Fashola and the ‘hood gangs (2)

By IAfrica
In Nigeria
Aug 14th, 2014
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Blood festival: When I wrote the first piece on this page on February 21, there was not meant to be a part two or a follow-up. But less than six months after, I am compelled to re-visit this senselessly gory affair because innocent, law-abiding citizens are being savaged almost every other week and property are damaged so wantonly by a lawless band of  uncontrolled and seemingly uncontrollable youths in Lagos neighbourhoods. Theirs is a festival of blood and sorrow.

From Somolu to Bariga, Mushin, Ebute Meta and Mile Two in Lagos State, youths believed to be members of various cults have seized these communities, putting residents at their mercy while the state and security agencies seem to have no answer.

During the first weekend of August, hoodlums laid a three-day siege to areas of Somolu, Mainland of Lagos. The young men said to number about 15 reportedly took over some streets of Somolu from Friday evening and operated through Saturday and Sunday, 3rd of August. Armed with guns, axes and cutlasses they waylaid passers-by, broke into houses and even defiled women. Streets like Awofeso, Olorunsogo and Opeloyeru have become no man’s land where residents live in fear because these miscreants visit pain and perdition on them so frequently these days.

Two days after, in what must be a reprisal, a gang of cultists invaded the Somolu-Bariga areas again and by the time they were done, several vehicles were damaged, many houses were bullet-ridden and two people suspected to be rival cult members lay dead. Residents said it has been a long, bloody cycle of killing and counter-killing by suspected cultists in these areas.

Early in July, in another part of Lagos, which was not hitherto cultists prone (Mile 12), hoodlums suspected to belong to a well-known confraternity raided the neighbourhood and in an orgy of wanton violence destroyed no fewer than 40 cars. Hapless residents woke up to find their vehicles vandalised and their humanity assaulted. Since there is no justice in the jungle, they were mere vicarious victims of a bad circumstance. The rampaging miscreants were said to have come to Mile 12 to extract vengeance. Perhaps failing in their bid, they left their ugly imprint across the community.

Late last month in Ebute-Meta, some ‘bad boys’ chasing after another group chose to raze houses of innocent residents in the neighbourhood, perhaps in an attempt to smoke out their quarry.

Above the law, above the state: Stories of agonies and pains abound across the state. In each case, the police either look the other way or appear after the damage had been done. Hardly any arrests are made or prosecution pursued. It is as if there is a grand conspiracy between the state government and the Nigeria Police to allow this evil to fester and to inflict pain on law-abiding Lagosians.

These city terrorists have been active at their nefarious enterprise for over a decade now. They have become emboldened and grown more daring. Hitherto, they often operated at night but now they ride through their territory anytime they choose. They had only cudgels, machetes and axes, but today, they bear sophisticated rifles and even bulletproof vests. Today, many more communities around Lagos are becoming proud ‘owners’ of ‘organised’ neighbourhood gangs of their own. When they are not spoiling for a fight or waging bloody reprisal wars, they are robbing, raping and inflicting pains on their compatriots.

Unconscionable silence: This situation is not acceptable. Not the least in a state pursuing the status of a mega-city. No serious state or government capitulates to hoodlums and miscreants; especially arm-bearing ones. It’s salutary to note that the Governor Babatunde Fashola administration has about the best security strategy of any state, but why it seems helpless towards these rampaging barbarians is hard to fathom. Besides, no group has monopoly to violence; people will eventually resort to self-help if the state won’t come to their aid and the evil will get viral.

In the February piece, I suggested that “the state government must act fast: first to review and update laws on cultism, illegal arms-bearing and hard-drugs peddling and use in the state. Second, there may be need for a special squad on gangs and hard-drugs use; third, special tribunals may be needed to expedite trial and conviction and lastly, there is need for a sustained publicity campaign against neigbourhood gangs.”

Several other suggestions were proffered but apparently no one seems to be listening. But being coy over this manner of pestilence is not only unconscionable but portends grave danger for all. Today it’s defenceless Lagosians who are being pulverised, tomorrow when this madness has fully ripened, even the Government House will not be safe enough for its dwellers.

Osun governorship poll: goodbye to electoral impunity

Though Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola was victorious in last Saturday’s governorship election and most deservedly too, there are numerous shareholders to the victory. First, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) is to be applauded, the security agencies for keeping the peace without getting in the way of the process and lastly the voters in Osun who turned out en masse and voted for their choice candidate.

What is, however, most noteworthy is the gradual elimination of electoral impunity which was pervasive hitherto. The elections in Edo, Ondo, Ekiti and Osun states have proved that votes can count and voters in Nigeria can truly determine who governs them. That ignominious era of stuffing or snatching of ballot boxes seems to be receding with our dark past, thankfully. Now parties and their candidates have to work their socks off; nothing is taken for granted or left to chance anymore.

The larger import of this is that more quality candidates would emerge for elective positions, our democracy will surely get better and governance will improve. An incumbent would know better to start winning the heart of the people from the first day in office. It is a trend that must be vastly improved upon and guarded jealously by all. Again kudos to Prof. Attahiru Jega and his team at INEC, but they must work to institutionalise the process so that they are not easily reversed. The Osun poll is victory for Nigeria.

IGP Abba, just another brick in the wall

He came with such loaded promise but now that his tenure has ended, Mohammed D. Abubakar, the immediate past Inspector-General of Police (IGP) came a cropper at the end. He could not buck the ugly trend in the police system; he got swallowed up by it. Though it may be too early to say that after MD, hardly any IGP can heave the rotten behemoth, let us give the benefit of the doubt and believe it’s too early in the day.

But at least MD started well with one far-reaching, if not radical move which was to wean the police from hanging loose on our roads and highways and feeding frenzy therefrom like vultures all in the name of security. Today, officers and men of the Nigeria Police are back to their ‘stations’ (road checkpoints) making fools of themselves and the force. Where did we get that orientation from that only checkpoints guarantee security?

We thought that MD could follow from taking them off the roads to improving their welfare and further professionalise the force. In short, we thought MD would return the dignity of the police to it. But he failed. This column does not give the acting IGP a dime of a chance. He just does not look like the right man for the job. But I pray he disappoints me.

Last word: Why on earth is he placed on acting capacity? What further ‘exam’ does he have to pass to become full IGP?

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