Lagos: Battle Ready for Criminals

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As the rainy season sets in, fear and panic have gripped Lagos residents over possible attacks along the major highways. Femi Ogbonnikan writes on the state government’s readiness to respond to distress calls

The fear of a new rainy season, in Lagos State, is the beginning of wisdom for its residents. It is a season criminal elements usually cash in to perpetrate their heinous crimes. Lagos State, being classified as a coastal area, whenever it rains, is often water-logged, with its attendant traffic jams often witnessed along major highways within the metropolis.

Unlike every other preceding year, 2015 was exceptional, as criminal elements, in their hundreds, especially in-traffic armed robbers, went on the prowl along major roads along Town Planning Way (Ilupeju), Ojota, Ketu, Mile 12 Market, Apapa/Oshodi expressway, Apongbon flyover (Lagos Island), Ajegunle (Apapa), Iponri, Maza-maza/Alakija, Agboju, Okokomaiko, Carter Bridge, in-ward CMS/Marina flyover (Lagos Island), Agege/Abeokuta expressway and every other vulnerable blackspot, attacking and dispossessing early risers and late-night returnees of their valuables like mobile phone sets, cash, laptops and jewelry. It was a year earmarked as baptism of fire for Governor Akinwunmi Ambode to usher him into office.

Shortly after assuming office on May 29, 2015, as the Executive Governor of Lagos State, Mr. Akinwunmi Ambode, in his magnanimity to the yearnings and aspiration of Lagosians, and heeding to the public outcry against the unwholesome activities of the personnel of the Lagos State Traffic Management Authority (LASTMA), withdrew the men from major highways, in a way of reforming the dented image of the authority, the underworld men exploited the opportunity to lay siege, thus, giving rise to a sudden increase in their criminal activities.

Jolted by this unsavoury development, Ambode at a dinner organised in honour of outgoing and incoming members of the Board of the Lagos State Security Trust Fund (LSSTF), on Tuesday, November 17, 2015, restated the commitment of his administration to protecting lives and property of the people of Lagos State, through investment in the right technology, which will help in the fight against crimes, and with the subsequent inauguration and handing-over of security equipment valued at N4.765 billion to the Nigeria Police Force (Lagos State Command) on Friday, November 27, 2015, the stage was set for a renewed fight against criminal elements.

“Today, we are raising the bar and repositioning the Lagos State Police Command to a standard comparable to similar outfits in other modern city states. Our Police Command will have its operations significantly driven by the right technology and equipment that will match the emerging sophistication of crime in our contemporary time.

“Subsequently, we are fortifying the State Command with the following items: 1. 100 4-door salon cars, 55 Ford Ranger Pick-ups, 10 Toyota Land Cruiser Pick-ups, 15 BMW Power bikes, 100 Power bikes, Isuzu trucks, three helicopters, two gun boats, 15 Armoured Personnel carriers, revolving lights, siren and public address system, vehicular radio communicators, security gadgets, including bullet proof vests, helmets, handcuffs, uniforms, kits and improved insurance and death benefit schemes.
“All these have been acquired at a total cost of four billion, seven hundred and sixty – seven million naira (N4.765 billion),” Ambode said.

Ambode did not stop there. During a recent state visit to Lagos by President Muhammadu Buhari who was represented by Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, the governor donated more vehicles and security gadgets to all the security outfits in the state.

However, within a period of one year, between June 2015 and to date, deployment of technology in crime fighting, the pet dream of Ambode, no fewer than 6, 500 mobile phone sets of different brands stolen, under the year review, have been recovered by the operatives of the Lagos State Security outfit, Rapid Response Squad (RRS) led by Mr. Tunji Disu, an Assistant Commissioner of Police (ACP). The success recorded was made possible through the deployment of the high tech tracking devices.

In its complementary roles, no fewer than 500 power bikes and 500 patrol vehicles provided by the Lagos State Security Trust Fund (LSSTF) have been judiciously deployed in, by the RRS to its personnel to effectively access identifiable dark alleys and black spots, noted as hiding places for hoodlums, thus, sending warning signals to them to leave Lagos.

For example, in a fell swoop, it was gathered, a decoy team of RRS, working on two stolen phones, Black Berry Z10 and CAT, and taken to Port Harcourt (Rivers State) and Lokoja (Kogi State), via a tracking device, apprehended a notorious receiver of stolen phones, Kazeem Bamidele (aka Elewure).

The 42-year-old suspect, who owns a mobile phone outlet at Boundary Area, Ajegunle, Apapa, Lagos, confessed he had so far, bought 4, 256 stolen phones from 52 suspects, who are either armed robbers or pickpocketers.
Giving their mode of operation, the Badagry- born suspect said he was buying stolen phones from the 52 boys, who usually lodge in hotels, spread across the metropolis, throughout the day, at lower prices, depending on their brands, but only go on the prowl whenever it is late at night. The stolen phones, he said, were being resold to other end users at higher rates.

“Whenever anyone of them is caught and detained at any police station, I would facilitate their release, by getting bail for any one of them. I was pushed into the shady deal by family pressure. I have two wives and seven children. Also, I have other dependants. My mother gave birth to 13 children for my father,” said Elewure.
An inside source at RRS Headquarters, Alausa Secretariat, Ikeja, hinted, that the bulk of stolen phones Elewure received accounted for the huge chunk that were stolen, while other subsequent suspects being picked have been mentioning the 42-year-old suspect and also, linking him with other phones theft.

With improved allowances to the RRS operatives, depending on ranks, and other benefits, the task of crime fighting with renewed vigour with modern equipment, no doubt, are motivational factors, which have encouraged the display of gallantry and efficiency in the officers and men.
The RRS decoy teams move from one location to another, suspected of being criminal hideout, thus, compelling criminal elements to retreat for fear of arrests.

The RRS insider added, that most of the recent arrests being made by the squad were those connected to last year’s raids on major highways during the rainy season, while this year’s has witnessed a sharp decline, owing to proactive mechanism already being put in place by the squad to forestall any eventual threat to security of lives and property in Lagos.

In appreciation of the governor’s commitment and gesture to crime fighting, Mr. Fatai Owoseni, Lagos State Commissioner of Police, at a press briefing on Tuesday, May 31, 2016, while parading well over 50 suspects at the command headquarters, Adekunle Fajuyi Way, GRA, Ikeja, expressed appreciation to the state government for its magnanimity, and charged Lagosians to ignore any Divisional Police Officer (DPO), who claims his or her station doesn’t have standard and functional patrol vehicles, within his or her respective location.

“At least each division in Lagos State has at least two serviceable and functional patrol vehicles and as well, two power bikes each, provided by the Lagos State Government, to effectively respond to distress calls and patrol their respective area of control. The same goes to all the 13 Area Commands in the state. I will not take excuse of any sort, likewise Lagosians should ignore such an excuse,” Owoseni noted.