By Ayo Oyoze Baje
“This is the melting pot for our nation where anybody can come in with a lot of aspirations and do well. Lagos is a state that gives hope to a lot of Nigerians. So, we cannot afford anything to happen here. I can assure you with every sense of commitment that we will stop at nothing to make sure that Lagos remains safe and secure”
– Gov. Sanwo-Olu (while speaking at the 3rd Session of the 34th Synod of the Diocese of Lagos, Church of Nigeria, Anglican Communion)
The ever-escalating insecurity challenge in Nigeria has become a clear and present danger to all of us. Over the past two decades the rampaging monsters of Boko Haram terrorism, banditry, armed robbery, killings by armed herdsmen and kidnapping for ransom have spread their tentacles from the North-East, across the North-West through the North-Central geo-political zone down to the Southern states.
Even as efforts are on (both genuine and self-serving) to clip the wings of the hovering hawk of insecurity the gnawing fear of millions of Nigerians is for Lagos state to be spared its devastating blow. The reasons are obvious. Not only is it the commercial nerve-centre of the country, it has become the ‘melting pot’ for citizens and foreigners alike, wishing to actualize their dreams, as rightly noted by the highly determined and peace-loving Governor Sanwo-Olu.
But the bitter truth is that if the killing spree could affect the other states, the likelihood of it getting to the Centre of Excellence is there for real. And that has been the warning signal from the United State’s intelligence forces.
Perhaps, the reality of insecurity in the South-West zone must have informed the establishment of Operation Amotekun (“leopard” in the Yoruba language) on January 9, 2020 in Ibadan, Oyo State. According to Governor Kayode Fayemi of Ekiti state: “We are not here to undermine the power of the Federal Government of Nigeria, but our primary interest is the security and safety of our people.” On his part the former governor of Lagos State, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu compared Operation Amotekun to the “Neighbourhood Watch” program which his administration instituted to pass credible information along to the police.
From whatever perspective one looks at it therefore, securing the good people of Lagos from the furious fangs of the anarchists will definitely take grits, guts and a firm grip on the socio-economic and political spectrum of the state. For a leader worth his salt to frontally battle insecurity would also take effective communication and collaboration with the stakeholders, to quickly identify the thorns on the paths to lasting peace and nip them right in the bud.
Beyond all these factors is the significance of transparency on the part of the security forces. In specific terms, the top police brass and military helmsmen must be ready to fully account for every kobo earmarked for recruiting, training security personnel and buying arms and ammunition. They should deploy such as at when due and resist the temptation to feather one’s nest at the expense of communal peace. It is in the light of this that one would commend the Gov. Sanwo-Olu-led administration for rolling out extensive policies to tackle impending security challenges in line with the six-pillars of THEMES developmental agenda for ‘Greater Lagos’. Good enough, part of the efforts is the provision of far-reaching support, in terms of vehicles and logistics to all security operatives to keep the state safe.
On some of the proactive measures taken by his administration to curb insecurity in the state, Sanwo-olu has banned the ubiquitous motorcycles (Okadas) and tricycles. Several road accidents, thefts, driving against the approved traffic lanes and excruciating traffic gridlock have been traced to them. As for the long stretch of trailers and other articulated vehicles parked on the Oshodi-Apapa expressway, efforts are on in conjunction with the Ministry of Transportation to keep them off the expressway.
In the place of the banned bicycles and tricycles government has launched 500 safe, secure units of First and Last Mile (FLM) buses. They are assembled locally, as mini-passenger buses (between 7- and 11-seater), which will operate on 286 community routes. They will take passengers from the closest points to their areas of residence to standard transportation corridors. Payment for FLM services will be through an automated payment system, using Cowry Travel Cards. The fleet would be gradually increased to 5,000 buses in the coming months.
Sanwo-Olu in his statement said: “Talking about security, we can say Lagos is relatively better but I sit on it and I know what we are doing and the things we need to do. We know we have issues to deal with as a country and Lagos will certainly be leading that conversation because we know how critical this state is to the nation”.
In spite of all these salutary efforts, it is important to note that to strike at the heart of the bull of insecurity cannot be left to the government alone. That explains the rationale behind the call by the First Lady, Dr. Ibijoke Saanwo-Olu that residents should become more aware of the goings on in their environment and report suspicious movements. The deployment of CCT cameras, street lights and drones all over Lagos state will do it a world of good. These will assist to curb the menace of street urchins, some of who are able-bodied young men that have turned themselves into miscreants, beggars and cultists taking undue pleasure in frequent clashes.
Being a state that boasts of the Atlantic Ocean coastline and lagoons, it needs effective collaboration with the Nigerian Navy, NIMASA and the NPA to maintain safety, away from pirates. Its efforts to reinforce transportation by boats and ferries should be sustained, to ease the traffic gridlock inland. As recently highlighted by the United States Secretary of State, Antony Blinken the battle against insecurity in Nigeria would involve building “ its capacity through training, through resources, through information sharing, through equipment, and all of that done, very importantly, with full respect for human rights.” Well said!
And with regards to involving the people, it has become imperative for the government to hold more meetings with the local government chairmen, counselors, leaders of youth groups and traditional rulers of different ethnic groups resident in Lagos state. They should be made to understand that true safety means being protected from the event or from exposure to something that causes health or economic losses. It can include protection of people and their possessions.
Through them sustained media outreach on television and radio expressed in their local languages should be engaging. Such should shed light on government’s efforts, as well as the critical roles they have to play to engender inter-communal peace and unity.
In fact, this brings to mind the admonition of Kenneth Trump, a security expert who insists that true safety and security is more than just a camera on a building. It is about securing our networks, preventing disasters, responding to threats and communicating across channels, sectors, and boundaries. And it is about planning and collaborating. Network security and physical security are converging. Lagos should therefore, be ready for that. Protection of the lives of the good people of Lagos should not be compromised but made all-encompassing, with proactive features going hand-in-hand with punitive measures because prevention is always safer, cheaper and wiser than cure.
Baje writes from Lagos