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New CP: Designing a fitting security template for megacity

By Gbenga Salau
30 January 2022   |   4:05 am
As the smallest state in terms of landmass in the country, with arguably the highest population of over 20 million inhabitants, Lagos State is also the nation’s economic nerve centre playing host to the greatest number of mega businesses and other money-spinning manufacturing outfits.

Odumosu (right) handing over to new CP, Alabi

As the smallest state in terms of landmass in the country, with arguably the highest population of over 20 million inhabitants, Lagos State is also the nation’s economic nerve centre playing host to the greatest number of mega businesses and other money-spinning manufacturing outfits.

Consequent to this scenario, the state faces immense pressure on diverse fronts, including the security architecture hence the need for security issues to be taken seriously.

However, the outgone Commissioner of Police (CP), Mr. Hakeem Odumosu, scored himself high when, among other things, he claimed that there was no single bank robbery while he was in office, even though there was a cocktail of other robbery cases, including increased traffic robbery, which led to the loss of lives.

This notwithstanding, some residents and stakeholders are of the view that the poor handling of the #EndSARS protest by Odumosu and his lieutenants made the exercise turn out deadly.

Commissioner Abiodun Alabi, who succeeded Odumosu has already indicated the philosophy that would guide his operations, stressing that the command on his watch would pay attention to visibility policing, and ensure the dominance of security space by ensuring the presence of policemen at all times to deter criminals as a preventive measure.

“It has become necessary to bring to the fore, my template and policing vision. We will ensure that the Rapid Response Squad (RRS) is encouraged and strengthened to respond promptly and effectively to citizens’ concerns,” Alabi pledged at his maiden media briefing, last week.

He promised that his men would discharge their duties in conformity with professional ethics, especially with issues of corruption, extrajudicial killings and acts of incivility to members of the public still happening daily.

“We will strive to build confidence and trust in members of the public, particularly with state actors and non-state actors through intelligence-led community policing. Area commanders and divisional police officers will be encouraged to meet regularly with non-state actors to ensure common problems confronting their various areas of responsibilities are collectively addressed,” the CP said.

Alabi pledged not to be allergic to constructive criticisms, but see such as information needed to rejig the security architecture for fresh policing strategies, disclosing that dedicated lines would be provided to get feedback from the public, while new patterns of crime would be monitored and mapped out.

He said: “Therefore, I will encourage collaboration with the fourth estate of the realm and appeal that issues concerning our policing policies in the state are brought to my knowledge promptly. I will also endeavour to hold parleys with journalists where solutions will be tabled and addressed in amicable manners.

“The trends and patterns of crime will continually be monitored to ensure crime mapping of the state to enable us to devise appropriate crime preventing strategies,” he said.

Alabi who maintained that gang disturbances would be holistically addressed, and those found culpable made to face the consequences of their actions, promised to work assiduously to make the state safer and more secured for investment and habitation.

A resident, Adebowale Ogunbanjo, however, advised the police chief to look into the frequent cases of traffic robbery, as well as, illegal collection of money by persons claiming to have been empowered by the local councils and transport unions.

“These people apart from the arrogance that they display in the course of their assignments are neither accountable nor transparent, a development that leads to loss of revenue by the state.

“Youths brandishing weapons usually, at night, harass motorists in traffic, and seize their valuables while inflicting bodily injuries on those that attempt to resist them,” Ogunbanjo noted.

The Programme Coordinator, Justice and Security Dialogue of the United States Institute of Peace (USIP), Isioma Kemakolam, while x-raying the performance of the immediate past commissioner, described him as a distinguished officer who possesses some surprising and over-looked qualities that are essential for every officer that is serving in a place like Lagos.

He noted that Odumosu had good communication with policymakers, and demonstrated a reasonable level of integrity on different occasions, even amidst threat, adding that, to an extent, he demonstrated openness about the reasons behind any action taken, and was always quick to reassure the public of their safety and the cooperation of the police.

“Despite these qualities, the CP was not a community-oriented person probably because his interest was on mobilising the big wigs towards supporting the police.”

Kemakolam advised the new police helmsman to focus on everyday violence that is plaguing the state without signs of abatement.

“For example, domestic violence, police brutality, traffic robbery, bribery and extortion by police officers, and fraud to mention a few. These types of crimes are not driven by poverty alone, but rather by the intersections of other conditions, or factors such as attitude/response of the authority, including the police to tensions, inequitable judicious income distribution, injustice, the corruption that shape the society and influence people’s (including the police) behaviour,” she stated.

On what should be done differently, Kemakolam said a policing architecture that is built on a relationship that works to promote community cohesion is imperative.

“A policing model with emphasis on understanding group and individual differences, to build mutual trust and respect. A policing architecture that models the public health model of prevention is better than a cure. For example, this health model focuses on preventing ill health. Such a model, if adapted to policing architecture that is built on cooperativeness, will yield positive outcomes because it is associated with the implementation of strategies to encourage prevention, rather than waiting for crime to happen and then the subsequent reaction.

“Finally, I would like to see a policing architecture that is built on an interdependent approach; where policy and practice operate simultaneously,” Kemakolam said.

She noted that in Lagos, like every other megacity in Nigeria, individuals or corporate entities have demonstrated the capacity to protect their interests or values from threats, such as crime and violence, as it increases in society. “This capacity is most often than not, always determined by the possession and deployment of instruments of violence, even if it is detrimental to the security of the vast majority of people as many communities have witnessed.

“Greater application of instrument of violence by the police, military, groups, individuals or communities is an indication of insecurity, and in many cases, it comes from not creating an enabling environment that makes crime and the use of violence unnecessary, “ she said.

Kemakolam continued: “An environment where citizens can, on their own decide to visit the police and the police can from time to time walk around their communities not to arrest, but to check on them.”

For a former Director of the Department of State Services (DSS) in Lagos State, Mr. Dennis Amachree, Odumosu did his best but had some rough patches, especially the #EndDSARS incidents, which would have given him some invaluable lessons to learn, even as he observed that the state is unique, with its sophisticated urban population, crime and criminals.

Amachree, now, a security consultant said: “The Lagos metroplex has more than 25 million people. It has the fourth-highest GDP in Africa, with the largest and busiest seaports on the continent. It is an international city, which serves as a melting pot of various cultures, educational centres and home to cybercriminals, political agitators, kidnappers, ritual killers and an army of street urchins, who perpetrate crime in the famous Lagos traffic and some neighbourhoods.

“So, policing Lagos State is not going to be a tea party. It will require a collaborative approach, public/private partnership and a heavy reliance on electronic intelligence gathering,” said the Member of Order of the Niger (MON).

Amachree maintained that effective policing is a result of deliberate training and retraining of officers and men, so something must be done urgently about police welfare and benefits in the state in particular and the country in general.

He suggested the cancellation of police barracks to allow policemen and officers to live among Lagosians, which will greatly improve the police-community relationships.

He advised the new CP to strictly follow the Police Act 2020, which shifts the law enforcement paradigm to more respect for the fundamental human rights of citizens.

“Unlike other states of Nigeria, many Lagosians know their rights. He should not be hasty to arrest people and parade them on television. Rather, he should strengthen his intelligence and investigation departments to get all the facts before they zero in to arrest suspects.

“If Lagos is going to take its place as the fourth largest city in the world in the near future, the foundation has to be built at this time. There should be deliberate efforts to make Lagos a “smart city” with heavy reliance on artificial intelligence and smart surveillance cameras that throw security blanket over the city,” Amachree stated.

The Chairman, Lagos Chapter of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), Mrs. Funmi Sessi, said that the new CP needs to up his game and resort to intelligence gathering, while also carrying along with stakeholders in the community.

“Lagos is still secured to a large extent and its security is not a job for only the police, it is the job for everyone including the community people. If we leave the security of the state only to the police, it would degenerate. He should collaborate with other security agencies, the army, air force, navy, civil defence, and the neighbourhood watch. With the backing of the governor and the support of the people, he would succeed.”

Sessi urged the CP to shun partisanship, but do his job professionally without playing to the gallery.

“He should also unfold his plans to residents so that they could key into it. He should ask for more hands and facilities because of population explosion being experienced in Lagos,” the NLC chair said.