On almost a weekly basis, reports of sexual defilement of minors and rape in Lagos State make headlines in the media, especially, a country that seems to produce endless manual for decent living and behaviour.
This malfeasance is not limited to Lagos; it is burgeons in every part of the country. In the past, victims and their family members hid under the fear of stigmatization and lack of justice from the responsible security agencies and failed to report or follow up such incidents.
Fortunately, the state Commissioner of Police, Imohimi Edgal on assumption of office, developed passion in protecting vulnerable women and children and immediately executed one of his cardinal policing plans, to create awareness on domestic sexual violence cases and cases involving defilement of minors.
The CP’s steps obviously had a positive effect on the people because from the crime statistics in Lagos, people are now finding their voice especially in reporting defilement matters. Before, we were recording too many incidents of sexual abuse cases that were coming in different forms and were gradually settled out of court at the local level. Most of them were in connivance with the parents of the victims. Some were offered money by the parents of suspects to tell the police at local levels that they were no longer interested in the matter.
But what Edgal did was to strengthen the Gender Unit in the command. As at today, the Gender Unit now has sections the Lagos Police Command in the state. He also made the department so accessible that one can rush to the gender unit and report such crime from anywhere within the state. He specifically gave a standing directive that any case that bothers on domestic violence and any other such matters must be transferred to the gender unit because the officers there have been trained for such matters.
It is interesting to note that from the day he assumed office till date, the gender unit of the state has successfully jailed several offenders, and victims are now bold to speak out.
This explains why Edgal was the cynosure of all eyes at the 15th Security Watch Africa Award Conference and Exhibition in Gambia, where he bagged two awards for his crime fighting efforts in Lagos State, namely the Golden Star Award for Urban Crime Control in Africa and the Most Outstanding Urban Crime Control Command in West and Central Africa. The two awards were well-deserved honours going by the quantum of achievements he had recorded within his two years of policing the seemingly volatile state. It is also on record that on assumption of duty, Edgal proved critics wrong as a newly appointed Commissioner of Police and worked assiduously on his strategy, which is community policing and safety partnership.
Having attended over 20 town hall meetings, the command under his watch has succeeded in eliminating ritual murders in Ikorodu and other parts of the state. To achieve that, he mobilized a joint security operation, involving members of the Oodua People’s Congress (OPC), Ikorodu Local Vigilante, Oyebo, the Department of State Services, DSS; Lagos Neighbourhood Safety Corps, traditionalists and some local chiefs in Ikorodu, in tackling the menace of the Badoo cult group, which had killed several persons in Ikorodu and Ogijo areas of Lagos and Ogun State. Crime related to the creeks, riverine areas and armed robbery of all forms are in the decline. Another approach that is working in his favour is the move he made by leaving a strict directive that information that is passed freely must be acted upon. It has been observed the community have begun to change their attitude as all the relevant segments have become more interested in the police, unlike before when there was this apathy.
Further, immediately after he started the town hall meetings in Lagos, he constituted an intelligence lab at Alausa, which is a citizen complaint call center. And, at every town hall meeting he attended, he told the people not to only report crime, but the conduct of policemen. And that if any policeman tried to extort money from anyone for any bailable offence, they should step out and call the complaint centre in English, Igbo, Hausa, Yoruba and pidgin. The centre operates 24 hours. That singular move seems to have paid off as several police officers have been dismissed over very serious criminal offences, while others were demoted. Several others were disciplined for various offences in 2018.
Through the community policing crusade, he has convinced the people to join hands with the police to stamp out cultism, kidnapping, armed robbery etc. The success story is not only in getting information that led to the arrest of numerous criminals, but that the people, comprising traditional rulers, opinion leaders, stakeholders and local government chairmen went the extra mile to convince their wards involved in crime to turn a new leaf. This paid off as scores of hardened and notorious criminals either surrendered to the voice of reason or paid the prize for it.
Significantly, the dreaded and bloody activities of rampaging cult groups are currently under check to the extent that no fewer than 1000 cultists have been arrested.
His pursuit of excellence in fighting crime is such that at present, there are fewer isolated or black spots in the state and the fatality on injury rate of policemen during encounters with armed criminals have reduced drastically.
►Chioma Igbokwe, a journalist, wrote from Lagos