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‘Migration stimulates crime, insecurity in Lagos’

By Chinedum Uwaegbulam
22 January 2023   |   4:05 am
Dr. Adewumi Badiora is part of the ongoing study by the African Cities Research Consortium (ACRC) on Lagos and teaches at Olabisi Onabanjo University.

Badiora

Dr. Adewumi Badiora is part of the ongoing study by the African Cities Research Consortium (ACRC) on Lagos and teaches at Olabisi Onabanjo University. He spoke to CHINEDUM UWAEGBULAM on ways to improve safety and security services in the city, as well as insights on how to ensure abandoned buildings owners contribute to security tax.

Nigeria is facing its worst security challenges, which have become grave concern to all well-meaning citizens. How safe is Lagos in this regard? What are the safety and security issues confronting Lagosians?
Yes! There is no doubt that Nigeria is facing its worst security challenges. Banditry, insurgencies and terrorism seem to be flourishing in the country.

These are complex violent crime involving insurgencies, armed robbery and kidnappings and these have gained a base in Northern cities like Maiduguri, Kaduna, Bauchi, Jos, Kano, Katsina, and Sokoto among others. Unlike these cities, fact is, we’re living in the most peaceful moment in southwest.

Cities like Lagos are considered as one of the fairly peaceful cities in the country. Although, certain violent crimes have become increasingly common in Lagos as well. For instance, there are rising criminal activities like armed robbery, assaults, thefts, Gender Based Violence (GBV), cultism and banditry, as well as drug abuse and related harms in Lagos.

Can we say the porosity of Nigerian borders and unwarranted influx of migrants from neighbouring states into major cities fuel insecurity? How do we tackle the situation in Lagos?
Of course Yes! Borders’ porosity will always be a setback to safety and security. One of the principles of crime prevention is access control. Safety and security is undermined when there is no order regarding accessibility.

This will lead to increase in criminality like smuggling of small arms and ammunition, irregular migration, undocumented migrants or illegal migrants among others. Specifically, this may provide channels for potential terrorists to enter Lagos.

Addressing this issue in Lagos may be sensitive, but it needs to be addressed.

What is required are new, more effective and coherent approaches that recognise both the concerns of Lagos State in this respect and need to protect the rights of migrants. Such may include strengthened physical barriers through security forces; a computerised and comprehensive resident, migrant, and traveller’s registration/database; greater emphasis on inspection of premises, industries and services known to accommodate illegal migrants, along with prosecution of employers and hosts of illegal migrants and proactive engagement with other states to stem illicit migration.

One of the key aspects of the African Cities Research Consortium (ACRC) is tackling complex problems such as safety and security in rapidly changing cities. What’s the programme all about and result expected?
The African Cities Research Consortium (ACRC) is a major six-year investment by the Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) to fund new, operationally-relevant research to address intractable development challenges in selected African cities of which Lagos is one of these selected cities.

Safety and security is one of the eight domains that are relevant to solving particular problems and/or advancing specific opportunities in relation to cities. The safety and security domain considers different forms of everyday insecurity, along spatial and temporal lines, as well as how the same urban area can contain spaces that are relatively secure and those that are highly insecure. The domain takes a “street politics” approach, reflecting urban residents’ lived experiences and perceptions of insecurity and different sources of violence.

The domain seeks to move away from discourses of security as control, to an understanding of security according to the experience of city residents. It will contribute towards an exploration of measures that reduce the prevalence of violence and attempt to address the lived perceptions and fear of violence.

It will contribute to a better understanding of how addressing these issues relates to urban policies that increase residents’ trust in their public officials, delivering basic services, and designing urban plans that are flexible in the face of continued in-migration and local insecurity.

Governance based on the perceptions and experiences from the street can then help to forge a link between increased trust of citizens, including young people, and access to basic services, a perception of a fair judicial system, and trust in redefining the roles and authority of accountable policing on the street.

With your research and looking at current security architecture of the state, has the safety and security situation improved in the past five years? Would you say there is emerging safety and security challenge?
Governing a city like Lagos is complex. Lagos is now 40 times larger than it were in the 1950s. The population is fast growing. The speed of urbanisation is very fast, and it’s one of the key drivers of Lagos fragility. While newly safety and security policies, personnel and infrastructure are obvious in the city ( for instance, establishment of Lagos State Security Trust Fund, mass deployment of CCTV, community policing, mass lighting up of city, Police Rapid Respond Squared – RRS, vigilantes, establishment of the Law Enforcement Training Institute, (LETI), the Lagos Neighborhood Safety Corps (LNSC) and many others, our research.    so far show that the current state of security has not improved significantly.

There are still some five million residents of Lagos without access to good safety and security infrastructures/services. It may even be more than this since most residents live in informal settlements and suburban slums. At present, many residents of Lagos, particularly those living in the informal settlements and suburban slums are still at the mAs are emerging safety and security challenge in Lagos. As the ICT huxb of West Africa, cybercrime is on the increase. The number of cult groups in different parts of Lagos is multiplying. Besides, Lagos has been on the news for crime around drug dealings. Just recently, the NDLEA discovered a warehouse in a residential estate in Ikorodu, Lagos, with 1.8 tonnes of Cocaine.

This was the largest singular cocaine seizure in the country’s history. You can imagine the crisis if such amount of drug finds its way into the city. There are also the growing challenges of kidnapping (for ransom and ritual killing).

Besides, traffic robbery and assaults (“one-chance”) that was declining has again returned to different parts of Lagos. The increasing number of irregular migrants and out-of-school children, couple with larger population of youth seeking for job are emerging security challenge.

I am not saying it is the youth that essentially predicts violence and insecurity in Lagos. That’s one factor among many, but youth combined with unemployment, lack of education (there are many out-of-school children in Lagos now), and availability and accessibility to hard drugs and alcohol with some form of small harms.

They are related, all those risk factors, with youth, and they tend to relate to emerging safety and security challenge and increases in violence crime. Another one is the patronage enjoyed by “area boys” and their leaders in Lagos from some of the elites, which have empowered them to become terrors and “violence lords” on the streets of Lagos.

The proliferation of shanty, slums, blight and informal settlements is another major emerging predictor of crime and security challenge in Lagos.

Another emerging issues is that of the recent security intelligence which has it that terrorist groups are planning to attack Lagos, and government should not gaffe by being cool, lethargic or underrate this intelligence. Why? The two Owo’s massacres, which the government has traced to the ISWAP and bandits were indications that the rising terrorism being experienced in the country’s north have infiltrated the country’s southwest.

Owo is a town of about 250km to Lagos. It takes only four hours to arrive Lagos from Owo by road. Thus, terrorism and banditry are just four hours away from Lagos. Besides, recent kidnapping incidences along Lagos-Ibadan express show that serious violent crimes are gradually permeating the country’s commercial capital.

Many uncompleted and abandoned buildings have become havens for criminal activities and risk to residents in Lagos, what should government do to these buildings?
There are different approaches to this. On one hand, the state government should confiscate such buildings. The government has the legal power to deal with or take charge of structures, person or group of persons causing threat to safety and security of the state. Before this, prior warnings should be sent to the owners requesting them to complete their buildings/structures within a reasonable stipulated time.

On the other hand, abandoned properties that have become hid-out of criminals should be mapped, and specially monitored and enlisted on the security watch of the state agencies. To do this, government should levy security tax on owners and developers of such buildings. If your building is contributing to insecurity, you must for it.

In fact, and because of their potential to eventually become hide-outs of miscreants, all abandoned properties’ developers or owners should pay security tax as long as their buildings remained abandoned. With these, government is able to either provide adequate security or the developers/owners are forced to complete their buildings.

The Lagos state government established a security trust fund in 2007 to source for resources from corporate organisations and well-meaning individuals to support security agencies. What’s your assessment of this strategy? How can we improve on this mechanism and ensure accountability in the process?
This is a good strategy and it is an indication that safety and security remains the top priority of government of Lagos state. The fund has performed well in providing critical support to almost all security agencies operating in Lagos State at one time or the other. In fact, without the intervention of the fund, it would have been very challenging for security agencies to carry out their duties in Lagos. In fact, other states in Nigeria need to replicate this model.

This mechanism can be improved by partnering more funding sources even outside Lagos and the shores of Nigeria.  Although more resources have been allocated for various security agencies in Lagos through LSTF, the state is yet attained security proportionate to funds expended.

Could there be lack of transparency and accountability in the process of LSTF disbursement? That is, funds and supports get to where they are really needed. Are the security agencies utilizing LSTF funds and equipment supplied appropriately? These are questions we need to ask.

Hence, the channels of disbursement by LSTF and utilisation of security funds and equipment be reviewed and transparency, accountability and monitoring mechanism of how security agencies are using LSTF supports be incorporated into LSTF model.

What do you think government should do to improve safety and security in Lagos?
Government should spend on security personnel and infrastructure. When you see a safe city or state, check its military or security expenditure. The opportunity cost of not spending on security is far more expensive – the socio-economic cost of violent crime, the emotional and psychological cost of insecurity is unquantifiable. Our security agencies are in need of basic modern infrastructure; equipment to function efficiently and government need to come to their aid as a matter of urgency.

Modern safety and security hardware and surveillance technology such as drones, cameras and trackers are needed in public places for prompt detection and prevention of violent crime.

Besides, Nigeria’s Police department is at present overstretched with many security issues ravaging the country.

Although, this is beyond the state power, more personnel are needed and much more political push need to be done for the state police network to come to stay. While this is being rigorously pursued on one hand, the LSNA security approaches of Lagos state must be strengthened with equipment, personnel and training as an effective security force for Lagos.

In the long term however, the prevailing socio-economic problems that allow violent crime and insecurity to aggravate must be tackled. The patronage of “area boys” and their leaders by politicians and elites, illegal immigration, the proliferation of shanty and informal settlements, lack of education, poverty, hunger, inequality and joblessness make people, particularly youth vulnerable to violence crime.

Even if all these militarization responses turn Lagos into a highly police state or city, violent crime and insecurity will continue to fester until areas boys syndicate, slum settlements, poverty, extreme social inequality and youth unemployment are addressed. Lagos government should therefore work on a plan to pursue a development agenda that include targeted empowerment and rehabilitation programmes designed for unemployed youths, area boys and out-of-school children.

Lagos government should establish collaboration with other states to stem illicit migration and cross-border flows of small arms, bandits and potential criminals. For informal settlements, government should start to implement appropriate urban planning practice as applicable in Lagos urban planning law without delay.