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Residents commend improved security at FESTAC Town

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Cluster of bikes at the slum


• Businesses, Nightlife Return
• Road 37 Still A Dark Spot — Resident

After Nigeria hosted the second Festival of Arts and Culture in 1977, the 5, 000-unit sprawling housing estate- FESTAC Town, which housed festival attendees, took up a life of its own. It even became a choice residential area for the movers and shakers of that era.

But four decades down the line, the fortunes of the once beautiful town, which now serves as the headquarters of Amuwo Odofin Local Council has badly plummeted.

From a location, where some Nollywood producers loved to shoot their movies, to one where peace lovers in the bustling city of Lagos loved to take up residence, its beautiful and clean environment, breath-taking layout and ambience accentuated by well-tarred and paved roads made the town a choice location. The icing on the cake was, however, the very low crime rate within the estate.

As facilities broke down within the estate owing to population explosion and poor management, and as its pristine conditions took flight, the security of good, old FESTAC Town equally became highly compromised. Expectedly, nightlife and businesses took a big hit.

But feelers from the facility seem to suggest that residents of the area are beginning to experience a new lease of life as far as the security situation is concerned.

According to Helen Adebayo, a fashion and beauty shop owner, this is a result of the partnership between the estate’s management, neighbourhood security groups, and government security agencies to fight crime and make small businesses flourish again, and for residents to sleep with both eyes closed.

Adebayo recalled that the rate of burglary in FESTAC Town last year was so high that many shop owners began to nurse the idea of relocating their businesses outside the community.

The entrepreneur, who said daredevil robbers hitherto robbed their victims of mobile phones, money and other such valuables in broad daylight and go scot-free, stressed that many business owners had no choice but to beef up their security in their small way, especially fortifying their burglarproof.

Insisting that things are now changing, the fashion and beauty shop owner disclosed that with operatives of the neighbourhood Watch stationed at strategic points in the community and response to distress calls almost immediately attended to, things were changing for the better.

“The rate at which these security operatives, especially the neighbourhood Watch and the Nigeria Police now make their presence felt by way of routine patrol and their presence in the nooks and crannies of the estate, inspires a lot of confidence among residents,” she said.

A school owner within the estate, Onyeka Agbogo said there was a time many residents preferred to return home before nightfall and remain indoors to avoid being victims of attacks. “That is one of the things that contributed to the very poor nightlife we experienced. Life was generally dull and people lived in fear.

“There were also times in the recent past that some houses were broken into in broad daylight when the occupants were away to their businesses. But today, sanity is gradually returning to the community, even though there are still a few cases of vandalisation of parked vehicles.

Victor Agodi of Angel Security, one of the security firms providing services at the community said the partnership between the Nigeria Police, the neigbhourhood watch, and various street guards has paid off handsomely.

“FESTAC has been divided into four sections to provide effective security, and a different security outfit oversees each of the four sections, and reports any issue it cannot immediately handle to the central body that comprises the Nigeria Police and other security agencies. You can see that some of the black spots have now been covered and taken care of allowing residents to move about unmolested,” Agodi stated.

He added: “The various hideouts where suspected criminals operated from have been pulled down, bushes cleared, and intelligence gathering improved. All these have contributed to improving the security situation in FESTAC Town. You can also see that the dead nightlife has been revived, which is the reason why many hotels are opening up here, and business is booming, both day and night.

“Now, it is easy to see residents returning home from nightclubs by 2 a.m., especially at weekends. People are now also leaving their homes very early to their different businesses without fear of being molested by criminals that used to target those that leave home early,” he said.

On specific steps the security outfits are taking to nip insecurity in the bud, he said, “we do all that is needful, including interrogating people carrying suspicious loads or bags. Whenever we have reasons to entertain any doubts about any person identity, we insist that they call the head of their residence, or their landlords for clarifications. All these never existed in the past, but we have to do them now to check crime, and with the current arrangement FESTAC Town is returning to its old glory.”

While some residents are commending the new arrangement put in place by the central management committee of FESTAC Town, Madam Shade Keller has her reservations, even as she says that it is not yet Uhuru.Keller said that pockets of dark spots are still unreached by the security arrangement, and particularly described Road 37 as one of those places that security needs to be beefed up.

According to her, there are still reports that some people, especially ladies, were still being molested at night, while some early risers were still being attacked in the estate.She said the area is predominantly populated by “Adamawa Boys,” who live and operate like lords. Adamawa Boys refers to young men from the North East, who ran to Lagos from insurgency-ravaged homestead for safety, and to make a living. This is where residents have their fears, because in the slum area where the boys live, Jungle laws obtain.

When The Guardian visited the area, there was a high number of commercial motorcycles popularly referred to as Okada. “These youths do all manner of odd jobs and live in substandard structures and despicable conditions. Because of their peculiar lifestyle, they dwell in colonies and squat in ramshackle structures. While some of them take to gatekeeping and street trading, a good number of them work as commercial motorcyclists and sometimes, are into the distribution of illicit drugs.

“In the slums, all manner of things, including the sale of local herbal concoction, drugs and other narcotic substances take place there. Sellers of these substances are quick to identify strange faces in the area and know how to conceal their trade from prying eyes. When most people are away to work, young people, who are also into binging of substances still throng the area.

• Growing Slum Worries Residents
For Madam Keller and others like her, what happens in this part of the estate still remains a major source of concern, just as she wondered why the Amuwo Odofin Local Council Development Area (LCDA) should continue to allow the slum to exist, especially when people have severally alleged that crime perpetrators within the community were quartered there.

“Why won’t these boys turn to crime when they do not have jobs to sustain them? Some of them are even breeding in that unspeakable condition and yet you expect them to behave like normal human beings. Some of the motorcycles these boys ride are not registered and have no number plates. This in itself poses an immense security risk to residents. They are also reckless in their approach to their transportation business and have little or no consideration for human life, which is the reason why some residents do not move towards that area at night, or odd hours,” Keller said.

However, the immediate past Chairman of Amuwo Odofin Local Council Development Area (LCDA), Comrade Ayodele Adewale, noted that the government and various community leaders have their eyes on them, and also engage their services to make sure they do not take to crime.

Keller cautions that we should not overlook the issue of security for now because of the political gains, as the boys could become harmful if not well monitored. Keller revealed that the new security network in the community comes with a heavy price, as residents are made to pay a lot, saying that is what the situation in the country has forced them to do.


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FESTAC Town
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