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The elusive Lagos security network

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If there’s anything successive Lagos governments are reputed for, it is that penchant of always searching for ways to ameliorate whatever problems are confronting the Lagos residents. Indeed in the entire landscape called Nigeria, it is doubtful if any other state comes very close to Lagos in terms of rapid response to issues concerning the citizen’s welfare. As a growing city, Lagos has always been known to have its share of all problems besetting all modern cities.

Talk about population explosion with its concomitant troubles of growing shanties, coupled with the general attitude of impatience known especially with Lagosians, one would understand the onerous task of managing a state like Lagos. Yet, successive Lagos governments have always proved themselves to be equal to the task. Topnotch city planners work around the clock to fashion out ways of making life easier and more meaningful for Lagos dwellers even though this may be difficult to see unless by those who are knowledgeable and objective in the issue of governance.

One of the greatest problems associated with big cities is crime and the preponderance of criminal activities. And because of the prevalence of such problems, metropolitan governments are never known to rest on their oars in terms of crime battling and crime prevention. Over the years, the Lagos government has also continually put in place measures aimed at confronting the menace of crimes and criminal tendencies within the metropolis. As far back as the regime of Buba Marwa, the last military administrator of Lagos before the advent of the current civilian dispensation, a security outfit codenamed Operation Sweet was in place to rid Lagos of hoodlums. At the said period, even though there were still pockets of armed robbery cases, it is on record that members of the Operation Sweep justified their existence beyond every reasonable doubts as most of the armed robbery incidents were foiled and the criminals rounded up. Since then, and perhaps because of the fears already left in their tracks, Lagos has always been a place to avoid by criminals though it is impossible to rule out a total elimination of criminal elements from any society.

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In 2007, another major breakthrough in the area of combating crimes was achieved by the then civilian governor of Lagos, Babatunde Raji Fashola who set up the Lagos State Security Trust Fund, a public-private partnership designed to provide additional equipment and logistics support to the under-funded federal security agencies operating at the state level. To start with, the question that should agitate the mind of every right-thinking person is why a federal security agency should be under-funded which then makes it imperative for states hoping to find lasting solutions to the issue of crimes to search for other logistics support? What happens to those states without enough resources to provide such support? Wouldn’t that be a signal that the people living in such states are put at the beck and call of criminals? And now to return to Lagos, it is worthy of note that the early years of the establishment of the trust fund saw the relocation of criminals out of Lagos as every nook and cranny of the metropolis felt the impact of the security network.

The tempo of the security situation in Lagos was sustained to a larger extent by the Ambode-led administration even though there were few challenges here and there. For instance, there was an instance of kidnappers breaking into a government secondary school in Ikorodu taking away some students and teachers. There were also cases of some monarchs falling victims of abductors while a terror group known as Badoo cult also terrorised the entire state for quite a while. But the good news is that in most of the reported instances, the security personnel were equal to the task and were able to rescue all those earlier entangled  as well as shatter the hideous of the dreaded Badoo cult. However, by the time the last governorship election was concluded and a new team took over in Lagos, there seemed to have been an upsurge of crimes and criminal activities in and around Lagos, and worst still, the situation paints a picture of total absence of security personnel to bring the state back to the peace it had enjoyed for quite a while.

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All of a sudden, stories of No Salary Boys, One Million Boys, and other such faceless groups have emerged, and the citizens now face an unprecedented and regular assault from teenagers who have chosen to unleash terror on innocent citizens. Perhaps to stem the tide of the recurring ugly incidents, the Lagos government recently relaunched the security network so as to take full control of the rising dangers. Soon the presence of the police has started to be felt on the roads. But members of the Nigerian police have appeared very smart, trying to collect the large funds attached to their assignment without actually doing much in the real sense of the word. Every evening, they line up on Third Mainland bridge ostensibly to be seen as providing adequate security for motorists. But check out all the dark spots where help may be needed and you discover there’s no single officer around in case of any eventuality. Besides, every morning, motorists are on their own as there are usually no sign of any security patrol except the few officers noticeable around some popular joints who are never interested in anything security but only out for their own early morning transactions! All they are concerned with is to lay siege for commercial vehicles operators who they feel should not commence their day’s work without first of all paying some toll.

Weeks after the relaunch of security outfit, the notorious boys terrorizing the whole of Alimosho and its environs are still having a field day without members of the Nigerian police working out a strategy to track them down and bring them to justice. All those who have fallen victims of the hoodlums at one time or another have different tales of woe to tell and this must not be allowed to continue. Even the response of the so-called security network to distress calls is nothing to write home about as it’s either there is no response, or giving of excuses or late arrival at the spot of crime. Indeed the non proactive posture of the Nigerian police has now led to a situation where almost all young boys are considering crimes as best option to sudden success. It is therefore high time members of the Lagos security network woke up to their responsibility of properly securing the state. The state government itself should set up its own group to constantly monitor the situation so that the state will not just continue to lavish funds on those who feel they are only in Lagos to reap the dividends of democracy.

Oyewusi, an educationist, wrote from Lagos-Island.

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