New Guards in the Megacity

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In line with his goal to stem crime and develop community policing, Lagos State governor, Mr. Akinwunmi Ambode has unveiled the State Neighbourhood Safety Corps to provide a second layer of policing in the state. Gboyega Akinsanmi writes

 
 Fortnight ago, Lagos State joined the league of leading megacities in the world when the State Neighbourhood Safety Corps (LSNSC) came into force. The corps is purely a community policing institution, which the state governor, Mr. Akinwunmi Ambode said, was a giant stride towards securing the metropolis and a vital element of the state’s justice sector reforms.
The corps, by all standards, is a similitude of the New York Police Department (NYPD) or what is called the City of London Police. It is not different from the Tokyo Metropolitan Police; neither is it off the standard of the Beijing Municipal Bureau of Public Security. Similarly, it has the semblance of the Johannesburg Metropolitan Police Department.
In concept, really, the corps is not different from police structures deliberately created by law to ensure public safety and maintain public order in other megacities or major capitals around the world. And its establishment finds justification in what Ambode ascribed to the state’s huge population and unique challenges, which he said, often associated with megacities.    
But Nigeria’s political environment often throws up challenges for the state-owned police. The challenges stem from sections 214-216 of the 1999 Constitution as amended, which centralises the Nigeria Police. Over the decades, however, the Nigeria Police have been infested with structural ailments that make it a burden rather than a true agent of public order.
Like other megacities, Ambode said the corps was designed for specific purposes. So, according to him, the corps is a response to emerging social challenges and crimes in the metropolis. The governor, thus, said the corps was specifically designed “to provide a second layer of policing in order to ensure our state, councils and communities are more secure.”
Apparently, Lagos is not the only state in the federation that has put in place a community policing structure in Nigeria’s recent history. Long before the corps came into force, for instance, Kano State had been operating Hisbah Police. At the height of kidnapping in South-east, Imo put its own police structure in place to tackle the dynamics of crimes prevalence in the state.
In 2016, finally, precisely, the Ekiti State Government came up with its own version of community policing organ. At the height of herdsmen onslaught on farmers, the state governor, Mr. Ayodele Fayose inaugurated the Ekiti Grazing Enforcement Marshals to check-mate the nefarious activities of herdsmen under the guise of cattle rearing within the state’s territory.
 
About the corps
The safety corps is a creation of law, according to the Commissioner for Special Duties, Mr. Oluseye Oladejo. It is a product of an executive bill, which the commissioner said, the State House of Assembly passed into law specifically on June 20, 2016. However, the law, technically, came into force after the governor assented to the bill on August 15, 2016.
Precisely three months after its enactment, Ambode constituted the Board of Lagos State Neighbourhood Safety Agency (LSNSA). Although it plans to recruit a minimum of 5,700 corps members, the state has recruited 2,800 across the state, who have been deployed to their duty posts in 20 Local Government Areas (LGAs) and Local Council Development Areas (LCDAs).
The birth of the LSNSA became imperative due to two cogent rationalesOladejo provided the day he inaugurated it. He, first cited the state’s huge population, which he said, necessitated the creation of a state-controlled neighbourhood safety agency. He, also, pointed out the unique challenges, which he argued, demanded the intervention of a supportive agency.
He, truly, cited the support the Nigeria Police had given the state government in the last two years, which he said, was the demonstration of its commitment “to fighting crime in the state.” He noted that the corps “is a giant step towards enhancing security all over our dear state and a vital part of our continuing security and justice sectors’ reforms.”   
But the creation of the LSNSA is said to be a testament to the ineptitude of the Nigeria Police despite support of over N17.218 billion the state government had provided the State Police Command in the last decade. Aside, it is a proof that a centrally controlled police can no longer effectively guarantee the protection of human lives, private property and public installations as envisaged under section 215 (3-4) of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.

At least, three unresolved crime incidents attested to the ineptitude of the State Police Command. First, the state police command failed to bring to book the masterminds of the clash that erupted on March 2, 2016 between Hausa and Yoruba communities in Mile 12 Market, Lagos. Second, it demonstrated a high level of lukewarmness to arrest and prosecute the criminal elements that lynched a commander of the Lagos State Traffic Management Authority (LASTMA), Mr. Bakare Olatunji to death precisely on December 15, 2016.
Lastly, the state police command failed outright to respond strategically and tactically to the challenge of kidnapping that compelled those of Ikorodu residents to abandon their homes and that forced Epe farmers to quit their farms respectively June 2016 and January 2017. At these instances, the LSNSA is a necessary child, which strategists said, the Police should groom with a view to ensuring public order within the jurisdiction of Lagos State.
 
New mandate
When the law that established it was assented to on November 2016, the state Attorney-General and Commissioner for Justice, Mr. Adeniji Kazeem noted that the corps was painstakingly designed with clear-cut mandate and vision. Kazeem explained the significance of the law, which he said, was enacted “to ensure public order and safety in the state.”
Kazeem said it was a demonstration of Ambode’s commitment to building safer business environment.
The Attorney-General said, this commitment was in recognition of the fact that be it foreign or domestic – will not flow into the state and by extension the country without building a business environment that guarantees public safety.
Without doubt, he explained what the Ambode administration had done to ensure safer and more secure environment. He first cited security equipment, which the Ambode administration procured for security agencies in November 2015. Kazeem, also, cited logistic support, which the administration “has been providing for all security agencies in the state.” 
By all standards, however, Kazeem pointed out that the enactment of the safety corps law would go a long way “to provide the human, legal and material support to security agencies in the discharge of their constitutional responsibilities.” That was why he said the corps was designed to provide essential services that would ensure protection of lives much better.
But the governor spelt out the mandate of the corps one after the other. He, first, clarified that the corps “is not in any way in competition with the regular police force.” Rather, Ambode said the corps “is designed to provide a second layer of policing in order to ensure that our state and communities are much safer and more secure.”
Rather than competing with the police, Ambode explained the interventionary roles the corps would play “to make Lagos, Africa’s model megacity safer and more secure.” He said the corps “will assist and complement the police by providing useful intelligence for crime prevention and to facilitate the arrest of perpetrators of criminal activities in our communities.”
He, thus, said nothing could be more important in law enforcement than educating those who enforce it. He added that the corps had been trained and equipped with the requisite skills “to complement the good work of the Nigeria Police. In addition to the induction on orthodox community policing techniques, the corps has been equipped with new policing skills.”
Unlike the orthodox community policing techniques, Ambode pointed out specific skills the corps had been able to acquire during rigorous training they undertook. He said the corps would mediate in disputes; ensure peaceful dispute resolution; balance communal interest in resolving disputes and deploy proactive policing engagement rather than reactive policing.

Contingent on the vision behind the enactment of the safety corps, therefore, Ambode said the era of officers brutalising citizens was long gone. Rather, he tasked the corps to conduct themselves “in a civilised manner and earn the trust and respect of residents of various communities. Safeguarding our communities and neighbourhood should be your watchword constantly.”

Modern policing
At the instance of the vision that defined its birth, however, the advent of the corps represents the dawn of a new beginning in the country’s security sector. This might be attributed to two indispensable rationales. First, according to Ambode, the corps is purely an initiative of the state government with a vision to build a modern community policing institution.
The mixture of security equipment the state government procured for the corps simply suggests that its advent may curtail on the country’s archaic policing structure. It was on this ground that Ambode said his administration structured and positioned the corps to prudently manage and promptly respond to the challenges of securing lives and properties in the state.
He said his administration invested heavily in providing the corps with state-of-the-art equipment, which he said, included 177 vehicles equipped with needed communication gadgets. He said the vehicles had been deployed to patrol communities, streets and suburbs in 20 local government areas (LGAs) and 37 local council development areas in the state (LCDAs.”
Aside, the governor cited the procurement of standard motorcycles with full protective kits comprising helmets, knee and ankle guards to ensure the personal safety of the new corps. In addition to the motorcycles the state government deployed to all the 377 wards in the state, also, Ambode said 4,000 bicycles were provided “to quietly patrol and engage our communities.”

Equally, the governor noted that the state government equipped the new corps with metal detectors to ensure that illegal weapons “are not smuggled into public places or public functions. We also provided operational equipment such as plastic restraints, batons, long range torchlights and whistles,” which according to him, would aid prompt response and crime prevention.
Citing crime dynamism in the new world, the government provided the corps the state-of-the-art communication equipment. Already, he said his administration “has revived the base and repeater communication stations in all senatorial districts to ensure seamless communication, not only among the corps members, but also with the Police and other security stakeholders.
“Special hotlines have also been created direct to the senior management of safety corps agency for easy communication with our communities in the event of any crime. Any valuable information given to the corps will attract handsome rewards from the State Government. I, thus, call on all Lagosians to join hands with us to say a final NO to crime in our state.”


Factsheet about the LSNSC include: Created by law on August 15, 2016,Supervised by LSNSA Board, Built to ensure peaceful dispute resolution,Equipped with communication gadgets, Structured to ensure crime prevention, Charged with intelligence gathering, Trained in the use of mental detectors, 5,700 personnel to be recruited, 2,800 personnel already recruited, 177 patrol vans procured for the corps, 377 motorcycles with protective kits and 4,000 bicycles for quiet operations.