By Job Osazuwa
There is no gainsaying that, when security is compromised in any environment, the people live in fear. Expectedly, socio-economic activities will be dealt a devastating blow.
There are rising and severe security challenges across Nigeria giving many people grave concern.
Worried by the unhealthy development, the Lagos State governor, Mr. Babajide Sanwo-Olu, on May 10, called for a meeting with security agencies, religious bodies, community leaders and others.
It was a move that many residents described as timely and patriotic, aimed at putting the security agencies, communities and everyone on the alert, towards making the state safer for all to live in. It was also a reminder to residents to continue to carry out their daily activities within the ambit of the law without any fear.
Among the topics that came up for discussion during the interaction with the governor, the total ban of commercial motorcycle operation in the state and effective implementation of the existing laws restricting the movement of the riders were re-echoed by various speakers.
The discussants agreed that it has become imperative for government to take more drastic measures against their avctivities, if Lagos was to continue to maintain its status as a mega city and the first destination for investors and tourists.
As if on cue with the expectations of the people, Gov. Sanwo-Olu announced that plans were already concluded to roll out mini buses that would ply inner streets that bigger commercial vehicles could not access.
Sadly, the stringent measures put in place by successive administrations in Lagos and the vigorous enforcement carried out by the security agencies have not ended the nefarious activities perpetrated with the use of motorcycles, popularly known as okada.
Appraising security the situation in the state, Commissioner of Police Hakeem Odumosu gave an account of how the command has been tackling a number of criminal activities in Lagos. He described security issue as one of the areas of concern to every citizen. According to him, there is the need to continuously re-appraise the strategies to combat threats and keep hoodlums at bay.
“In order to sustain the fight against crimes and criminalities in the state, the command emplaced different proactive strategies, which include periodic intelligence-led raids of criminal hideouts, convoy patrols of the nooks and crannies, including border points, establishment of pin-down points at strategic locations, synergy with other security agencies, community leaders and other stakeholders.
“They use abandoned buildings as hideouts and, in most cases, initiation camp. Most of these abandoned buildings are traced to family dispute. They hibernate there before and after committing crime. These criminals also use abandoned vehicles to store their operational arms and their loot.
“As a panacea to the above challenges, the command is imploring the state government to, as a matter of urgency, take drastic steps to curtail the identified security threats. Such steps may include immediate taking over of the abandoned/uncompleted buildings by the state government. These buildings might be used for developmental projects that will be beneficial to the citizens. There should be immediate confiscation of abandoned vehicles found to be used by hoodlums to perpetrate their acts and immediate sealing up of any dwelling, house, hotels, etc, being used by the criminals as a hideout and/or launching pad.
“Another major security challenge being faced by the command is the use of motorcycle as a means of transportation in the state. A combination of factors can be identified as being responsible for the advent of motorcycles as a means of intra-city transportation in Lagos,” the commissioner said.
He lamented that okada was being used as a tool to commit crime and easily get away with it by hoodlums; disrespect of traffic rules and regulations; as well as becoming a nuisance on the road, resulting in avoidable accidents and attendant consequences on human life.
He added that: “They oftentimes, during this their carelessnss, mob their victims, create avenue for their colleagues and other social miscreants alike to unleash terror and theft of valuable items in the vehicle of the victims and other sympathizers around.”
The state government, in response to residents’ outcry to curtail the excesses of okada riders in the state, came up with the Lagos State Road Traffic Law, No. 4, in 2012, prohibiting motorcycles on all major highways in Lagos, including the Lagos-Ibadan expressway, Apapa-Oshodi, Oworonshoki-Oshodi, Lagos-Ikorodu, LagosAbeokuta, Eti-Osa/Lekki-Epe, Lagos-Badagry expressways, Funsho Williams Avenue, Agege Motor Road and Eti-Osa/Lekki-Coastal Road, among others.
Odumosu used the medium to solicit the support of all residents, urging them to be vigilant at all times and report any suspicious person or movement to security agencies.
Gov. Sanwo-Olu said the meeting was convened to ensure that everyone was duly carried along in the task of keeping Lagos safe, secure and peaceful. As the economic and commercial hub of Nigeria, he said the security of Lagos could not be taken for granted.
“Lagos State is not just home to the headquarters of the biggest companies in Nigeria, and to one of the largest stock exchanges in Africa, it is also the primary gateway for passengers and freight, in and out of Nigeria.
“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. In recent times, we have recorded a worrying trend of nefarious activities in the state; from kidnappings, armed robbery, cult clashes and violent assaults. To ensure that we contain and arrest every form of aggression and crime that threaten the development, progress and growth of the state, and by so doing improve upon the welfare and quality of life of the citizens.
“On our part in the state we have risen up to the arduous challenge of arresting this general state of insecurity with all the resources we have at hand. I call this an arduous challenge because we are constrained by the fact that security is not the exclusive preserve of state governments.
“On cultism, I recently signed into law the Prohibition of Unlawful Societies and Cultism Act of 2021. The law prescribes a 21-year jail term for convicted cultists. The new law strengthens the penalties applicable to cultists, and expands coverage to the entire society, unlike the old law, which was restricted to cultism by students of tertiary institutions. Cultism is a major security problem confronting us in Lagos, and we have in recent times seen an advent of criminal gangs unleashing violence and mayhem in and around the state.
“We have completed more than 1,800 kilometres of fibre optic cables which we are laying in the metropolis to create a state-wide broadband network. When completed, this network will support the deployment of CCTV cameras that will help ensure that high-risk crime areas are kept under round-the-clock surveillance,” he said.
He also expressed dismay over how okada riders were disregarding and flouting the restrictions imposed on their activities in certain areas of the metropolis. And also how the worrying trend in which criminals have found commercial motorcycles as enabling tool with which to perpetrate heinous crimes.
“Looking at the increasing threat posed by the activities of commercial motorcycle operators to the safety and security of lives, we will in the coming days be announcing further changes to the parameters of motorcycle and tricycle operations in the state.
Former deputy vice-chancellor of University of Lagos (UNILAG), Prof Babajide Alo, UNILAG Centre for Environmental Resources Development, taking an overview of security situation in Lagos, from the citizens’ perspective, said touts and other street urchins were setting the state backward. He said enforcing the law was more difficult in the state as offenders always find their way back on the street.
He stated that the EndSARS campaign came up as a result of people’s lack of confidence in the security sector. He said environmental degradation was one of the factors that have heightened insecurity in Nigeria.
The panel of discussants was moderated by a journalist, Mr. Babajide Kolade Otitoju. The chairman of the Christian Association of Nigeria, Lagos State chapter, Bishop Steven Adegbite, said security was very important to religious bodies in Lagos.
Said he: “Okada riding must be banned now because of their excesses.
“The unionists collecting levies from motorcycle, tricycle and vehicle operators must also be more responsible. I often wonder what they use the money they collect from the operators for.”
Oba Kabiru Adewale Shotobi, the Ayangburen of Ikorodu called for the need for the citizens to support the government in fighting crime.
“Kidnapping, land grabbing and cultism are great problems in our communities. Land grabbers always breed cultism.
“We want the governor to take the bull by the honour and make a decisive pronouncement on arrest
“We are wasting much time. Total ban of motorcycle riders should be now. The law is there but let it be enforced,” he said.
Lekan Biliamin-Oba, who is Chairman, National Youth Council of Nigeria (NYCN) said that relapsing the enforcement of many laws while approaching elections, as displayed by successive governments shouldn’t be encouraged.
He said: “Local joints where drugs and other hard substances are consumed are on the increase. The government must arrest the increasing spate of illicit drug use, especially among the youths. “There is the need to build trust between the citizens and the government, security agencies because that is lacking at the moment.”
At the end of meeting, it was noted that apart from the avoidable loss of lives and property due to the menace of okada riders, the operators also featured in 218 serious crimes between January and April 2021.
It was resolved that government should takeover abandoned /uncompleted buildings in the state immediately; take control of abandoned vehicles in the nooks and crannies of the state; and demolish all shanties and illegal structures in the state.
The need to fast track judicial processes to ensure prosecution of criminals and sentencing if found guilty was emphasised.
Participants agreed on the need to deploy appropriate cutting edge Technologies (Streetlights, CCTV, drones) to fight crime and strengthen security in an emerging Smart City such as Lagos;