By Clement Udegbe
AN Igbo proverb, says that when the birds start flying without perching , hunters learn how to shoot and hit, without aiming, and that is the origin of the name “ Ogbanufe” meaning, one who shoots and kills birds as they fly.
This is exactly what the police in Festac Town has started doing now, under the Area and Divisional Police Commands, to face the new double barrel challenge of criminal gang robberies, and kidnapping. Some time in 2012, a criminal gang came up around Amukoko and Ajegunle areas of Lagos state. They were called the “Million Men” . These criminals would number over 100 persons and descend on an area visiting from house to house along streets in the area, stealing cash and light items like laptops, mobile phones etc. Where they do not find money with their victims, they would rape the women, force parents to have sex with their children and vice versa, or force them to perform all sorts of atrocious sexual acts with them, or for them, and if the victims refused, they would simply kill someone in the family, and move to the next. They were known to operate for hours, from midnight till about 5am, when and where they struck.
Cooperation between the police, community leaders, and politicians in these areas helped to chase them away, combined with the political campaigns which kicked off as early as 2013. With the conclusion of elections in 2015, the Million Men are back! Last month they communicated the Ira quarters, at Agric Bus stop, near Volks, along Badagry Express way to expect them.
The Bales are worried, no one knows when they will strike. The Million Men, is one of the recent headaches of the Police area and divisional command from Festac down to Badagry. But their greater palaver is that of Kidnapping which has strong links with the Igbo people who appear predominant in the area, especially Festac Town, where some of the rich ones seem to prefer.
Festac Town, was one of the best designed estates under the post civil war government of General Gowon. It had a proper layout plan for water and power supply, drainage system with generous open spaces. Efficiently managed by the then Federal Housing Authority, Festac was a place to be. It was beautiful and relatively crime free. With the Military coup of 1984 by General Buhari as he then was, mismanagement,corruption,and share incompetence replaced excellence, and continuously, Festac gradually deteriorated. Open spaces were sold off, water systems collapsed, electricity became a whole nonesence, and politicians came in 1999 and killed Festac finally with their ethnic conundrum.
Those who knew Festac in the early 1980s wonder continuously over what Festac has become, because when planning and efficiency departs from any settlement, poverty, disorderliness and crime, creep in to assume greater prominence. The movement by the more affluent people away from Festac is the result of a carefully planned programme by Alausa since the past 16 years.
First is the fight between the Federal and Lagos State governments over who will control tenement rates and land charges in Festac Town. The Festac Residents Association,FETRA, is still in court against the Lagos state government over this matter, and now that APC is at both levels, with a President that has listed the Judiciary as part of his problems, while the Party Chairman wants the Judiciary investigated, FETRA needs urgent and fervent Prayers!
Second, is the obvious continued neglect of the Badagry Road axis, from Festac Town by the state government, with very bad roads, poor road linkages, and persistent traffic snarls, with the effect that very many vehicle owners do not drive out because it takes about two hours to link from Festac to other parts via Mile 2.
Third, their agencies, LASTMA and VIOs chose to check for ‘vehicle particulars’ during work peak periods in the mornings, calculated to frustrate the settlers along this axis because they are mostly Igbos!
Fourthly, the Igbos themselves do not seem to look beyond their nose in these matters. The so called rich ones among them, will neither help FETRA financially, nor assist the police to support the system to continue to work properly.Their blind competitive spirit make them not see the bigger picture, and now the brigandage among them seem to help to fuel kidnapping in the whole area. Since 2012, when kidnapping came into Festac, most victims are from Alaba International Market, Balogun and ASPAMDA markets in the Trade Fair Complex.
They have not paused to consider that the Kidnapper hates their successes, and that they have to deploy their funds to assist the police and security system to secure the area.
Instead they ship out of the area, and point accusing fingers at the police, when they refuse to volunteer information to the appropriate quarters to fight kidnapping. How far can they really run, when their offices are still within the area? It surely would have been better to spend just a small percentage of the money used for relocation to Lekki and other destinations, to get Alausa, to plan better for the area, like they do for Lekki etc, but where the government has a plan against an ethnic group what you find is the situation in Festac and Badagry Road axis, today.
When our leaders create problems like they have done in Festac, they leave us to blame our Police officers for everything. Typically, police officers justle for posts and postings, and the usual Pull Him Down Syndrome sets in, while we completely overlook the source of the problem, which is the Politicians. Blaming the Police over the situation in Festac is simply myopic, because crime rates in those areas where Alausa is interested in is very low, such areas include, Lekki, Ikeja,Opebi, Maryland, Anthony, Ojota, Ogudu, Yaba, Suru-Lere, to name a few. Police officers in Festac are changed regularly, so they are not different from those in other areas. The problem is the lack of will by the Lagos state government to plan for Festac Town, while we must learn on our part to share information with the Police.
*Mr Udegbe, a lawyer, can be reached at email@example.com.