Overhaul KAI Brigade Now

Opinion

It has become an accepted practice for things to go wrong in Lagos state with nothing happening to those tasked with ensuring that things are done properly. Example of an organization where these illegalities used to occur frequently is (KAI) Kick Against Indiscipline Brigade (Kitted and Irresponsible?) Brigade Headquarters at Alausa , Ikeja.

There is urgent need for Lagos state government to dismantle and reassemble that organization and put a system in place with the aim of creating the right type of corporate culture with intent to reduce the likelihood of corruption and human rights violations. It should be clearly stated that any overzealous act and non-compliance with the established standard in carrying out enforcement activities will attract severe penalties on the part of any KAI brigade officials that indulge in such act.

The outfit as it is currently constituted, if we allow this type of looting of markets places all in the name of chasing street traders or hawkers to go unchecked, uncontrolled, we will be heading for a serious trouble in the Lagos state. Are these KAI brigade personnel trained to recognise when an arrest and detention is appropriate and also aware that subjecting innocent street traders or hawkers to extreme torture and maltreatment is unlawful, illegal, unconstitutional and also a violation of their fundamental human rights guaranteed by the constitution?

They should be told in plain language that, being members of KAI brigade does not confer on them a covering to perpetrate criminal activities of any form, especially any act of looting or assault. They should also know that their liabilities for any crime committed while on duty are not mitigated by being KAI officials.

This is a country where hundreds of thousands have been retrenched with millions of others unemployed due to corrupt practices and the mismanagement of our economy by the heartless clique of satanic fascists in government. As a result many people are living in penury, agony and pains. In fact, life has virtually become difficult and full of struggle all because of corruption in high places.

Indiscipline means when one acts in a despicable manner that is condemnable by any reasonable standard. If any person urinates along the road or gutter instead of using public convenience, it is considered indiscipline, but in fairness to that person, accusing him/her of indiscipline cannot be substantiated if the society failed to provide public conveniences for such act which is natural.

Another instance is this issue of street trading. Whether we like or not, street trading activities are a direct response to the challenge of survival. In controlling it, government should do it in such an organised and economically prosperous manner by providing more shopping complex and build more markets because Lagos is largely a trading economy. Government should build more market at affordable prices to the masses considering their financial status, if we must take these people off the street, until such a time when government can do that, it would be immoral to prevent people from earning a living.

The hardship that all levels of unarticulated problem solving process has inflicted on these people, through demolition of various markets which habours hundreds of thousands of various traders in the state, i.e. Jankara market on Lagos Island, Oyingbo , Ajelogo Oshodi,etc has resulted into this. For the fact that government itself displaced hundreds of thousands of traders without relocating them, and up till now those markets have not be reconstructed and no alternative presented to the traders coupled with millions of unemployed, is what is responsible for the steady increase in the number of street traders and hawkers.

I want government to understand that some of these street traders and hawkers found themselves in circumstances in which, if they had a choice, they would have preferred not to be. Our problem in this country is that we lack articulated Problem Solving Process and that is why, we often create more problems which are bigger while trying to solve one.

Our Commissioner for the Environment, Mr. Tunji Bello, should realise that some situations require the leader to hover closely. He should without notice pay a surprise visit to KAI brigade yard in Alausa to witness what is happening in that enclosure. I am sure he would react with outrage and horror when he sees what is being done to these traders in that place all in the name of law enforcement.

These traders arrested are being treated like common criminals. It is like a scene where criminals are paraded by the police. Some of these traders are kept in an unpleasant environment; over fifty of them are kept in the cell which is filthy and dirty with nasty odour oozing out of their confinement. To me, nothing can be more brutal, more demeaning to the human rights status of Nigerians than this.

If street traders or hawkers are treated like this, how would they treat any person arrested for criminal offence or is street trading a criminal offence now. Is this fair? It is disheartening to see how these people are being paraded like armed robbers. They are ordered to sit on the ground and sometimes, anyone who wanted to explain something to them are kicked, or slapped or with ‘shut up’ order or a knock on the head with a baton accompanied with ‘shut up’ order.

They are conveyed to their office in Black Maria and at the point of stepping down from the paddy wagon they are been slapped at every step of the way with a repeat of ‘move! move!’ order. Is this a civilized way of doing things? Why are they treating fellow Nigerians like a prisoners of war simply because they are hawkers while street urchins or miscreant move freely on the road and continue to endanger lives of innocent Lagosians? These miscreants called area boys always takes law into their hands, killing and maiming innocent people, burning and looting property with egregious impunity. These miscreants have held this state to ransom for too long as they go about their devilish mission unhindered, yet they are not arrested and put in the Black Maria while street traders who contravene street trading acts are hounded in the Paddy-Wagon (Black Maria) the vehicle used by policemen to convey prisoners.

There are two types of beats in KAI brigade. They are lucrative beats and non-lucrative beats. They also enforce a pervasive system of return in which their junior officers are compelled to pay up the chain of command’s share of the money extorted from the street traders or hawkers. As a result, indiscriminate arrests and unlawful detention abounds simply because some of their victims are mainly poor and illiterate traders.

This outfit called KAI is sick and requires a surgical operation. The decadence in the system is so deeply rooted that there must be a wide-ranging restructuring and reforms especially in relation to staffing because their corrupt tendencies surpass that of legendary “Ali Baba and the forty thieves”. Even in their most daring roguery. The system is peopled by thugs.

The way and manner in which KAI carries out their raids on the street traders and hawkers and the method used in packing their goods suggest to me that they are only interested in seizing those items and not to arrest the traders. As a result, a great number of traders are suddenly thrown into severe financial crisis that erodes their living standard.

Apart from the financial ruin they have brought on individual traders, the unjust sentences for street trading and unmerited suffering in some cases could also have an adverse effect on their families which may likely result in destitution. Some traders have died of hypertension which was induced by KAI brigade’s activities. This is why KAI brigade has acquired notoriety and disrepute because of the menace which they constitute to the down trodden.

It is only the stubborn ones who voluntarily followed them in order not to lose their wares that are arrested. It is not only individuals that have to pay for bail, every goods seized by KAI also has to be bailed for a price otherwise it will be confiscated. After sharing all the items confiscated, the remnant is sent to motherless babies’ homes or orphanages as a philanthropic gesture of KAI. Who is fooling whom?

When did KAI as organization become a philanthropic organization? Do they know what philanthropy means? It means goodwill to fellow men ; or active effort to promote human welfare and not robbing Peter to pay Paul. There is need for a system review designed to sanitise the system by re-defining their roles and functions in order to stop those practices that are likely to encourage and facilitate looting of goods under the pretence of law enforcement. It is not supposed to be a revenue generation outfit.

My advise to the magistrate in that yard is: Let your independence be firm, uncompromising, but let it be chastened by personal humility. Let your love for liberty amounts to a passion, but let it not appear to be a cloak for maliciousness.

 

•Apata-Akinsemoyin writes from Lagos. Tel. 08023163949

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