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LAGOS AND PUBLIC SECURITY

Tayo Ogunbiyi

Public Security is one of the most prominent factors that determines good governance and guarantees the extent of socio-economic growth and development in any society.

As the commercial nerve centre of Nigeria and, indeed, West Africa, Lagos has unusual security challenges. Its increasing population motivated by an endless survival and economic inspired immigration as well as its border with Benin Republic make it naturally attractive to criminal activities.

Indeed, of late, there is no city in Africa that has seen more migrants than Lagos. People continue to flock here daily and in large numbers for diverse reasons. Studies have shown that influx of people to Lagos averages 3,500 – 4,000 per day.

It is, therefore, only normal for succeeding governments in the state to advance a variety of tactics to deal with crime in the state. One of such is ‘Operation Sweep’ by the Buba Marwa military administration which was later restructured and re-organized and renamed ‘Rapid Response Squad’ [RRS] by Tinubu Administration. The Squad was charged with onerous task of flushing crime out of every part of the state.

Unmindful of the inherent danger that insecurity could pose to the socio-political advancement of the State, the Akinwunmi Ambode administration has made improvement of security apparatus in the state a top concern.

Consequently, the administration has fortified the Rapid Response Squad (RRS), in partnership with the State Police Command and other stakeholders, to further enhance its operational capability. This is reflected in the handing over of 2 surveillance helicopters, 10 armoured tanks, 10 brand new Hilux vehicles and115 new power bikes, to the State Police Command and RRS respectively.

This is in addition to the purchase of 100 new squad cars for a new initiative tagged Special Operation Service (SOS), which will harmonize community policing in partnership with the Rapid Response Squad (RRS). Similarly, an integrated security and emergency control platform that interface with all security networks in the State has been set up.

In-spite of all this, it is noteworthy to affirm that the Ambode administration did not rest on its oars as it again donated security equipment worth N4.7b to the State Police Command. As massive as this intervention is, the administration has continued to advance the course of public security in the state.

This much is underscored by a recent presentation of more security equipment at a cost of N1.85billion to security agencies in the state. The equipment, which was officially presented by the Vice President, Professor Yemi Osinbajo (SAN) was distributed to the RRS, 107 Police Stations and Thirteen Police Area Commands in Lagos State. Other beneficiaries include the Nigeria Customs, Immigration Services, the Nigeria Army, Air force, Navy, DSS, AIG Zone 2, Civil Defence, Federal Road Safety Corps, LASTMA, NDLEA, Lagos State Task Force and the Nigeria Prison Services. Provision of this equipment is a deliberate attempt to fast-track investigation, surveillance and intelligent information in the state.

The state government’s venture in public security is yielding dividends as a recent statistic from the Lagos State Police Command reveals that crime rate has drastically reduced by 65 percent in the state.

Nevertheless, as it is often the case with every burgeoning megacity of Lagos status, we are yet to reach Sir Thomas More’s state of utopia in terms of public safety in the state. As previously stated, the magnetism of Lagos is alluring for different kinds of people among who, of course, are criminals. It will, therefore, not out of place to, once again, appeal to the federal government to urgently consider the issue of state police.

This is now the trend all over the World and Mega cities around the world are profiting from the factors that are associated with the metropolitan police force which are effectiveness, speed, trust, responsiveness, environmental acquaintances and mutual sense of identification by the public and police to promote and protect socio-cultural values and heritage. The present policing ratio of 205 police officers per 150,000 people in the country is grossly inadequate. For effective policing, the United Nations [UN] posited that there should be 1 policeman to every 100 persons.

This also brings to fore, once again, the contentious issue of according a special status to Lagos state. A recent study reveals that Lagos’ best possible population is 40 million. Whereas the annual population growth in the developing world is 3% and Nigeria’s is 2.7% that of Lagos stands at a stunning 8% and is likely to accelerate in the coming years. There is no other state in the federation that feels the pressure of the nation’s current economic challenges as Lagos. For obvious reason, Lagos is the place everyone wants to be. It is the nation’s melting point where everyone targets the proverbial Golden Fleece.

When the FCT was moved from Lagos to Abuja, there was a subsisting agreement that the city would not be abandoned by the federal authorities. However, successive federal governments have refused to take a cue from countries which relocated their national capitals without abandoning infrastructural development of the former capitals.

We need to imitate countries such as Germany, Brazil, Malaysia, Australia and Tanzania, which, after relocating their capitals, did not hold back developmental programmes targeted at preserving the values of their former capitals. The need to accord a special status for Lagos is a non-political project. There is hardly any Nigerian that doesn’t have a stake in Lagos. An increasing stake by the federal government in Lagos is, therefore, a necessary blueprint for the development of the country since Lagos remains the window through which the world sees Nigeria.

It is, however, crucial to call on every segment of the society to support the state government and all security agencies so as to enhance public safety in the state. An effective public security cannot be obtained without the active involvement, participation and support of every section of the society because public security is the responsibility of all individuals, groups, communities, organisations and other units that constitute the state.

Criminals are not spirits, they dwell in our midst. We must, therefore, observe and report every strange movements and activities in our neigbourhood to the appropriate authorities. It is only when we develop a communal fortitude towards public security that the huge investment of the state government in security could be effectively harnessed.

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