To stem robbery spike in Lagos
The launch by the Police Command in Lagos of “Operation Flush,” and subsequent arrest of 88 suspects in various parts of the state is coming at an auspicious time. The drive is aimed at ridding the city of robbers and other miscreants. Reports indicate that men of the underworld are becoming emboldened and visiting terror on hapless citizens. The suspected criminals were arrested barely 24 hours after the launch, following complaints and reports of activities of men of the underworld. The news may be cheering to many Lagosians who only care about going about their lawful activities to earn their daily bread. But the police must justify their action particularly by ensuring that those arrested are the real culprits and not innocent passers-by that too often, turn out to be victims while the robbers remain loose to terrorise others.
While the police action is timely, mainly because delays in confronting criminals have invariably led to malignancy of the problems they cause, it will be unfortunate to allow criminality to hold sway in Lagos or indeed any part of Nigeria, at this time of economic adversity being experienced by Nigerians generally occasioned mainly by removal of fuel subsidy.
The Lagos State Commissioner of Police, Idowu Owohunwa, disclosed that Operation Flush was to identify trouble spots, especially along construction areas, and flush out criminals, particularly traffic robbers and other miscreants. Lagos residents have lately been lamenting the apparent surge in armed robbery cases on Lagos streets and roads. According to the CP, during the raid, some hard drugs and arms were recovered. He said one of the locations of security concerns raised included the Orile/Iganmu area. In particular, Benjamin Hundeyin, spokesperson of the command, said the move followed recent complaints by some residents on the resurgence of traffic robberies and other crimes in the state.
It is important that police authorities take charge of security in Lagos and other parts of the country, particularly following the hardship that most Nigerians are going through as a result of the depressed economy, featuring inflation, low purchasing power and scarce and very expensive foreign exchange for businessmen. Activities of daredevil armed robbers have brought with it, fear and uncertainty about safety of the citizens, particularly in Lagos. The robbers have always feasted on Lagos being a highly cosmopolitan city with a large population to wreak havoc, but they cannot get away easily if the police do their work diligently. The challenge is to be a step ahead of the criminals before they fully establish themselves. In two separate incidents at Lawani Street, off Ishaga road in Surulere, the robbers, daringly carried out attacks on residents in the neighbourhood. Also, reports had it that robbers operated freely without fear of interference for hours at Akowonjo-Egbeda in Alimosho local government area. Both incidents caused panic and anxiety.
These reports, along with attacks on motorists by traffic robbers no doubt, raise serious questions about public safety. At other times and in other places, it is dangerous to walk freely between early hours of the day and at dusk in certain parts of the city. No doubt, the criminals would want to operate on the excuse that the economy is hard, following the removal of fuel subsidy, but that excuse is not tenable and it is intended to blur the criminality ingrained in the perpetrators.
Nevertheless, the government must move quickly and firmly to provide succor to the citizens. Government’s plan to provide palliatives to cushion the adverse effects of fuel subsidy removal must move beyond talks and translate into concrete relief for the majority of Nigerians. Only then can government and law enforcers confidently launch a total clampdown on robbers. At that time, there will be no excuse for criminals to hide under. Nigerians have to learn that, legally and morally, criminality is not an alternative to hard work; after all, many robbery victims are equally struggling to survive under the same harsh economy.
It is important for the government to create jobs for unemployed youth as a way of stemming the tide of criminality and armed robbery threatening to surge. Prevention, as they say, is always better than cure while an idle mind remains the devil’s workshop.
Nigerians, especially the people of Lagos, should strengthen their cooperation with law enforcement agencies to stem criminality. The police cannot do it alone as they need information and other assistance from members of the public. Armed robbers and other criminals, after all, are no ghosts, but people living in the midst of other people. Cooperation with the police should be an addition to precautionary measures to be routinely taken by people, particularly under the aegis of Community Development Associations (CDA). Armed robbery must be confronted boldly and with utmost priority.
What is reassuring is that the Lagos police command has woken up to its calling, to safeguard the lives and property of Lagosians by launching ‘operation flush’ to help curtail the activities of the underworld men. Going by the havoc that robbers had in the past inflicted on law-abiding citizens, the present threat should not be treated with kids’ gloves, knowing its implications for public safety. In a statement, the Lagos Command warned all Divisional Police Officers (DPOs) against dereliction of duty and vowed that anyone found culpable will be dealt with accordingly by the law.
Beyond the operation flush strategy of the Lagos police, residents should cooperate with and report robbery incidents to the police to help in forging effective strategies. It is also time for the police to improve on its handling of criminal cases and thus improve its strained relationship with the public. The police should be more civil in fighting crime and criminality in the society; and should earn the trust and confidence of members of the public willing to assist them. Incidents and stories of police helpers who had been fingered to the criminals and sometimes killed or punished severely are rife, and they are certainly not encouraging to potential informants. At other times, the complainant is first manhandled or treated like a common criminal. Crime being a social problem, the police ought to liaise more with the public and social groups at the grassroots to fight it. The police should therefore devise complementary ways of collaborating with social groups, protecting informants and forging closer ties with the public.
Another key area is the necessity to deal conclusively with accosted criminals. It is true that the country’s correctional and justice administration systems are stressed, such that police hardly complete investigations before letting the suspects free on bail, only for such criminals to perpetrate perhaps more heinous crimes. The leadership of the police must also spearhead revamping the system and ensuring that criminals are ultimately sanctioned in accordance with the law.
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