MAUREEN AZUH writes that the inability of the police to check Sunday’s robbery attacks in Lagos has compounded residents’ fear
While the apprehension generated by the killing of Cynthia Osokogu by her suspected Facebook friends are yet to die down, armed robbery have rocked Lagos again. The respite that residents had largely enjoyed in the recent past was shattered on Sunday afternoon when a gang invaded different parts of the city, robbing and killing with impunity.
In what many termed ‘black Sunday’, residents were held hostage when the bandits said to be about 12 struck. The robbers went on rampage in broad daylight, killing some people, including three policemen and a commercial bus driver, while other fun-loving ‘Lagosians’ were holed indoors for fear of being hit by stray bullets.
The effrontery saw the gang moving from Gbagada, Agege, Anthony, Ojodu, Itire, Ilasamaja t0 Ikeja, where they killed two policemen in a patrol van. Unfortunately, not one of them has so far been captured or identified. They were said to have succeeded in getting away with millions of naira from a bureau de change in Gbagada.
As an icing on the cake, armed robbers, suspected to be those who operated in Lagos on Sunday, also hit Sango Ota, Ogun State on Monday. The incidents, many people fear, constitute a resurgence that has caught the authorities unawares. Before now, the perception was that some moves that had been made by Lagos State government and police/military authorities had chased hoodlums out of the country’s commercial nerve centre. Indeed, this belief was reinforced by the heat that shifted to neighbouring Ogun and Oyo states.
The attacks experienced in both states compelled their governments to also invest in security projects, as evident in sophisticated vans or vehicles provided for the police. The seeming ‘return’ to Lagos by the bandits could therefore be interpreted as an effort to reclaim their lost ground, probably when the terrains in Oyo and Ogun became problematic.
But a former Commissioner of Police, Frank Odita, says the attack was not a resurgence.
According to him, it is only left to the appropriate authorities to respond appropriately to the incident as they were taken unawares.
“They should be proactive now, knowing that we are moving into ‘ ember’ months when crime and criminality take the centre stage, so that they will not see a repeat of what happened on Sunday,” Odita says.
While many would argue that the police may not have been at alert as they were taken unawares, Lagos Police Public Relations Officer, Ngozi Braide, says the police was not taken unawares as they did all they could to put the situation under control.
Yet, the people’s fear was confirmed on Monday when the Inspector-General of Police, Muhammed Abubakar, ordered policemen in Lagos to wake up from their “slumber” and ensure security and safety in the state.
Abubakar spoke at the presentation and inauguration of 114 security patrol vehicles , 40 motorbikes and other security items by Governor Babatunde Fashola.
He says, “It is no longer a tea party. There is no doubt that policemen in the state are sleeping. You must wake up from your slumber.
“The story of yesterday (the robbery incidents) should not happen again. We must not fold our arms and allow miscreants to take over the state.
“I have ordered the Assistant Inspector-General of Police, Zone 2, and the state commissioner of police to sit down and re-strategise and find a new way of fighting crime in Lagos.
“You have mobility, you have support, you have allowance from the state government; you must not allow people of Lagos to be terrorised by robbers. It can never be accepted anymore.”
The robbery attack is coming on the heels of another assult around Sagamu area of Ogun State, a few kilometres from Lagos in May. The incident also occurred in the afternoon, with the robbers dispossessing passengers of their belonging and raping two females in the bus.
In early April, Nigerians were thrown into shock following the ordeal of 42 pupils who were attacked by armed robbers along Sagamu/Benin Expressway. The pupils from Holy Rosary College, Enugu were attacked when their bus broke down at Ogere at about 11.30pm.
In July also, Brig. Gen. Sylvester Iruh (retd.) was stabbed to death along Lagos/Ibadan Expressway. The incident was initially thought to be an assassination until eyewitness accounts disclosed that other occupants of the car Iruh drove were robbed.
Robbery incidents are, however, not limited to Lagos alone. In 2010, a former governor of Kano State, former Communications Minister and former presidential aspirant under the Peoples Democratic Party, Alhaji Abubakar Rimi, died after an armed robbery attack on his way from Bauchi along Takai and Wudi Road on Easter Sunday night.
Rimi was said to have died from the shock of the attack, as he was reportedly not hurt during the incident. A group of armed robbers also shot two mobile policemen dead in Port Harcourt in May 2012.
These incidents further compounded the security challenge on that road and in the country in general. The sad fact is that many Nigerians now sleep and even walk around with their eyes and ears wide open. For those in Lagos metropolis, at the slightest sound, everyone takes to their heels.
To compound the problem, some armed robbers connive with security operatives and carry out the dastardly act in uniforms. Several times, Nigerians have been robbed, killed and maimed by armed robbers in uniforms.
In February 2012, there was a report of robbers dressed in mobile police uniforms, pretending to be rendering essential services on the expressway while their plan was to attack travellers. They succeeded several times.
In 2009, a report indicated that Oyo, Imo and Ogun, states mostly experienced armed robbery cases in the country. Others are Kano, Cross River, Rivers and the Federal Capital Territory.
The crime figures, contained in the 2008 Report of the National Bureau of Statistics, were based on cases reported to the police as at the end of 2007.
In recent times however, there has been resurgence, reminiscent of the Lawrence Anini era in the mid 80s when Nigerians – especially those in the then Bendel State – lived in constant fear of attacks.
More worrisome is the fact that armed robbery is no longer limited to homes and banks alone but has now been extended to include even poor commuters; with a daily increase in occurrence. From January 2012, armed robbery has been on the increase; from homes to banks, offices and even the high ways where commuters are made to pay for the frustration of some youths.
In July 2012 the Lagos State Commissioner of Police, Umar Manko, in his bid to allay the fears of Lagos residents, said no fewer than 224 suspected armed robbers had been arrested by the Lagos State Police Command in the first half of the year..
Manko was quoted as saying that the arrest of the ring leaders of the various robbery gangs in the state was one of the biggest achievements of the command during the period under review. He added that160 guns and 948 rounds of ammunition were recovered from the suspected armed robbers who had been terrorising the state.
Yet, despite the report, Sunday’s incident has continued to fuel this fear.