Lagos govt’s donation to the police
LAGOS State Governor Akinwunmi Ambode’s donation of operational equipment to the State Police Command is at once commendable and instructive. It follows a tradition laid by past governors, but it is only the first of many steps to address the prevalence of crime in the state.
The earlier the police see it as such, the better and more effective they would be. The police have a sacred duty to use the equipment for increased capability, the very purpose for which they were procured. Besides, the equipment, being expensive, should be handled with the necessary care, both for their efficiency and durability.
The governor’s gesture is to be appreciated upon recognition that while the police are a federal agency, expected to be funded by the federal government, the governor is the state’s Chief Security Officer; and he, therefore, plays a crucial role in safeguarding lives and property in the state. His donation could be said to be a part fulfilment of that role. In extended term, security is not just a function of the police and the state, but the entire citizenry, including the organised private sector.
It is on record that former Governor of Lagos, Brig-Gen Buba Marwa (retired) started a system of enhanced security of the state with his establishment of a special squad called Operation Sweep, when vehicles and communications equipment were donated to the police. Former Governor Bola Ahmed Tinubu continued and even upped the security ante in the same vein, in addition to setting up the Neighbourhood Watch. Immediate past Governor Babatunde Fashola went a step further by adding Armoured Personnel Carriers (APCs) to the police. With Governor Ambode further scaling it up with the donation of more versatile equipment, vehicles and helicopters, among others, a strong signal is being sent against potential criminals in the state.
It is not surprising that the relative success of these measures in Lagos has spurred other states to pay greater attention to security, without which peace and development will be a mirage in any society. The onus is on the police to make proper use of the equipment for more effective operation. Criminals should not be allowed to have a field day as has been the case on recent occasions, and the police should never be caught unaware.
Ambode donated the security equipment and vehicles to the State Police Command and the Rapid Response Squad (RRS) at an official ceremony in which President Muhammadu Buhari was represented by the Minister of Interior, Lt. Gen. Abdurrahman Dambazau. The donation includes 100 four-door salon cars, 55 Ford Ranger Pick-Ups, 10 Toyota Land Cruiser Pick-Ups, 15 BMW Power Bikes, 100 Power Bikes, Isuzu Trucks, three helicopters, two gun boats, 15 armoured personnel carriers, revolving lights, sirens and public address system, vehicular radio communications, bullet-proof vests and helmets, etc. The gesture also includes improved insurance and death benefit schemes for officers, all put at N4.765 billion.
The governor stated that with the new development, the Lagos State Police Command has been repositioned to compare with similar outfits in other modern city-states. He expressed optimism that the equipment will go a long way to aid security agencies respond faster to crime. He stressed that the police should be significantly driven by the right technology and equipment that will match the emerging sophistication of crime in contemporary time.
However, while the Lagos State Government has been in the vanguard of efforts to improve safety of life and property by unceasingly supporting the police, security is not complete with mere donation of equipment. The government should be interested in the successful deployment and sustainability of the equipment, for instance, by providing a maintenance base for them, in collaboration with the police for the equipment to endure. Security should not be a one off exercise. Nor should the equipment be easily discarded due to break down and lack of care.
Most of the equipment donated by previous administrations became decrepit soon after their presentation, ostensibly due to lack of maintenance, and reckless use. The equipment were bought with public money and should be used judiciously. It is embarrassing, indeed, an eyesore, seeing rickety police operational vehicles being pushed on the road because they had broken down. Such scenario does not augur well for effective crime fighting. There is need for measures to improve the welfare of security officers, to complement the maintenance of the equipment. The vehicles and helicopters should not be for personal use.
It is equally important that the vehicles are nor driven recklessly in a way to constitute danger to the public. When not on emergency, police officers should obey traffic laws. It is expected, of course, that the police would link up with other security agencies like the Navy and Air Force for necessary coordination.
In the long run, Lagos and indeed the entire country need more policemen, who should be trained on new doctrines in view of the emerging crime sophistication. The 10,000 force promised by the President is a drop in the ocean. The police should target about one million officers in ten years; and they should be recruited and trained on continuous basis.
More states should emulate the Lagos initiative, while the authorities should initiate new agenda and new orientation for the police, with emphasis on intelligence gathering and forensic investigation. This should be backed with a well-equipped, modern forensic laboratory for enhanced investigation.
The police should be close to the people. Grassroots policing, which is imperative in handling internal security, is better instituted by state or community police, which is what the country should aspire to, as the ultimate panacea to the current deficiencies of the Nigeria Police.