City Life

Tackling security challenges in Lagos

As the nation battles the myriad of security challenges occasioned by kidnapping, banditry, cultism, ethnic clashes and the menace of commercial motorcycle riders also known as Okada, the State Governor, Babajide Sanwo-Olu, is taking proactive steps to address the challenges with a recent stakeholders’ meeting, which had many security experts in attendance. Muritala Ayinla reports…

There is no doubt that Nigeria is sitting on a keg of gunpowder with multiple security issues staring everyone in the face. Reports of killings and abductions, as well as ethnic clashes, have become everyday affairs; the monstrous, gun-wielding goons are now the regular visitors of our schools, taking away the harmless students and demanding huge ransom fees for their release.

Farmers are also no longer safe on their farms with frequent attacks by killer-herdsmen. Police stations have ceased to be a safe haven for Nigerians when they themselves now prefer to take cover and scamper for safety rather than providing succour for the citizens due to the frequent attacks on them.

The Boko Haram sect is now more vicious and daring. Terrorism, insurgency, kidnapping, maiming, looting and raping have taken a turn for the worse. Villages have lost their peace to the bandits, who terrorize them at will; suspected killer-herdsmen also constantly unleash terror on innocent communities in the middle belt. No region appears to be safe from these security challenges.

In Lagos while tales of cult clashes are not new, however, the menace of commercial motorcycles, also known as Okada riders, is on the rise. The Okada riders, who not only flout the state’s traffic laws, also frequently attack enforcement agents in a bid to resist arrest or have their motorcycles impounded. Other security challenges are often perpetrated by motorcyclists, many of whom are believed to be foreigners who frequently unleash terror on innocent Lagosians. But in an effort to checkmate this alarming trend, the Lagos State Governor, Mr Babajide Sanwo-Olu, last week conveyed a high-powered security stakeholders’ meeting to decide the way forward. According to him, Lagos cannot continue to watch and allow things to degenerate as witnessed in some other parts of the country.

At the meeting was a panel of discussants made up of representatives of Royal Fathers, Spiritual Leaders, Local Government Chairmen, Youth Organisations, Labour Unions, Organised Civil Societies and Communities Development Committees/CDAs and moderated by veteran journalist Mr. Babajide Kolade Otitoju. The meeting also had in attendance dignitaries from across the political and civil service spectrum, including the Speaker of the House of Assembly, Mudashiru Obasa, the Chief Judge, Justice Kazeem Alogba, members of the State Executive Council, members of the Body of Permanent Secretaries, and all Service Chiefs, Local Government Chairmen, Royal Fathers, Spiritual Fathers, Organised Labour Union Leaders, Civil Societies Organisations and other top functionaries in the state.

Giving the appraisal of the security situation in the state, the state’s Commissioner of Police, Hakeem Odumosu, identified the menace of Okada riders as the major factor contributing to the security challenges in the state. He said that other security threats in the state include: cultism, abandoned and uncompleted buildings which serve as hideouts for criminal elements and rising rate of shanties. He added that other security threats noticed in the state include: agitations for Oodua Republic by some Yoruba separatist groups and the threats to disrupt law and order in the state, adding that some of the groups have been identified and are being closely monitored. “Similarly, the threat of IPOB to attack soft targets in Lagos is equally being put on the radar of the command’s intelligence gathering and other security services in the state.

Strategies are being put in place to neutralize their activities. The command is using this medium to solicit the support of all and sundry to be vigilant at all times and report any suspicious person or movement to security agencies. Let us adopt the slogan of ‘when you see something, say something’,” he said.

Odumosu gave statistics of Okada menace and said that several lives were lost in Okada related road accidents in the state while a lot of armed robberies were carried out using Okadas. On his part, the former Deputy Vice-Chancellor, University of Lagos, Professor Babajide Alo, said there is a low level of trust in the police and other security forces, adding that the challenges are further worsened by the population explosion in the state. For effective tackling of the security challenge, the Ayangburen of Ikorodu, Oba Kabir Setonji, said it was time the state government completely bans Okada to address the security threats arising from their continued operation. The monarch said that continued operation of the commercial motorcycles will continue to endanger the lives, security and general well-being of the residents. On the rationale for conveying the meeting, Governor Sanwo- Olu said that the meeting was convened to ensure that everyone is duly carried along in the task of keeping the state safe, secure and peaceful.

He said that as the economic and commercial hub of Nigeria, the security of Lagos cannot be taken for granted. “Lagos State is not just home to the headquarters of the biggest companies in Nigeria, but to one of the largest stock exchanges in Africa, it is also the primary gateway for passengers and freight in and out of Nigeria. As we speak, there are several billions of dollars of investment on-going in Lagos State, in real estate, transportation, manufacturing, services, agriculture, and several other areas.

Nigeria’s ability to reach its full economic and developmental potential will be severely constrained in the absence of guaranteed security of lives and property in Lagos,” said the state’s first citizen. The governor, who said that his administration has taken steps to address some of the emerging security challenges through legislation and other policies, added: “For us in Lagos State, there is a direct correlation between security and longlasting economic growth and development. We cannot speak of a 21st-century megacity and the vision of a Greater Lagos if we are unable to assure and guarantee the security of our citizens and their properties.”

Meanwhile, rising from the stakeholders’ meeting, discussants agreed that there is an expeditious need to address the state of insecurity in Lagos State. It was also noted that the menace of Motor Cycle Taxi Operators aka Okada Riders has become quite alarming especially after the #EndSARS Crisis last October, thereby constituting security threats to citizens in the state. They pointed out that Okada riders perpetrate crimes, disregard traffic and highway laws, traumatize motorists, aid and abet criminal activities such as carjacking, conveying arms, kidnapping, cultism and espionage activities on security agencies etc. It noted that avoidable loss of lives and properties was due to the menace of Okada riders, adding that they featured in 218 serious crimes between January and April this year alone. Discussants agreed that there is an expeditious need to address the state of insecurity in Lagos State. To effectively ensure security surveillance in the state, the stakeholders also unanimously agreed that shanties, uncompleted and abandoned buildings, undeveloped plots of land, hotels that have become hideouts for hoodlums, cultists, armed robbers and other criminals should be closely monitored and taken over immediately where necessary.

For a permanent solution to the menace caused by the commercial motorcycles, they recommended the ban on the use of Okada as a means of transportation in the state; urging that alternatives provided by the State Government in Agriculture, Wealth Creation, Women Affairs Empowerment programmes and others should be accessed. It is a known fact that for the law and order to be completely restored, attacks on law enforcement officers/agencies as well as their stations must seriously be discouraged and not be handled with kid gloves while any culprit arrested should be prosecuted and the full weight of the law brought to bear on such persons to serve as a deterrent to others.

Lastly, the stakeholders and discussants also agreed, the citizenry to adopt the mantra “when you see something, say something”. They suggested that citizens should be encouraged to join forces with the government in combating crime and criminality in the state.

 

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