Saturday, 2 January 2016

THE CRIME STATISTICS IN LAGOS

Akinwunmi Ambode, Governor, Lagos State
Crime inventory in Lagos State in the past 11 months, as reeled out the other day by the Commissioner of Police is alarming, to say the least. In the period under review, 220 murder cases were officially listed; a fact that not only indicted security agencies on capacity levels, but also advertises rapid erosion in societal values, especially the worth of a Nigerian life. Police Commissioner, Fatai Owoseni, made the disclosure at a public forum with Governor Akinwumi Ambode in attendance.

The statistics is damning, even in a state as highly populated as Lagos, which mirrors the country to the international community. No nation can afford to lose its human resources, at that rate, to mindless people in misadventures. That toll portrays an atmosphere of insecurity across the country; it should be redressed by the relevant authorities.

Sadly, a substantial number of the murder incidents were caused by cult-related activities and street fights, according to the Police Commissioner. More worrisome is the shift in cult clashes from the conventional university campuses to the streets of Lagos where artisans are now cult kingpins. Police authorities may also wish to worry about an upsurge in ritual killings and kidnap for ransom.

In the past fortnight (outside of the stated figures), nine ritual murders, all women, were reported in one location of Ikorodu town where headless bodies were deposited in a canal, in just five days. The police should strive hard to bring the culprits to book; else they will be encouraged to perpetrate the crime. No matter who is involved or for whatever purpose, the law against taking of human lives unlawfully subsists, and must be made to take its course. The country can do without this culture of bestiality.

The police must take full responsibility for poor investigations which have resulted in a high number of unresolved murders even of high profile citizens in the recent past. Perplexing as it is, the situation calls for a drastic review of crime investigation processes. More or less, there is a serious need for security agencies to raise the bar in protecting the people. Crime prevention and bursting capacity would be a great plus in the fight to keep peace and assure citizens of protection by the state.

Lagos citizens need more than Police Commissioner Owoseni’s assurance that his Command has secured dominance of security space along with intense investigation of cases and improved detection of crime. That is just as well. Nothing, other than apprehension of murderers, and their successful prosecution, will satisfy the people. The improved supply of security gadgets worth N4.8 billion by the state government may well judge him and his men in future if civil security is again seriously breached.

Mr. Owoseni had also at the town hall meeting put together by the state’s Security Trust Fund (LSSTF) listed 44 armed robbery cases, 25 kidnap cases among the challenges posed within the 11 months. To the Command’s credit, it recovered 233 stolen vehicles and items worth N1.4 billion.

The Federal Government should be concerned that inadequate policing which is itself a fallout of the centralised command structure and sub-par police-citizen cover ratio is of a serious challenge. It has been established that the country has for long operated well below the United Nations recommendation of 222 policemen to 100,000 citizens. Nationwide, the current carrying capacity is 370, 000 to about 170 million Nigerians. This is an abysmal ratio for effective policing. Boosting the figure of police personnel through regular recruitment is required; but the ultimate solution, perhaps, is the decentralisation of the police force to reflect the yearnings for state or community policing. That is realisable in a proper federal structure from which the country cannot run away. In the interim, the neighbourhood watch practice or vigilance groups can be strengthened to work in collaboration with and under the direction of the police. The Police-Community Relations Committees should also be further empowered to facilitate exchange of information on activities in the communities.

Information is key to effective policing. Members of the public should feel obligated to give information to the police about suspected criminals. This is the least they can do in the performance of their civic duties. However, it is important that the police protect the identities of informants. There had been reports of ugly incidents in the past, arising from police failure in this regard. The federal and state governments can also seriously look into the sociology of crime – what has been pushing people into crime: hunger occasioned by joblessness, inadequate reformation of prison inmates and rehabilitation thereafter and poor police investigations.

Among the gains of effective security system is a reassured citizenry, societal peace, and foreign direct investments. The country’s leaders should be excited about such prospects. The people deserve better than crime-infested cities, towns and communities. (Guardian)