Security agencies need the cooperation of the people to tame the criminals

Last week, the military joined forces with other security agencies and invaded the creeks of Ikorodu, a crime infested area of Lagos. The operation, backed by the police, navy and air force fighter jets, was mainly targeted at Arepo and Ibafo in Ogun State, two other areas notorious for violent crimes, particularly pipeline vandalism. Indeed, for five days, Arepo, said to be the base of many of the hardened criminals, came under intense bombardment. “The Nigerian military and policemen from Lagos and Ogun commands are part of the operation,” said Dolapo Badmos, Lagos State police spokesperson. “We are sweeping through the waterways where we share boundaries to end the activities of criminals. It is a continuous exercise.”

The military offensive was not unexpected. For several months now, some riverine and border communities of Lagos and Ogun States have been grabbing the headlines for the wrong reasons. Only recently, about 20 persons were reportedly killed after a gang of criminals invaded some villages in Imushin, a border community between Lagos and Ogun States.

It is noteworthy that Ikorodu, a sprawling Lagos suburb, has for several months been under the vice-grip of all manner of crimes – from armed robbery, rape, cult wars to pipeline vandalism. Communities like Isawo and Majidun have become notorious for illegal oil bunkering while the industrial estate of Odogunyan was turned the headquarters of bank robberies and violent cult wars. On a Sunday morning two weeks ago, Pastor Kayode Bajomo of the Redeemed Christian Church of God, was kidnapped from his church in the Lagos suburb. His whereabouts remains unknown with his captors reportedly asking for N100 million as ransom.

In the past the communities had initiated efforts to impose order through a band of vigilantes. But they made little or no impression. Last Friday, the Lagos State Government’s monthly interactive session themed: “Securing our Communities,” devoted special attention to Ikorodu. “Lagos State Government has established a Rapid Response Squad Marine Police and is now working with the naval authority to ensure that the creeks are taken care of,” said Kehinde Bamigbetan, Special Adviser to the Governor on Communities and Communication. “Monitoring and surveillance of these areas has increased and Lagos State is contributing its own quota to ensure that both the marine police and naval authority are able to respond to the challenges facing our creeks.”

For many people living in these communities, they have little or no faith in such assurance of security and safety. Given the scale of the problem, many frustrated inhabitants are fleeing in droves while others are putting up their property for sale. What’s more, the criminals are extending the cancer of violence to other areas within the Lagos suburb.

In the last few weeks, places like Igando, a community in Alimosho Local Government Area that abuts the creeks, and Iba in Ojo Local Government Area, have come under intense attacks by the marauding criminals, thus increasing the misery of the people. A fortnight ago, Oba Goriola Oseni, the Oniba of Ibaland, was kidnapped right inside his palace in a commando-like style and ferried into the creeks. His whereabouts is yet to be established as the criminals are asking for a N500 million in ransom payment.

However, as Bamigbetan emphasised last week, information gathering is an integral part of securing the environment “as it is the fuel on which both offensive and defensive operations are based”. We urge the people to feed the security agencies with intelligence that could lead to the arrest of criminals in their midst. Given the scale of the problem, we also urge the security agencies to sustain their vigilance in these communities. Perhaps by so doing, Ikorodu and other affected communities could be dragged back from the brink.