These are, indeed, unusual times in our country, especially in terms of insecurity. In the last couple of months, the security situation in the country has become so alarming that many are reasonably apprehensive.
Across the country, banditry, kidnapping, maiming and killing have become rampant. According to reports, more than 700 people have been abducted from schools in northwest Nigeria since last December in a rash of kidnappings for ransom in the volatile region.
Being the melting point as well as the nation’s commercial and economic nerve centre, Lagos cannot afford to take security issues lightly. There is, probably, no city in Africa that attracts more migrants than Lagos. People continue to flock into the state from diverse parts of the world, and in large numbers for diverse reasons. Studies have shown that the influx of people to Lagos averages 3,500 – 4,000 per day.
Really, that is not only huge, it also comes with serious security implications. In this era of wanton security breaches, it has, thus, become vital for the state government to pay more than passing attention to security matters.
Being a proactive and people-oriented government, it is quite heartwarming that the government recently organised a stakeholders’ forum on security. The event, held at the Adeyemi Bero Auditorium, Alausa, had in attendance religious leaders, Chief Judge of Lagos State, Justice Kazeem Alogba, security chiefs, traditional leaders, community leaders, students, unionists and members of the State Executive Council.
The cheering news from the meeting was the full backing that Lagosians gave the government in tackling thorny security issues. Notable among security threats widely identified at the summit are the menace of commercial motorcycles, kidnapping, armed robbery, cultism and violent assaults.
The forum afforded Governor Sanwo-Olu the opportunity to highlight his administration’s efforts in security and also to assure Lagosians that decisive action would be taken on all prospective sources of insecurity in the state.
Without a doubt, as identified by stakeholders at the forum, the menace of commercial motorcyclists constitutes grave security challenges to the state. According to available data from the police, 60% of robbery incidents recorded in Lagos in the past four years involved commercial motorcycles, popularly referred to as Okada.
According to the report, out of eight robberies that occurred in that period, seven involved the use of Okada. The penchant of Okada riders for disobeying traffic rules and regulations often lead to traffic snarls that give room for social miscreants to rob motorists of valuable items as well as other antisocial acts such as vandalization of vehicles.
Indeed, while appraising the security situation in Lagos at the security forum, Commissioner of Police, Mr. Hakeem Odumosu, raised alarm over rising security breaches resulting from the menace of Okada operations in the state.
According to the police chief, between January and early May, 320 commercial motorcycles were arrested in 218 cases of criminal incidents in which 78 suspects were detained and 480 ammunition recovered.
In the same period, the Lagos police chief disclosed that Okada accounted for 83 per cent of 385 cases of avoidable fatal vehicular accidents in Lagos. Odumosu further stressed that crime reports from the field have shown that a greater percentage of crimes, ranging from armed robbery, cultism, kidnapping, murder, burglary and stealing, traffic robbery to carjacking and cash snatching from bank customers, are attributable to armed hoodlums who operate on Okada.
He said: “The nuisance constituted by the Okada operators on Lagos roads has become a serious threat to law-abiding citizens. The State Police Command strongly advises the government to immediately review the current guidelines guiding the operation of Okada as a means of commercial transportation in the state and take decisive legal and administrative steps and policies that will curb their traffic, criminal and other nefarious activities in the State.”
The string of lawlessness daily witnessed from the confrontation between commercial motorcyclists and law enforcement agencies, no doubt, requires urgent action. It is, thus, reassuring to note that the government already has clear-cut strategies to address the nuisance of Okada riders in the state.
Every well-meaning Lagosian must support the government in its bid to take stringent measures on the use of Okada as means of transportation in the state. We cannot achieve the ‘Greater Lagos’ of our collective aspiration in an unruly atmosphere.
The gains of the current administration’s strides, especially in transportation and traffic management, in the last 2 years, can only be effectively maximized when everyone opts to follow the right path. The government has done so much to enhance the transportation sector in the state. It has reconstructed and rehabilitated hundreds of roads. It has remodelled over eight strategic junctions. It has built and commissioned strategic bridges.
It has also recorded several milestones in water transportation, and it is poised to do more. The government is developing rail transportation, particularly via the building of the blue and red lines, both of which are billed to be in operation in the next 22 months. It is equally working on the construction of the 4th Mainland Bridge as well as other strategic roads across the state.
The government, no doubt, has the capacity to do more. But it will need the cooperation of the citizenry to achieve more. Therefore, every well-meaning Lagosian must join hand with the government in its bid to build a safe, secure and prosperous Lagos.
Lagosians are urged to desist from encouraging Okada riders to ply restricted routes. The enactment of the law restricting Okada operation in the state was primarily meant to protect the interest of the public. It was legislated to ensure that the people do not ride on Okada along routes that could put their lives and those of others in jeopardy.
Effective security is crucial to the attainment of a prosperous society. Every segment of the society must support the government and all security agencies 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.
Ogunbiyi is Deputy Director, Public Affairs, Ministry of Information and Strategy, Alausa, Ikeja