Photo: Dayo Adedayo
Bereft of an effective security system and an efficient law enforcement agency, residents of Lagos and Ogun States are now caught in-between the deadly coronavirus and the alleged restless bandits, who now take delight in vandalizing homes and causing misery. Can they be blamed? After all, there are no low hanging daily financially rewarding activities amid COVID-19 lockdown.
In less than 12days into the first phase of the lockdown, cases of robbery and sporadic shootings have been reported in different areas in Lagos and Ogun states, namely Alagbado, Agbado, Ijaiye, Abule Egba, Agege, Ogba, Akute, Ota, Sango, Iyana-Ipaja, Agege amongst others. Families were reported to have experienced life-threatening encounters with these “unknown” robbers. Now, fear of the unknown looms as residents have decided to become men of the night watch, taking turns to keep their women and properties safe. However, one may ask; what about the security agency tasked with the responsibility of safeguarding lives and properties?
It seems that the security agencies are apparently overwhelmed at this unprecedented time due to different distress calls received on a daily basis from across their territories. Equally, the normal daily tasks before the advent of Coronavirus pandemic has increased, they now have to mount and man these roadblocks during the day to ensure that residents comply with the stay at home order given by the Federal Government. If the lockkeepers are overwhelmed, what next?
The possibilities of what could ensue in the coming days of lockdown in Nigeria are endless. But first, let us think on the possible reasons we are where we are today and why some miscreant have decided to take up robbery as a sport. Some may argue that it is as a result of hunger in the land, whilst others may argue that criminals will seize every opportunity to perpetuate evil.
However, the fact remains that if you have never been a victim, it might be difficulty to understand how it feels being robbed and the how it feels being insecure, not to talk of the emotional trauma and loss of life-worth possessions. The Nigerian Police Force initially doubted the alarm raised by residents, for instance, the Commissioner of Police in Lagos and Ogun States earlier today on a popular TV show said that most of the reported cases of robberies in different parts of the metropolis were false alarms raised to cause panic in society. The Police Boss also insinuated that several other phone calls to police hotlines turn out to be pranks from the callers.
This shows how insensitivity we could be to one another. One would expect that before making a strong assertion like that, an in-depth investigation should be carried out and not outrightly discarding claims of vulnerable citizens.
Interestingly, according to the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) report in 2019, the crime rate and insecurity in Nigeria moved up from 10% in 2016 to 16% in 2019. It was also stated in the report that unemployment, crime and insecurity are amongst the top issues affecting the country. It is only wise, at this point, to begin to proffer solutions that can help check the excesses of these unruly groups in our society.
So, people have said in a jocular manner that, na something dey kill man, if coro no kill na hunger go kill but heck fellow Nigerians should not be caught gunning down one another because of what? Hunger? Sport? Show of power?
Whatever it may be, it is not acceptable and only shows lack of morals and conscience that we are faced with. Now we have the Coro puzzle to solve and also insecurity to handle. Looks like we have our plate full and hands busy.
Managing this refreshed crisis would involve deploying more security officers to all areas in Lagos and Ogun state, thankfully, the Inspector General of Police has sent a special intervention team to FCT, Lagos and Ogun States.
We hope that this would be a more sophisticated template used in checking crime during the election period would be deployed at this time in history. States that are not experiencing the impact of COVID-19 could support states dealing with both COVID-19 and insecurity, with security troops.
Now is the time to show support for one another and ensure safety of lives and properties. The Coronavirus pandemic will someday vanish but the scars of insecurity might leave an indelible mark in our heart and soul.
Finally, as we proceed into the second phase of the lockdown in Lagos and Ogun, a set of fresh questions are being toggled at us. With the 191 suspects of the robbery arrested and our prisons are currently overflowing with criminals and street urchins, how will justice be served? Will the next few days not awaken a new monster as bank accounts slowly turn red from constant debts with no hope of credit in view. Will the so called palliatives be extended to all in the society? The next few days hold answers to the questions above. I hereby encourage Nigerians to persevere because there is light at the end of the tunnel. This too will pass away.