Saturday, January 11, 2014

Stemming upsurge in robbery, kidnapping


Governor Babatunde Fashola
STEMMING the latest virulent upsurge in armed robbery, kidnapping, insurgency and the general brigandage in the country is imperative for every tier of government and the security agencies concerned. A spell of dizzying attacks from mid-December has rendered many families bereaved, while financial organisations are counting their losses. It is no less worrisome that the South-West, the zone that was considered relatively safe from the activities of kidnappers and robbers, is also now being terrorised by the marauders. The governments in the zone should be proactive in curbing the ugly spectre before it grows to unmanageable proportions.
While many Nigerians were preparing for the festive season, mass media outlets were awash with gory news of violence. From Lagos came the horrific news that Sesan Ogunro, the CEO of a leading advertising agency, had been murdered by robbers, who attacked his family members in the Alausa area as they were returning from church. The robbers not only killed the Ogunro family breadwinner, they also took away his wife’s saloon car. The police have yet to arrest those responsible.
The fear of insecurity in the zone rose a notch a few days after the incident in Lagos when Peter Akinola, the retired Primate of the Anglican Church, was abducted on the premises of his charity foundation in Abeokuta, the capital of Ogun State. His driver and daughter also shared in the kidnapping ordeal until the Ogun State governor and police commissioner stepped in to rescue the trio. While the governor and the CP moved into action to save Akinola because of his status, many ordinary Nigerians have suffered from the activities of kidnappers without such robust official response because they are not public figures.
It should not be so. Our constitution compels the government to secure the life and property of every Nigerian, irrespective of status. Chapter II, Section 14, subsection 2 (b) of the 1999 Constitution states that “the security and welfare of the people shall be the primary purpose of government,” while Section 15, subsection 3 (b) adds that the government shall “secure full residence rights for every citizen in all parts of the Federation.” These provisions of the constitution are, however, being observed in the breach, with only those in government availing themselves of the full security network at the expense of the citizenry. This is wrong and a violation of the constitution.
As a deadly robbery incident in Offa, Kwara State, a few days before Christmas, showed, our governments are paying lip service to security, in spite of the huge allocations being appropriated annually. According to Agboola Oshodi-Glover, the Kwara State Police Commissioner, about 30 rampaging robbers recently killed seven policemen when they attacked four banks in the town. Several other people were injured. As usual, the police have yet to make any arrest.
But since the Federal Government has failed abjectly in protecting lives and property, it is important for the governors in the South-West to prevent the situation from degenerating. With an allocation of just over N300 billion to the police in 2013 and N292bn proposed for 2014, it is obvious that the Federal Government will not deliver much on security this year. For the past few years, state police commands have only been receiving few operational vehicles from Abuja. According to Governor Babatunde Fashola, Lagos State alone needs 9,000 operational vehicles to effectively patrol the state. When the cost of fuelling and maintenance is added, it comes to N51 billion.
The state of insecurity in the South-East and South-South zones, where kidnapping and robbery are rife, is gradually creeping into the South-West. The governors there can buck the trend by using technology and organising neighbourhood watch platoons to nip crime in the bud. The abductions of Doyin Rhodes-Vivour, the wife of a Supreme Court Justice; her daughter, and Mike Ozekhome, a senior lawyer (all in Edo State), remind us of the rampant nature of kidnapping in the South-South. But every serious country pays undivided attention to security. Nigeria should follow suit.
To arrest the growing insecurity, states in Nigeria should take over the Closed Circuit TV project, which appears to have been abandoned by the Federal Government. From a central monitoring base, hoodlums, like the ones who recently attacked Automated Teller Machines in Abeokuta (Ogun State) and Ayobo, Lagos, can be detected on time or shortly after they commit a crime. The case of the Tsaernaev brothers, who detonated bombs in last April’s Boston Marathon in the United States, is instructive. Within hours, the felons were tracked through CCTV playbacks.
The insecurity that prevented banks from opening for business for a period in some parts of Ogun State three years ago must not be allowed to repeat itself in any part of the country. State governments have to invest more in intelligence gathering that can help detect a crime before it is committed. Insecurity drives away investors, both local and foreign; therefore, it is paramount that it is tackled with a strong will by the government. A people living in fear cannot achieve their potential. Crime suspects must be quickly tried to serve as a deterrent to prospective criminals.
The reminder by Fashola recently in Lagos of the urgent need for autonomous state police agencies in Nigeria must be given speedy attention. It is apparent that the present centralised federal police structure has failed. Governors should come together and pressure the federal and state parliaments to amend the constitution to allow for state police.

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