Renowned security experts in Nigeria have warned that the country is not ready for a total lockdown as such will give rise to a new wave of crime that will still lead to more spread of the Coronavirus.
The experts who spoke to Daily Sun offered solutions and how best to decongest the prisons.
Leading the pack is a former Assistant Director of the State Security Service (SSS), Dennis Amachree who warned that Nigeria does not have what it takes at the moment to secure the country during a lockdown.
He said: “The security implications are many. It does not look like we are ready for the lockdown. The lockdown should be centrally managed, with the Federal Government supporting the states and LGAs. Are there plans for emergency responders and law enforcement agents in terms of protective gears and food? Are offices and businesses well protected from criminals and looters? For those working at home, are their laptop connectivity secured against hackers and criminals? These are questions to answer before a total lockdown.”
Asked on the best course of action, if the need arises to decongest the prison, Amachree suggested that all detainees on minor offences and those with six months outstanding jail sentences should be released. “Some awaiting trial cases can also be considered––but not famous cases like that of Evans, the millionaire kidnapper.”
He also warned that no one should take advantage of the news that top officials of government are infected. “In a pandemic, anybody can be inflicted with the virus. It is no respecter of persons. Affecting top government officials does not call for a change of government. Coups are an aberration to a democratic government. The only accepted way to change a government still remains through elections.”
Bone Efoziem, founder of Strict Guard Security opined that a total lockdown will lead to an increase in local crimes. “A lot of low-income earners make for just daily living, therefore a lockdown will leave such people without means of survival. An increase in local crimes such as stealing, burglary and other vices should be expected,
if not, short-lived civil uprising borne out of frustration should be expected.”
On the best way to decongest the prison to avoid the spread of COVID-19, Efoziem suggested that proper hygiene is the only way to avoid inmates from getting infected. “Misdemeanor offences are the only that should be immediately bailed, based on proper profiling of the detainees; however, crowding in itself does not spread the virus but contact with an infected person, therefore, authorities should concern themselves more with proper testing of visitors and incoming detainees before contact with the existing detainees,” he said.
He, however, spoke against releasing high-profile prisoners like Evans who has been tried for felony and some high degree cases that could attract penalties. Releasing them could encourage jumping bail, therefore, “he (Evans) should not be considered,” he warned.
On the security implication of the spread of Coronavirus amongst top government officials, Efoziem said that there is a possibility that top military officers are also infected. He said: “Coups are usually led by top military officers who are equally exposed to the virus like the politicians, there is the chance that if these officers are screened, we may have similar situation among them. However, coups can’t be a solution to the problem since that could make the government to become isolated by other democratic government whereas international interaction is vital in resolving such a problem as Coronavirus.”
Another security expert, Ona Ekhomu who is the President of the Association of Industrial Security and Safety Operators of Nigeria posited that the lockdown would reduce crime to the barest minimum.
The security implication is that there will likely be less violent crimes and terrorist attack such as kidnapping, bombings, assassination, piracy, etc. “The lockdown will affect the mobility of the aggressors and their ability to move their ordinance around. If terrorists don’t have weapons, they can’t successfully conduct attacks. So, incidences of violent crimes will reduce,” he said.
He, however, pointed out that the severely curtailed movement might result in an increase in property crimes. Hungry individuals will steal yams or other food items from their neighbours. Petty thefts will be prevalent as those who will be negatively impacted are low-income earners who survive on their daily profits. With the lockdown and inability to earn an income, the mostly youthful population, which has a poor savings habit, might resort to stealing from neighbours to survive. The good news is that violent crimes will decrease, however, but property crimes will spike.”
On how to handle prisoners in the light of the COVID-19 pandemic, he warned that the likes of Evans should not be released from prison even if there is an outbreak of Coronavirus in prison.
“Violent, psychopathic and sociopathic criminals like Evans should rot in prison. Coronavirus should not provide an excuse for releasing a violent criminal like Evans. Those people in jail for terrorist acts (Boko Haram fighters) should be kept in jail for life.
“People convicted for stealing goats, chickens or petty items with the value of N50, 000 or less should be pardoned and freed. The prisons can be sanitized in this way.” `
In the likelihood that most top government officials get infected, Ekhomu is of the view that it will not lead to civil unrest. “This is a pathogen, which does not respect social class or political appointment. In fact, this virus has many positive side effects. It has exposed the low level of social organization in Nigeria. Nigerians cannot act in one accord to defeat Coronavirus. China and South Korea are excellent examples of nations that came together, and as a nation, worked in one accord and defeated the scourge. The virus has exposed the fact that there is no social security safety net in Nigeria that can prevent people from starving to death in the event of a pandemic. It is time for Nigerian herbalists to stand up and share their “scientific” discoveries with the world. Agbo (herbal potion) can cure Coronavirus. Period.”