapped the wife of the Deputy Managing Director of The Sun Newspapers, Steve Nwosu. The bandits escaped through the canal bordering the neighbourhood. Prior to that event, another high profile armed robbery attack on a bank occurred in Ikorodu, where a gang of armed robbers allegedly led by a lady looted the bank in the busy hours of the morning and escaped through the river. In traffic, in the night as well as in broad daylight, banditry goes on endlessly with motorists robbed and maimed at will.
This recent spate of crimes is an embarrassing and rude resurgence. The criminal activities subsist with so much repugnance of the law as if the criminals want to demonstrate that the erstwhile low record of crimes had been a willful recess on their part. It is this effrontery – that criminals can decide, or seemingly negotiate when or not to strike, that makes security in Lagos very challenging. For a government that has, in recent months, been quick to relay its objective of turning Lagos into a haven of business and commerce by wooing foreign investors, this is a hard nut to crack. But which foreign investor would rush in without considering safety and security of his business environment?
Lagos is a complex metropolis. Arguably the most populous city in Africa and its commercial nerve centre, Lagos is also a potpourri of peoples and cultures, a huge market for industries and a regional hub laden with opportunities. Any city characterized by these features is indeed a very complex one to administer, because the administrator would have to grapple with all shades of character whose conduct and management of resources often coalesce at cross-purposes. Lagos therefore requires a leadership that has the capacity for managing complex situation. Governor Akinwunmi Ambode sold himself to Lagosians as a man capable of giving that leadership. Now is the time for him to justify the trust reposed in him.
Given this situation, there is need to beef up security in Lagos. However, intensifying the security apparatus of the state does not mean turning the city into a war zone; neither does it mean that the police and security forces should create fear and panic in the people. It rather demands proper inculcation of safety and security education in the minds of Lagosians as well as a judicious deployment of technology.
Even though recent events have exposed the porous nature of the waterways, which have remained relatively unmanned. This is the time for this administration to consider putting in place modalities for effective monitoring of our waterways and coastal thoroughfares and set up ingenious ways of patrolling them.
For a long time, the Police Service Commission in concert with the federal authorities has been pursuing reforms for the police with little success. Whatever pecuniary motivations for the police that come to the state command pale into insignificance when they get to the rank and file. And so nothing really changes. It is for this reason that this newspaper is convinced that state governments have a role to pay in ensuring that the anticipated reforms of the police become a reality.
Although the governor of Lagos State is treading cautiously in his systematic co-ordination of his government, he should, on matters of crime fighting continue in, and improve on, the strategies of his predecessor, Babatunde Fashola. The last administration in Lagos invested wisely in security so that Lagos would have peace. It provided necessary assistance to the command, while the latter responded with alacrity when called upon. And for that reason there was peace in Lagos. Ambode’s government must synergize with the Lagos State Police Command to effectively safeguard lives and property and ensure law and order in the state.
Apart from the huge financial commitment on security, perhaps, the time is ripe for the decentralization of the Nigeria Police as well as the formal establishment of neighbourhood security watches in community development areas of the state. This is necessary for proper surveillance and information gathering for the security agencies.