For the residents of Lagos, this year’s ‘ember’ months have started on a traumatic mode, and the peaceful Yuletide they have enjoyed since 2007 and are now used to may be shattered if the state government and its security agencies fail to promptly come to their rescue.
Penultimate Thursday, the residents of Igando, a suburb of the city, received an unsolicited and unusual letter from the men of the underworld, intimating them of their planned visit during the Yuletide period and asking them to get ready for their “end-of-the-year gifts”.
The authors of the terse and terrifying letter warned, “Be prepared, be prepared, be prepared. Our dues must be paid this festive season. Nobody can stop us as we can strike at any time. Only enough money can save your life.
“To be forewarned is to be fore-harmed. We have warned you in this area, and if you have ears, you ought to hear.”
Since receiving this letter, copies of which were reportedly scattered on all over the streets of Igando, the recipients of the letter who have since reported the matter to the Police and, indeed, all the residents of Lagos who are aware of its possible butterfly effect, have been sleeping with one eye closed.
Indeed, before the Thursday, October 23, 2014 letter, Lagosians would bet that such a thing had been a thing of the past.
Lagos State Government under the incumbent governor, Mr. Babatunde Raji Fashola, SAN, has been known to blaze the trail in security matters in the nation. Prior to 2007 when the Governor assumed office, armed robbers were on the rampage in Lagos, sacking banks, terrorizing residents on a daily basis.
But when the government came into power in 2007, it chased the armed robbers out of Lagos through holistic and workable strategies, including setting up and massively funding the Joint Task Force and the Rapid Response Squad, a joint team of soldiers, regular and riot policemen put on a patrol of the metropolis and the interiors of the city; provision of closed circuit television (CCTV) jointly funded by the state and Federal Government; the establishment of the Security Trust Fund; and the inauguration of the Neighbourhood Watch Project.
This unprecedented initiative delivered a safe and robbery-free Lagos and caused the armed robbers to relocate to neighbouring states.
But criminals are not known to give up crime no matter the level of security arrangement, especially in an opague society like ours. The level of impunity can only reduce.
Despite the consistent massive efforts put in place by government, the resources are far from being enough and the grassroots like Igando have yet to benefit from the arrangement.
Official figures say 19 policemen were killed by armed robbers in 2011 while the Police killed 164 robbers that same year. During the same year, 123 cases of armed robbery were reported in Lagos. The Police arrested 569 robbery suspects and recovered 26, 058 pieces of ammunition the same year.
The following year, the Police lost 32 of its officers and men to the men of the underworld while the Force killed 140 the same year.
But Lagosians have not had it so bad since 2007. Besides heavily policing the city throughout the year, special efforts are made to so do during the Yuletide period. Indeed, emplacing strict security arrangement by all security operatives, including the Federal Road Safety Corps, beginning from the ‘ember’ months is an annual event in Lagos.
It is, therefore, strange that the men of the underworld would write a letter to Lagos residents at this period. Are the robbers daring the Lagos State Government? Are they merely getting back at a government that banned okada but is yet to provide a commensurate alternative source fo livelihood for its teeming youths? Or have the security agents gone to sleep this year thereby giving the robbers a platform to operate?
Whatever the answers to these questions are, security experts warn that it is dangerous to disregard any theory no matter how ridiculous in a crime context. The Lagos State Government would need to work on all the possible theories and come out with a solution to the ongoing security problem.
Lagosians would like to know and see the visible and workable strategies emplaced by the Lagos State Government to make the Yuletide period robbery-free.
There is an urgent need for the Lagos State Government, working closely with its local councils and the security agencies, to revive and expand its Neighbourhood Watch project, especially in areas that have yet to benefit from the ongoing CCTV project. Lagos landlords should put in place and fund vigilance groups for effective securing of their neighbourhood. Such groups and the residents should volunteer information to the Police. This is the best and the easiest way to achieve security and peace this Yuletide season and beyond.
Intelligence gathering remains a potent weapon for cracking down on criminals while they are yet hatching their satanic plans. The Police must step up their intelligence gathering network at this Yuletide period and beyond to ensure and deliver a safe society.
In the event the unsolicited visits of the armed robbers are rendered unworkable by government, the robbers are likely to devise other means, including revisiting the ‘one chance’ syndrome. The security agencies need to put on their thinking caps to nip all the sundry strategies the criminals may want to adopt in the bud.
With a population of over 17 million people who are almost constantly under the siege of armed robbers in spite of massive security investment, Lagos requires scores of emergency numbers to take care of the security needs of its teeming citizens during distress periods. These numbers should be massively communicated to the public through the media.
In November last year, Governor Fashola said Lagos State would require N51b annually to fund police operations in the State, lamenting that the State would have to fund security in batches as it could not afford the money despite the massive financial support garnered from individuals and corporate citizens through the Security Trust Fund. The governor said that, among other needs, the State would require 9, 000 patrol vehicles that would cost N5m each and N6.3b to fuel them.
Governor Fashola had said, “The state does not have such resources, either from our direct government spending on security or from the support that you citizens give through the Security Trust Fund. The tentative cost (today) of this critical intervention…for one year is about N2.3 billion. While this will help our crime prevention strategy, it won’t deter all crimes.”
The Federal Government’s huge support in the area of provision of CCTV for policing Lagos is noted. But it needs to do more for its former seat of power, which is a second home for all Nigerians and the house of the nation’s commerce by ensuring that the grassroots are laced with CCTV, while also helping out by bailing the State out of the resource challenge painted by the governor.
The Lagos State Government needs to further equip the Police and fortify the Joint Task Force, the Rapid Response Squad and other security formations from the limited resources for effective patrolling and policing of the metropolis and the grassroots.
Corporate organisations in the city have to contribute to this security project as part of their corporate responsibilities and as a way of insuring their businesses and investments.
As a long-term measure, governments at the state and national levels must liberalize the economy, fix power and create jobs for the teeming youths who are ready-made hands for armed robbery and other crimes.