One year after, Lagos neighbourhood corps yet to impress
When the Lagos State government inaugurated the Lagos Neighbourhood Safety Corps (LSNSC) in March 2017, it was with fanfare. In fact, the state government was equally excited that crime and criminality, which was upswing would be drastically brought down. The inauguration was about six months after the governor signed into law on August 15, 2016, the bill that created the corps.
Many residents of the state were elated that their security challenges, if not decimated, would be reduced to the barest minimum, when the state government said that 100 corps officers would be deployed to each local council in the state.
To facilitate a great start, the agency was at commencement of operations equipped with 177 salon cars and vehicles; 377 motorcycles; 377 helmets and 400 bicycles and metal detectors.
According to Governor Akinwunmi Ambode, while speaking at the inauguration ceremony, the corps is designed to provide a second layer of policing to better secure all communities in the state.
Ambode, who said though the Nigeria Police Force has been very supportive in securing the state, stressed that the outfit became imperative because of identified security challenges that the state was grappling with, due to the burgeoning population.
“Let me, however, make it abundantly clear that the Neighbourhood Safety Corps is not in any way in competition with the Nigeria Police Force. In actual fact, they are expected to assist and complement the police by providing useful intelligence for crime prevention, and to facilitate the arrest of perpetrators of criminal activities in our communities,” he stated.
One year after the agency was inaugurated, not many are convinced that it has achieved its mandate of curbing crimes in the state, through the community–policing approach that the government said it would employ. In the area of providing intelligence to police and other security agencies in the state, it has also not been deemed to have excelled.
Despite 100 officers of the corps being deployed to each council area in the state, where they are expected to help gather intelligence to share with the NPF, their presence in these communities is, at best scarce.
For instance, at its early stage of operations, when the dreaded Badoo Boys were smashing skulls rampantly in the Ikorodu area of the state, the police had to hold an emergency security meeting with the Odua Peoples Congress (OPC), where it sought for support and intelligence. The impact of the neighbourhood security outfit was not felt.
Be that as it may, rather than residents feeling the presence of these officers in their neighbourhoods, or places of primary assignments, the corps members are more often found around venues of state and local councils-hosted ceremonies and other such engagements.
While this happens, some other officers of the corps are turning themselves into traffic officers, thereby competing with men/officers of the Lagos State Traffic Management Agency (LASTMA) in traffic management.
Johnson Ibidapo, is one of residents who insist that these corps members are a rarity as far as he is concerned, just as he added that he would score them poorly for impact and presence in times of trouble.
But for Dr Adebayo Akintayo, “I sincerely applaud this initiative, which has become a reference point in community-based policing in the country. From what I also see, personnel of the corps are courteous, and well-branded.”
He, however, hoped that the current excellent and admirable standards set would be maintained, and continuously reviewed in order to keep pace with contemporary crime fighting.
While another resident, Esther Oromidayo, has spotted a few of these officers on patrol bikes in her neighbourhood, but without knowing exactly what their brief is in crime fighting and prevention, Ayo Longe, said he only reads and hears about them in the media, in addition to coming across their vehicles a couple of times.
“It may be as a result of the fact that now, criminal activities have reduced around Agege where I live. But I don’t hear many people talking about their activities, or the impact of their activities, and I wouldn’t know why it is do,” Longe said.
It was as some residents of the state continued to wonder about the impact the corps’s activities has had on their safety that the Lagos State House of Assembly summoned the outfit to appear before it, and respond to series of allegations leveled against it.
The Chairman, House Committee on Security, Lagos State House of Assembly, Tunde Braimoh, in his remarks at that occasion, told arrowheads of the agency that there were so many protests and petitions against the activities of the corps.
He also alleged that some officers of the corps were said to be parading fake certificates.
Another lawmaker, David Setonji, was point-blank in his remarks when he accused the outfit of performing abysmally, adding that activities of some of its staff members, were at variance with what the agency was set up to achieve.
“Their mode of operation is very unprofessional, the personnel have no skills in security matters, qualified and known hands or professional in security matters were disengaged, we need to look into the law setting up the outfit and review it,” Setonji said.
But reviewing the activities of the agency, its chairman, DIG Israel Ajao (rtd), said the safety agency has settled down fast and was working assiduously on the four main core values of community law enforcement, which he gave as representation, participation, accountability and visibility.
He added: “We have introduced advocacy with traditional rulers, traders, artisans, vigilante groups, community development committees/community development association leaders, local government chairmen among others in a bid to improve our acceptability in the neighbourhoods.
“We are strong in synergy with the Lagos State Police Command; intelligence is shared with the police on regular basis, and our men carry out joint raids of criminal hideouts with the police, especially at Ikorodu in our bid to stop the Badoo crisis.”
According to him, the agency is progressing fast with the retraining of its personnel. With this, he said the LSNSC would continue to improve in its assigned duties.
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