Kidnappings In Lagos, By Dele Agekameh
Lagos State should create a good and effective security hub because the state is surrounded by water. These criminals carry out their attacks using the waterways as amphibious landing spots and takeoff points.
At about 3pm on Friday, February 24, 2017, I received a phone call. The caller was Bola Frazer. She introduced herself as the producer of a programme on Channels Television. She expressed the station’s growing concern about the spate of kidnappings in Lagos and the need to seek expert opinion on how to curb the menace. She was, therefore, inviting me to appear on the programme scheduled for 7:30pm that Friday evening.
It was an opportunity for me to contribute my own quota to the raging debate on the menace of kidnapping in the country, particularly the disturbing dimension it has taken in Lagos. But then, the notice was too short for me. So, I politely expressed my gratitude for having been contacted, but, at the same time, expressed my inability to take up the offer due to my tight schedule. I promised I could be available at any future opportunity.
The brief encounter with Bola struck a chord in me. The result is this copy you are reading. There is, no doubt, a need to proffer practical solutions to the burning issue of kidnapping in Lagos and its environs. As we all know, most of the kidnappers are itinerant criminals who come in once in a while to unleash terror on the peace-loving people of Lagos. They often disappear through the creeks, back to their hideouts in the riverine areas of Ondo, Delta, Rivers, and Edo states, and other places. Generally, kidnapping is a global phenomenon. It was introduced big time into the country in the 1990s by aggrieved militants in the Niger Delta struggle. Since then, it has become a thriving business that attracts more and more criminally-minded individuals all over the place. Today, it has spread to almost all parts of the country because of the illicit and mouth-watering financial reward involved in the heinous crime.
A number of state governments have come up with severe measures, including the death penalty, to dissuade people from engaging in the criminal act, but it has not deterred the perpetrators. From Calabar to Maiduguri, Lagos to Yenagoa, Benin to Kano, Kaduna and even Abuja, the story is the same. Many lives have been lost and a lot of families have been ruined through heavy ransom payment or outright loss of breadwinners or both. In the madness, no one is spared. Children have been yanked off their mothers’ backs, while parents are killed or maimed in the presence of their children or family members. The way the kidnappers are going about their nefarious business these days, they seem to be getting more emboldened and sophisticated by the day.
Sadly, the response by the security agents, especially the police, the agency constitutionally empowered to enforce internal security, is tardy and very worrisome. In most of the cases the police claim they have cracked, huge sums of money for ransom may have been involved, although the police are usually quick to add that “no ransom” was paid. Besides, it takes them almost eternity to crack some of these kidnap cases, thereby allowing the victims to languish precariously in the dungeon of the kidnappers for several days under intense psychological and physical torture, including hunger, sex abuse and all that.
If you drive, say, from Onikan to Epe, you may not come across any of the patrol teams on the road. Instead, they go to places like Apapa to extort money from port users, leaving the water line porous. From Marina, Epe to Ikorodu, the police is hardly visible.
In Lagos, in spite of the huge sums of money put into the state’s Security Trust Fund by the state government, blue-chip companies and other well-meaning individuals, the spate of kidnapping has assumed an epidemic proportion. It is quite obvious that there are visible lapses in the command structure of the current security arrangement in place in the state. Today, the Rapid Response Squad (RRS) put in place and heavily funded by the state to checkmate crime, especially violent crimes, seems to be clay-footed. They now concentrate more on extortion and patrolling streets in highbrow areas of the state dominated by the rich and upscale individuals. This is one of the reasons why the kidnappers may have been having a free reign.
In some other instances, patrol vehicles are diverted for the personal use of the officers and men of the outfit, instead of gathering intelligence and responding swiftly to distress calls. Mostly at weekends, you see the vehicles carrying gaily-dressed men and women going out to parties or coming from shopping in markets and malls.
The number of policemen attached to the RRS may be overwhelming, but they are mostly used by politicians and land-owners to settle land disputes and flaunt their importance in the society. They run rings around politicians who are curious to use them as status symbols. If you drive, say, from Onikan to Epe, you may not come across any of the patrol teams on the road. Instead, they go to places like Apapa to extort money from port users, leaving the water line porous. From Marina, Epe to Ikorodu, the police is hardly visible. In Marina, what they do is to simply push the smugglers to Takwa Bay where they are extorted.
Now, what’s the essence of buying helicopters, vehicles, motorcycles and properly equipping the police in Lagos if criminals, especially kidnappers, are constantly having a field day? The fact is that the militants-turned-kidnappers largely operate on the state waterways. It was from there they attacked the school in Ikorodu last year, as well as staged the recent attack on the Turkish School through the creek; they also attacked targets in Epe and the Festac area through the creek.
I have always thought that there is a marine police unit, but they seem to be fast asleep and snoring. Recently, I drove from Epe through Ijebu-Ode. I only came across two RRS patrol vehicles on that axis, with the operatives extorting road users. Basically, the waterways in Lagos are porous and unmanned. It is as if no lessons have been learnt from the rampant and debilitating criminal activities going on around the creeks.
…the current commissioner of police in the state should not create an island of himself. He should constantly rub minds with other stakeholders to proffer the best solution to this growing problem because nobody is a repository of knowledge.
It is pertinent to state that Lagos must change its security architecture. However, it is a sort of relief to see that the Lagos State government recently came up with a strong strategy to curb the menace. The police or the security agencies need to deploy along the coastal lines. The RRS, Operation Mesa, the Navy and others should go on regular patrols. One strange thing is that rather than concentrate on crime bursting, RRS, which is supposed to be a quick response force, is now bogged down with investigation of crimes and all that. They now have an investigation department in Alausa. This is a serious negation of their mandate because the initial vision has been bastardised.
Also, the marine police should be strengthened if they are to make any significant impact. Places like Onikan, Epe, Badagry, Ikorodu, and Gbagada, are where Operation Mesa teams and the RRS should be visible along the coastal line. If you venture to Ajegunle or Okokomaiko today, you don’t notice any patrol vehicle, while their vehicles cluster around Ikoyi, Victoria Island and other highbrow places. Robbers too have been using the creeks to stage attacks in Lekki Phase 1 and other places.
Lagos State should create a good and effective security hub because the state is surrounded by water. These criminals carry out their attacks using the waterways as amphibious landing spots and takeoff points. Therefore, there should be consistent patrols on the stretch of water from Marina to Epe, Ikorodu and other places. Above all, there is the need for security agencies in Lagos to be vigilant. Their welfare also needs to be looked into as some of them are said to be pulling out of the RRS to other formations as a result of the poor welfare package.
Finally, the current commissioner of police in the state should not create an island of himself. He should constantly rub minds with other stakeholders to proffer the best solution to this growing problem because nobody is a repository of knowledge. However, if the situation persists, godfather or no godfather, a change of leadership of the police in the state may become inevitable.
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