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Security challenge: Borrowing the Lagos experience

By Larry Taiwo
14 August 2016   |   2:49 am
In recent times, several communities in Lagos State and parts of Ogun State were subjected ferocious and murderous assaults by bandits, which included militants, pipeline vandals, armed robbers ...

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In recent times, several communities in Lagos State and parts of Ogun State were subjected ferocious and murderous assaults by bandits, which included militants, pipeline vandals, armed robbers, cultists, and rapists, among others. In the wake of the assaults many deaths, maiming, pillaging and displacements were recorded.

In Ikorodu, a sprawling suburb of Lagos, the residents had for several months being victims of these heinous crimes. Scores of people, particularly landlords were killed. Many of the inhabitants of the communities have been fleeing in droves. A good number of the landlords in the communities have also been putting up their property for sale.

Residents of Ishawo and Majidun have also been victims. The industrial estate of Odogunyan became a haven of bank robberies. The creeks of the Badagry axis, Igando, Ishawo and Awawa, as well as Arepo and Ibafo within Ogun State axis, sharing borders with Lagos State became notorious for oil bunkering. Various acts of kidnapping and abduction were also enacted in some of the communities.

Oba Goriola Oseni, the Oniba of Ibaland in Ojo Local Government Area, was kidnapped right inside his palace in a commando-like style and ferried into the creeks. The kidnappers demanded N500 million ransom. PastorKayode Bajomo of the Redeemed Christian Church of God was kidnapped in his church on a Sunday morning in Ikorodu area.
Until recently, the bandits operated unfettered and it seemed nothing could be done to curb them and the rising insecurity became a national crisis.

Eventually, joint military operations were carried out.  The operations involved the police, navy and air force. Ground troops made up of soldiers from 174 Battalion and personnel of the Nigerian Navy Special Boat Service (SBS) started the ground operation to rid the creeks of Arepo and other areas of vandals and oil thieves. Over 140 camps of the militants in the border towns of Lagos and Ogun were destroyed.

The Nigerian air force simultaneously embarked on aerial bombardment of the hideouts, especially in the riverine areas of the state. The inaccessibility of the affected areas had previously prevented security forces from getting at the bandits. The absence of security agencies in the areas also emboldened the bandits to carry out their nefarious activities.

These had been followed by the mopping up operations of ground forces demolishing houses belonging to the militants and their accomplices. Numerous camps situated in the creeks were destroyed during the operations. Various arms and ammunitions were recovered at the sites. Several implements for bunkering were also discovered.  The security forces are also planning to establish permanent bases at some of the communities.

The faceless Niger Delta Avengers came out to claim that it has links with the militants who invaded communities in Lagos and Ogun States. The group through its spokesman condemned the Armed Forces for routing the killer gangs. It, however, claimed that no militant was killed in the military operations and said that it would not be deterred from its regional agitation.

The Avengers claimed that only women and children were killed during the military onslaught. It challenged the military to prove that militants were killed in their raids. The statement read: “The military is playing some war game on some illegal bunkering camps and showing video of how they carried out the bombardment. That is so unprofessional.

“Do they think they can intimidate the NDA with those scrap jet bombers? They can deploy fourth generation jet bombers, but that will not stop us from fighting for our people.” In the statement, the group also insisted on the need for the federal government to restructure the country.

Regardless of the counter-claims of the Avengers, the security operations are a welcome development. The spate of the criminal assaults especially on Lagos State deserves a serious attention. It is the industrial and commercial nerve centre of the country. Lagos is also a major microcosm of the country. Figuratively, if Lagos sneezes, the whole country will catch cold. It will be a national calamity if Lagos were left to be overwhelmed by crime and insecurity. Lagos State, therefore, has to be regarded as a special case that it is in the federation.

There is need to permanently halt the escalation of the siege on Lagos. Just as Governor Akinwunmi Ambode said while interacting with a visiting police team led by the acting Inspector General of Police, Mr. Idris Ibrahim, “We need to sustain and ensure that these people do not go back to the creeks.” The governor disclosed; “we have reduced crime by 70 percent in the last six months.” He, however, lamented; “some ugly points are coming up along our waterways.”

The governor expressed his resolve, “On our part as a government, whatever it is that it takes to take the militants and vandals off Lagos we are going to do it, if it means shutting down some locations where they seem to be hibernating in terms of any commercial trade, we would do it and make sure that we guarantee the lives of our people and whatever it takes in terms of financial support for the security agencies to sustain the success we’ve had in the last few days, we would do it.”

The governor appealed for more police presence in the state and specifically requested for more police patrol of the waterways, assuring the welfare of officers in that line of duty. Thanking the acting IGP for visiting Lagos, he said, “You’ve worked in Lagos before. The Lagos then and of now are totally different. The population of Lagos is over 22 million and then the land space is not increasing, so the number of police officers that we have with regard to population is very meagre.
“So as you recruit policemen, we appeal that more police officers be deployed to Lagos, we have space for them, we can build more police stations and we can equip them effectively.”

Ambode said further,” We want to partner with you to keep our waterways safe, we need a greater presence of Marine Police across our waters and we also know that we can support them by providing gunboats, but again, we want to say that we would take proper care of the welfare of police officers who are assigned to Lagos.”

The IGP in response commended the state government for its support and cooperation with the police and other security agencies in recent time, saying the synergy between security agencies and the Lagos State government is worth emulating.

He also commended the idea of the Lagos State Security Trust Fund, LSSTF, and recommended it as a model for other states to adopt. He disclosed, “When I was Commissioner of Police in Kano State, we had to travel to Lagos to understudy the Security Trust Fund. So it has served as a model for other states in the federation.”

It is a well-known fact the Lagos State government under Governor Ambode has on its own invested massively in security by equipping the police and introducing avant-garde gadgets in combating crime. The federal government has to massively support the state by injecting funds and pertinent resources to the efforts of the state government.

In view of the escalating siege and other manners of crime, the idea of community or state policing is becoming increasingly desirable. All hands have to be on deck like it happened in Borno State where civilian volunteers supported the formal security forces in waging the war against Boko Haram. The likes of the Reformed Oodua People’s Congress can be integrated into the official crime fighting teams in the state.

Some observers are, however, of the opinion that the issue is not purely of law and order. There should also be social and economic interventions. The Federal Government by projecting the abject image of helplessness and cluelessness in tackling the economic woes is not engendering confidence in the polity. .

This national malaise has the tendency of derailing and short-circuiting the good works that the Ambode administration has been widely acknowledged as carrying out in the state. The Buhari administration has to come up with workable ideas of how to quickly reflate the economy. We should not content ourselves with just being tight-fisted and merely managing poverty. Several other countries that had contended with our kind of recession took proactive and result-yielding measures of reflating their economies.

Buhari has to reconstitute his economic management team with seasoned and tried brains and hands. He cannot afford to just settle for the trite idea of diversification and believe that is the only panacea for the economic woes. He has to involve people who know how to create wealth and engage them to think out of the box for the country to get out of the woods.

There are key members of his party, the APC, who strategised for him against all odds to become president. I believe they are available to help him manage the economy much better if he seeks their involvement.

His seemingly partisan approach to governance is also not helping matters. He is unwittingly alienating millions of Nigerians who are strategic to his success.