Crime in Lagos Surges - The People Look to Ambode for Answers

Life in Lagos was fine. It wasn't filled with long walks where I didn't wonder about how safe I was. No, the one time I walked home, I was chased a hundred feet by two men who could best be described as suspicious, and struck by a policeman. That night will always be one of the highlights of my youth. I'll say to my friends, "How young I was: how foolish, how wise." I was foolish that night and I'm unlikely to be foolish in that way again. I know that it isn't my fault that I was slapped, but I've come to the conclusion that pain should be avoided wherever possible. If I had stayed at the Nightclub, I would have been driven home by Agbero (a friend of mine), and that would have been that. There would have been no uncertainty as to the cause of my blistering headache in the morning.
As bad as that night may seem to some of you, it could have been so much worse. Have you ever sat across the table from someone that tells you of his kidnapping and escape? He said, "They beat me and then they threw me into my boot. They thought I was some actor. I stopped the boot from shutting but held it down so that they wouldn't know. They sped off and when they slowed down, I leaped out of the boot and fled."

This is the sort of terror that Lagosians expect. Stories that involve casual brushes with disaster are almost never surprising. This is perhaps truer now than its ever been.

Several report that crime in the city is the greatest it has been in recent memory. Going to the police is often the gunpowder laced icing on the cake. You can quote me on that last part. It takes a certain sort of audacity to ask the victim of a crime to fund the official investigation into the crime. It is this sort of audacity that the Nigerian Police Force exhibits by the bucket load. In a statement to Thisday, Mr. Fatai Owoseni, the Lagos State Commissioner of Police said, "We have only been faced with pockets of traffic robbery incidents, but they are hardly reported at our police stations. The attacks are only reported by victims via twitter." The reporting journalist didn't ask why that was. It seems a little weird that people who've just been robbed prefer to trust twitter, a social media application more than they do the people who are sworn to protect them.

The good Commissioner went on to say, "But let me assure you that the ugly trend has reduced drastically. We have been going after them along Apongbon, Oworonshoki, Costain and Onikan bridges, respectively." The article where this quote appeared was published on the 16th of November, so I find the following story, published on twitter the following morning more than a little bit troubling.

The next day? On a bridge where robberies had been drastically reduced? Mr Commissioner somebody's having a nightmare at work. Oh dear! It can't be easy can it? I'll spell the possibilities out.

  1. The Commissioner is Pinocchio without the nose.
  2. The Nigerian Police Force is waltzing this man around the biggest dance floor in the world. 
The official rhetoric is that efforts are being made to set the city's affairs in order, but they're not entirely believable when Lagosian's continue to share their daily brushes with crime.

I spoke to Mr. Oladipe Adekunle on twitter this morning about an incident he witnessed last night. This is his version of events.

A man randomly walked through the traffic and stopped when he spotted a female driver. He smashed her side window and grabbed her purse and phone and casually walked to the other lane where an Okada (a small motorcycle) was waiting for him. He got on the Okada and they took off. This happened near the Oando Roundabout on the Lekki Express Way where there are Lagos State Transport Management Authority (LASTMA) officials, police officers and about 3 patrol vehicles.

We went to tell the police officers what happened but their response and the body language that accompanied it was terrible. The said, "Oga but you know Christmas is coming... Thank God na only phone and purse dem take."

Adekunle went on to say, "The truth is that security officials need to be well equipped to handle such crimes and protect citizens. This never happened during Fashola's time, what is Governor Ambode doing?!"

The sentiment that Governor Ambode isn't doing enough to keep the state in order is one that's shared by several Lagosians. However, it is important to note that the Nigerian Police Force is a federal organisation and not a state one. Lagos has no state police, even though it may very well be one of few Nigerian states that could ostensibly afford one.

When speaking at  the closing session of the four day Leadership Retreat for the State Executive Council, Governor Ambode said, "We're not yet where we want to be. We have only just 33,000 policemen in Lagos for a population of over 20 million. Again we don't have control over these policemen."

He went on to say that Lagos State had gone beyond its budget limit, and was spending money to support police operations in the state."

However Lagosians are perhaps interested in the results than they are the statements and promises of commitment.

As always,
Happy Days,

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