15th January, 2014
By Tayo Ogunbiyi
Lagos, being the commercial nerve centre of Nigeria, and indeed West Africa, has massive security challenges. This is a direct upshot of its burgeoning population, its ports and waterways, its border with Benin Republic (which makes it accessible to trans border robbers, smugglers, child/human traffickers) as well as its numerous banks, industries, companies, and other commercial enterprises. With this peculiar status, the rate of crime in Lagos, over the years, was relatively higher than those of other parts of the country. At its inception, the Babatunde Raji Fashola (SAN) administration, reinforces its commitment to security by making it an integral part of its Ten-Point Agenda (TPA).
Consequently, the administration evolved a comprehensive security initiative known as the Safe City Project which resulted in the establishment of the Lagos State Security and Equipment Trust Fund- a public-private partnership framework for mobilizing and providing equipment and resources for effective operations of security agencies. This was a practical response to the reality of the operational deficiency of the police and other Federal security agencies within the state, particularly in areas of funding and provision of modern equipment. It was established by a Law of the Lagos State House of Assembly on 3rd September, 2007, to institutionalise an enduring public/private approach to security challenges in the State. The main goal of the Trust Fund is to solicit for and receive donations to the fund for the acquisition and deployment of security equipment, human, material as well as financial resources for the effective functioning of all security agencies operating in the State while part of the Fund is reserved for the training and welfare of security personnel.
Since its coming on board, the State Security Trust Fund has helped in no small way in changing the face of security in the state. Recently, the Lagos State Governor, Mr. Babatunde Fashola (SAN) hosted the Lagos State Security Trust Fund’s 7th Annual Town Hall Meeting on Security with an assertion that the collective investment of the State and citizenry in crime prevention is paying dividends visible in lower crime rates when compared with what was on ground before. Noting that progress is being recorded from year to year through the initiative, the Governor revealed that in seven years, the state has developed a security apparatus that has improved upon what was inherited.
The Governor disclosed that the State’s investment in crime prevention and crime reduction is yielding some of the results as have been seen in data provided at the event, revealing that in other areas the State’s crime data base has now acquired a record content of 92,488 persons. This data base helps government to keep in track with all those who come in contact with the criminal justice system by providing and collecting data of such people.
It is also important to emphasise that the State Traffic Law is an integral part of the security initiative of the state government. The success of the State Traffic Law has led to drastic reduction in the rate of crimes in the state. Recent statistics from the state police command indicates that out of 60 cases of armed robbery incidents reported, only 10 representing 16.6 percent were committed through motorcycles representing a 50.4 percent drop in robbery incidents compared to one year before the restriction of commercial motorcycles. There has been a drop of 84.75 percent on the cases of armed robbery that has to do with motorcycles in the state.
Despite its modest success in reducing crime rate in the state, the state government is not resting on its oars as it has continued to explore other ways of expanding the frontiers of the operation of the Trust Fund. The state governor recently revealed that in addition to the issue of violent crimes that the Rapid Response Squad, RRS, is poised to tackle, several others crimes like domestic violence, rape among others. Hence, the State Government is proposing the provision of three vehicles for each of the 13 Area Commands in the State and another three vehicles each for the 106 Police Divisions in the State totalling 357 new vehicles in addition to what RRS has in its fleet.
It is striking to state that the investment drive of the Fashola Administration is an integral part of its security initiatives. For one, the various donations into the Security Trust Fund could not be seen as an end in itself but just a part of the quest to guarantee safety of lives and properties. The solution to security problems are multi- faceted, as such the provision of equipment and other vital logistics alone cannot bring about the total reduction in criminal activities in the state. This explains why a balance is being struck in terms of opportunities and options for those who might have been driven into crime by economic hardships through the creation of an enabling environment that is attractive to investment. Thus, the more job opportunities that are created courtesy the investment flow into the state, the better for the overall quest for the reduction or outright elimination of crime in the state.
It should, however, be emphasised that an effective Public security cannot be obtained without the active involvement, participation and support of every segment of the society because public security is the responsibility of all individuals, groups, communities, organisations and other units that constitute the state. It is a known fact that despite the magnitude of government investment in public security, there are still herculean challenges that government’s resources alone cannot tackle. In as much as everyone in a state pursues varied interests, the pursuit of public security should, nevertheless, be the common goal of all.
The involvement and participation of individuals and non-governmental actors in the issues of public security is, therefore, a necessity for the actualisation of a secured society. It is in view of this that one is advocating the reformation of the criminal justice system of the country in such a manner that would guarantee faster and impartial dispensation of justice to all concerned regardless of their social status. The only thing that could make evil to triumph in a society is for those that perpetrate evil to continually go unpunished.
•Ogunbiyi is of the Features Unit, Ministry of Information and Strategy, Alausa, Ikeja.