The raid of eight streets in Mushin Area of Lagos by 60 armed robbers for seven hours unchallenged on Monday last week in which 30 cars were destroyed, unspecified number of ladies were raped and properties worth millions of naira were lost is worrisome indeed. It calls for a review of the ongoing security efforts of the Lagos State Government so that the huge gains recorded in the area of delivering security to its citizens will not be reversed.
According to reports, the armed robbers arrived the streets about 12 midnight and did not leave until 7 am. It was gathered that armed robbery was a regular affair in that area. One of the victims said “for over five years now, this area has not known peace.”
Reports also say that the Police in the area refused to respond to the victims’ distress calls. This report is shocking and should not be happening in a city that has the unique history and status of the former capital city of the nation. By virtue of that status, ensuring security in Lagos should be a joint venture between the Federal Government and Lagos State Government. Besides, Lagos has a bourgeoning population; it is the destination of millions of job seekers; it has ports and waterways and high concentration of industries, which make it susceptible to local and international crimes.
Before 2007, the city was under the siege of armed robbers as hardly would a day pass without reports of armed robbery attacks that would leave the streets flowing with blood and residents crying over loss of hard-earned properties.
But the administration of Governor Babatunde Fashola tackled the problem headlong on assuming office in 2007 by making security a core component of his Ten-point Agenda. He introduced the Safe City Project, which later birthed the Lagos State Security Trust Fund, a public-private partnership established by the Lagos House of Assembly on September 3, 2007 for mobilizing resources for securing the city.
Under the arrangement, funds and donations are regularly sourced to acquire and deploy security equipment, human and material resources as well as provide training and welfare of security operatives. The Rapid Response Squad, a joint patrol team of the military and the police, was introduced to police the metropolis and the outskirts of Lagos.
The initiative not only reduced crime to the barest minimum in Lagos, and within a year, pushed criminals to the neighbouring states, it also made Lagos State a reference point in crime prevention in the nation. But these efforts notwithstanding, it is obvious that a lot still needs to be done as the challenges are daunting and the financial and logistics requirements are overwhelming.
Last Monday’s robbery incident lays credence to Governor Fashola’s call for help in November last year in the face of huge financial challenges the state is facing in providing security for its citizens.
According to the Governor, Lagos State would require N51 billion annually to fund police operations. Among others, the state would need 9, 000 patrol vehicles which go for N5 million each and N6.3 million fuelling costs. Governor Fashola said the state could not afford this huge sum and would have to fund its security needs in batches.
The time has come for the Federal Government to intervene in the security challenges of its former capital city, a city that houses the highest concentration of its citizens and is the commercial hub of the nation.
There is a need to review the Neighbourhood Watch initiative of the Lagos State Government to make it effective. The success of the Mushin operations that lasted for seven hours is proof that the Neighbourhood Watch initiative has yet to achieve its goal. Lagosians must show sufficient interest in the initiative and commit money, time and energy to it to make it work.
Governor Fashola should demand the investigation of the seven-hour robbery from the Lagos State Police Command. The suspects must be fished out and brought to justice to serve as a deterrent to others and to deliver peace to residents to that part of Mushin that has been under persistent attack for “five years”.
The arraignment of 17 Boko Haram suspects on November 27 last year and the arrest of other terror suspects in February for running an Iranian terror cell in Lagos bring another dimension to security challenges in Lagos. This calls for collaboration among all the security agents, especially in the area of intelligence gathering.
The Lagos Police Command and other security agencies need to borrow a leaf from the methods used to police mega cities by the London Police, which included patrolling the public space, stop and search tactics youth engagement and education. This will require commitment and professionalism.
The Federal Government should be interested now, more than ever, in the security situation in Lagos as the existence of terror acts in Lagos will be calamitous for the nation. The experience in the United Kingdom and America has shown that CCTV is effective in combating crime and protecting the people.
There is, therefore, a need for the Federal Government to assist the Lagos State Government to fund the CCTV project, which was abandoned ostensibly for financial reasons, as this will help to secure the metropolis and the outskirts of Lagos.
In February this year, the Lebanese Nigeria Initiative, a group of Lebanese businesspersons, donated N80 million and a troop carrier truck to the Lagos State Security Trust Fund. Interventions such as this from individuals, corporate organizations and friends of Lagos will reduce the state’s financial strain and make crime prevention possible.
Lagosians should collaborate with the security officials by making information available while the security officials should protect their informants and work with dispatch.
Armed robbery and other crimes are rife because of the pervasive unemployment rate in the country. The Federal and State Governments should do the needful by providing power, sound education, diversify the economy and provide infrastructure while the National Assembly should abrogate all anti-investment laws.