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Security in Lagos, not yet uhuru

Emmanuel Majebi, Vanguard Law and Human Rights contributor, recently had a sour taste of Lagos robbers, when he was attacked at the Central Business District, Alausa. He recount his experience in this piece.

A few months back the Lagos State Government launched the onslaught on insecurity that pervaded Lagos with much fanfare. Corporate bodies fell over one another to donate brand new patrol vans and other sundry equipments to the Nigerian Police and we heard that the Lagos government was going to augment the salaries of officers and men  posted to Lagos in order to buoy their efficiency.

For crime wary Lagosians, we thought that as far as security was concerned “uhuru” had come. In fact the government was so sure of what it had put on ground as far as security was concerned that they had the confidence to order a dismantling of all street gates in Lagos.

The argument of the government was that the Police in Lagos had been so well equipped and motivated that even if your naeighborhood was attacked by hoodlums the Police are just a phone call away thus there was no need for street gates.

For a Police Force that is not under the command of the Lagos government I thought it was rather ambitious to make such immediate and sweeping changes; which for all intents and purposes amounted to disarming the populace; based on the untested expectations that the force would live to expectations at all times?

Even though I had my doubts about the street gates dismantlement policy; I was so sure that with the numerous vehicle and motorcycle patrols the mayhem unleashed on motorists on the Lagos highways over the years was going to be a thing of the past.

All my confidence in the security network in Lagos fell apart like a pack of cards on Wednesday, June 24, 2009 when I was attacked by some daredevil armed robbers by about 7am in the heart of the Lagos state Administrative and Central Business District-Alausa.

It is a shock that I may never recover from. If anyone had told me that with all the security fanfare that had been going on in Lagos in the past few months robbers could freely operate in Alausa in broad day light I would say such person was probably insane. The greatest tragedy of the whole episode was that I was with my son. I was going to drop him in school in the morning when this incidence occurred.

Ever since I became a self employed professional I had vowed to make up for lost time with my kids. During my ten year sojourn on the corporate world I had virtually lost touch with the kids. I woke up and left for the office before they were up and arrived back home when they were fast asleep. In my son’s 6 year sojourn in primary school I never attended one single parent-teacher association meeting. My wife was always the one to go.

I was thoroughly embarrassed one day when I attended one parent – teacher meeting at my kids school and I got a standing ovation for attending for the first time after over 6 years!! Any way now that I was self employed I vowed that that was all over.

I vowed to drop the kids in school everyday except I had a court session or important morning meeting or I was out of town. I also tried to get home most days before they sleep and discuss the day with them before they slept. On this fateful day I was going to drop my son in school and as we approached the traffic lights on Obafemi
Awolowo Way by Oregun Junction the lights turned red.

There were about 6 cars in front of me (in 2 lanes of 3 cars each). In the twinkle of an eye 3 motorcycles with 6 riders zoomed past our cars and stopped just by the traffic light.

The passengers disembarked whilst the 3 motorcycles speed off. My alarm bells immediately started ringing; the guys looked rough and drugged. My immediate instinct was to put the car in reverse and get out of the there. But I looked into the back mirror and some cars had lined up behind me . They 3 daredevils rush to me and their leader stood right in front of me and drew out an ugly and threatening locally made pistol.

He quickly came to my side and demanded that I wind down the side glass. I obeyed keeping an eye to see if the cars in front of me would move so I could make a getaway! He was getting irritated with my slow moves towards compliance. My head was racing like a stop watch as I began to look around for  an escape route. My only problem was my son! Anything I was to do should take him into consideration.

I finally concluded that there was no way out so I brought out my E75 Nokia phone thinking they were one of these phone robbers  but the guy simply ignored the phone and shouted “go to the back”.

These guys really meant business they weren’t your run of the mill petty traffic robbers but diehards who wanted more than just mobile phones. For a while I was confused and did not act as fast as he wanted; he aimed a slap for my face which I dodged. I then went into the back seat through the divide between the drivers seat and the front passenger seat and I dragged my son to the back with me as they commanded.

The one with the gun quickly took over the steering, the second one entered the back passenger seat behind the driver whilst the 3rd robber walked towards the back right seat in an attempt to sandwich myself and my son at the back whilst they got away with the car. As he approached I got a brain wave; I suddenly opened the door with all the force I could muster and the door slammed on the one  coming in and h
e fell.

My move surprised them and I seized the moment I dashed out and dragged my son with me. Luckily enough my son was rather smart and rose well to the occasion. As soon as we got out I pushed my son in front and shouted “run” I ran after him but as I turned round to see if the robbers were chasing us I stumbled and fell. As I feel to the ground I saw the robbers speed away with my car.

But that was just the beginning of my woes. A Toyota Prado jeep which was behind my car during the robbery,  while in a frantic effort to get away from the scene climbed the kerb near where I had fallen and drove partially over my leg.

I felt the pressure of the car tyre on my leg and said to myself  “God… my leg is gone… The bystanders began to pound on the jeep and scream “ Stop …..stop….. somebody is under your car”. He stopped but rather that wait for the onlookers to drag me our from under his jeep, he reversed; again partially over my leg and then zoomed off.

Some people are so callous. I heard the bystanders curse him and call him a murderer but I guess he was just pleased to have been able to save his beloved jeep even if in meant crushing a fellow human being to death. Shame on him wherever he is today and I hope he gets to read this piece.

The Police men were later to ask me if I got down the plate number of this murderous jeep; but of course that was an impossibility in the condition I found myself. That I did not suffer even a dislocation from the tires of the jeep running over my leg, not to talk of a fracture is to me the “Miracle of the Year”.

If anyone says that there is no God that person must be stark raving mad! On 24th day of June 2009 I saw first hand; once again; the hand of God in my life. Since this occurrence I now look at life in a different light. Life is so fickle. You are here a moment bubbling with life then the next you could be gone like a vapour.

I always try to put the thought out of my mind any time it comes but often times I cant help but thinking; what if I fell headlong under the jeep? The man would have simply crushed my head and saved his jeep? God is great.

The fact that robbers could operate so openly in the broad day light so close to the seat of government shows that as far as security in Lagos (and the rest of Nigeria I daresay) is concerned it is not yet uhuru. A lot of work still needs to be done for Lagosians to feel safe in this mega city.

There is a resurgence from the Criminals all over Lagos and the government needs to redouble it’s efforts. Even as I write this on my sick bed; a few days after my own experience; a friend who came visiting just witnessed a car jacking at gun point at Opebi in  broad day light.

Any keen observer would realize that the hours between 5a.m and 8a.m in the mornings there is virtually a total absence of police men on the streets of Lagos. That is the period that these hoodlums use to harass and maim Lagosians.

A city like Lagos ought to be Policed 24 hours round the clock? Special attention should be given to traffic light locations and areas were there are traffic jams. These have become veritable spots for these hoodlums to operate and terrorise harpless Lagosians. Places like Alausa or Opebi are supposed to be areas where no robber should dare tread. I shiver to think what would be happening in the suburbs, especially now that there are no street gates?

And I never really knew how wide spread these robbery occurrences were until I began to tell my friends about my own  experience. It turns out that most of those I talked to had experienced or known of someone who had similar incidences in the very recent past.

I cannot end this piece without putting on record the gallant assistance I received from the DPO and men of the Alausa Police station. They were simply magnificent in spite of the glaring inadequate equipments and daunting conditions under which they operate. They quickly mobilized and in no time  my car was recovered from  where the robbers abandoned it and they assisted me to get to a hospital quickly.

The incidence only reiterates my belief that our Police could be super efficient if they get the right tools and the proper motivation. I am still trying to give my son adequate therapy: it a gruesome experience for a 12 year old. It is sad to  imagine the kind of experiences we are raising our kids with?


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Comments expressed here do not reflect the opinions of vanguard newspapers or any employee thereof.