By Evelyn Usman
Lagos State, commonly referred to as the pride of Nigeria, is said to have an estimated population of 24 million. Due to the state’s economic and socio political importance, Nigerians from other parts of the states troop into the city in search of greener pasture.
Due to its seeming over congestion, those with criminal tendencies also found their way into the state, thereby propelling security agencies to often visit their drawing boards to review their strategies as well as initiate far reaching approaches to curb the excesses of criminals.
In its drive to make the metropolitan city safe for all and sundry, the 36th Commissioner of Police, CP Hakeem Odumosu, revealed that the command had adopted a new strategy of taking the war against crime to the criminals’ dens, an initiative he said led to the arrest of 700 suspects between November 2019 and January 7,2020.
Out of the figure were 383 social miscreants, among them a 70-year-old man and 34 ladies who were raided at different hideouts and uncompleted buildings in the state, on January 8,2020, alone.
Odumosu, who made the disclosure during his maiden press briefing, at the command headquarters, Ikeja, said 447 suspects were arrested during raids of criminal hideouts in the last one month and taken to Taskforce office in Oshodi area of the state, for further action. He said 53 were warned and released while 394 of them were charged to court. Among those charged to court, 296 were convicted, while 98 were still awaiting trial, according to him.
Special Strike Force
He stated that the 383 other suspects were arrested in a clamp down by the Special Strike Force on Social Miscreants he established upon resumption, on November 14,2019. According to him, “The Special Strike Force took the battle to the doorsteps of social miscreants at Ikorodu, Agege, Itire, Isheri-Oshun and Oshodi. Thirty-eight of them were warned and released , 87were charged to court, while 67 are currently being profiled. Two locally made pistols with 30 unexpended cartridges, weeds suspected to be Indian hemp, some cutlasses and axes were recovered from the hoodlums”.
Odumosu , who noted that crime rate had reduced in the state within the period under review, gave a breakdown of the arrest of the command’s achievement. He revealed that 114 armed robbery suspects were arrested, 72 robbery attempts foiled and seven armed robbery suspects killed during exchange of fire with the Police. Also, 46 suspects according to him were arrested for cultism, three, arrested for kidnapping, 82 others arrested for murder, while nine cases of suicide were recorded. Twenty-five assorted firearms with lots of ammunition of different caliber were recovered and 11 stolen vehicles recovered, he said.
Killers of policeman, two others arrested
Among those arrested was one of the hoodlums who allegedly killed a policeman during a protest in Ogba area of Lagos State, in August 2018. He is Amaechi Uzoma. The deceased policeman, late Sergeant Ifiobor Collins , attached to Area ‘G’ Ogba command, was hacked to death at a pin down point on Haruna Street, Ifako-Ijaye in Ogba. After killing him, the hoodlums made away with his riffle.
Four other suspects were arrested in connection with the murder of a 28-year-old woman, Moradeun Balogun, in Gbagada area of Lagos, last Thursday.
Late Balogun was attacked at about 7pm, on her way back from work at NCIE Bus Stop, Gbagada. In an attempt to forcefully collect her Lenovo computer lap top, her assailants stabbed her in the neck. She was said to have been refused treatment at the first hospital she was rushed to, an action the CP frowned at, as he warned medical practitioners not to refuse treatment for any victim with gunshot wounds. Her assailants were identified as; Ugochukwu Udochukwu , Chidiebere Nnanna , Samuel Nnanna and David Obi .
Relatedly, three persons were arrested in connection with the murder of a 50-year-old man , Kayode Babalola, in Alapere area of Ketu, Lagos.
The deceased left his office at Oregun, Ikeja, for a vigil at a church in Ketu area of the state but was allegedly attacked on a street within Alapere area by the trio of Paul Peter, Rasaki Ibrahim and Damilare Abimbola. He was dispossessed of his two phones and other personal effects before he was wheeled away in a wheelbarrow into a canal.
His body according to the Lagos State Police Command boss, was still missing. He said that the suspects had confessed to the commission of the crime and will be charged to court, alongside others.
Warns kidnappers, cultists
Cultism and gangsterism, according to him, were major security challenge in the state. He however asserted that the command had reviewed its strategies as well as initiated far reaching approach to eradicate the menace.
He said, “We have observed activities of those cult groups and gangs for the last two months and have gathered credible intelligence about them. The various cult groups and gangs identified within the state include: Aiye and Eiye confraternities, One million boys at Ajengule, Fadeyi boys at Fadeyi area, Akala boys at Mushin area, Nokia group at Surulere area, Shitta boys at Bariga, Oworonshoki, Shomolu and Palm grove areas, Awawa boys at Dopemu, Agege, Ogba and Iyana Ipaja, Ijesha boys and Aguda boys at Surulere.
“The newly launched Special Strike Force on social miscreants will effectively combat those miscreants who have chosen the wrong path of life. We are taking the fight to their door steps, we are all out for them. We will fish them out, isolate them and bring them to justice. We are battle ready to uproot cultists’ dens and hideouts until they are totally defeated. Let me therefore, use this medium to sound a warning to members of those gangs and cult groups to either renounce their membership or be prepared to face the full weight of the law. And to parents and guardians of those youths, my message is simple, monitor activities and movements of your children and wards and make sure that their mission on the public space are legitimate otherwise, they should steer clear”, he said.
To kidnappers who intend to make the state haven for their atrocities , Odumosu, advised them to first write their will before taking such decision , threatening that the command would make the state uncomfortable for them, citing an instance of Onyiwara Chinwe, a member of the National Youth Service Corp, NYSC who was rescued from a kidnappers’ den in Epe, after a gun duel which left one of her abductors, Moses Ofeye, dead.
2300 motorcycles impounded
Upon assumption of office in November 14, 2019, the command boss disclosed that the first challenge he was confronted with was gridlocks in different parts of the states.
He said he swung into action by summoning an emergency meeting with all Area Commanders , Area Operation Officers, State Traffic Officers, Divisional Traffic Officers and Traffic Officers in the Command, to identify major causes of traffic congestions in the affected areas and agree on workable solutions. Because of the urgency the situation presented, the CP, said he declared a state of emergency on traffic which was complimented with the deployment of additional 1000 Police Officers for traffic duties.
He said, “We equally reviewed their reporting and closing time to 10am and 10pm against the initial 6am and 6pm so as to meet up with traffic peak periods. I had a meeting with other stakeholders in security and traffic management where we agreed on multi agencies collaborations. The Command, with the support of Lagos State Government deployed 200 motorcycles to various parts of the state for traffic control and to also combat the menace of traffic robbery.
Establishes mobile court
Continuing, he said, the command “ took a step forward by reintroducing the Mobile Court system to prosecute traffic laws violators. This was done with the support of Lagos State Judiciary and Ministry of Justice Lagos State. Our mantra remains ‘Traffic must flow in Lagos State’.
The Operations successfully prosecuted 75 traffic violators and impounded 75 vehicles. Among the offenders, 28 were arrested for driving against traffic (one way) while the rest were arrested for indiscriminate parking and causing obstructions by clubbers and customers of some factories.
In addition, Odumosu, said, “2,300 motorcycles were impounded during enforcement of Lagos State Traffic Laws, from recalcitrant commercial motorcyclists across the State, between November 18, 2019 and December 31, 2019. All the motorcycles impounded were handed over to Taskforce in Oshodi, for further action. The exercise is being intensified”.
He however clarified that the command had no personal grudge with OPAY commercial motorcyclists. Rather he explained that the reason for the arrest of their motorbikes followed complaints from Lagosians , over violations of the state’s traffic laws by the riders
We are not criminals – suspects
But when some of the suspects , especially those arrested during raids were interviewed , they claimed they were innocent of the allegation. Some of them alleged that they were picked by policemen right inside their apartments.
One of them, Nike, said , “I was sleeping when the policemen broke into my house and picked me”. Some of them claimed they were on their way from work, while a 70-year-old man among them said he was also sleeping when the policemen announced their unprecedented visit.
Policing plans for 2020
As year 2020 progresses, the command boss assured that Lagosians would experience a robust security atmosphere. This he stated, would be achieved through its policing plans for the year which he highlighted to include : full implementation of Community based policing policies and strategies that would close the gaps between the police and the people, foster cordial relationship and build strong and effective partnerships. “Our policing plans also include: Visibility policing and prompt response to distress calls; Intelligence led policing approach, professional and unbiased investigation of criminal cases and diligent prosecution; respect for and protection of human rights and zero tolerance for corruption; multi agencies collaboration and capacity building for officers and men of the command as well as an enhanced welfare package”.