…Commercial sex workers, criminals affected
…Fraud and cybercrime expected to rise
…IGP places CP INTERPOL on red alert, alerts Nigerians to be vigilant
By Evelyn Usman
The predicament bedeviling the world at the moment is the Coronavirus, which has claimed thousands of lives , with many victims still battling between life and death at different isolation centres across the globe.
The scourge of this virus transcends beyond political, religious, ethnic or affluence divide, as the acclaimed high and mighty are brought low by it, all over the world, with its cure still unknown.
To curb its spread, nations have shut their borders. Back home in Nigeria, the precautionary measures are not different.
Presently, three states of the federation: Lagos, Ogun and the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja, are on lock down for two weeks, following a directive by President Muhammadu Buhari, last Sunday.
The announcement was greeted by rush buying, as those who could afford to stock their homes with food stuff did so, while others who live on daily income bought what would take their families for just one day.
Many on the other hand, who do not have any means of livelihood, but depend on what they got from begging, are left to their fate.
As at the time of writing this report, the Federal and state governments were yet to make any move to give citizens, especially the aged, pensioners and poor, money that would sustain them for this period.
However, in the FCT, the Federal Government, began the disbursement of N5,000 to one million indigent Nigerians in the country.
When news of the disbursement went round, everyone was expectant of being beneficiary. However, the beneficiaries were said to be from the Conditional Cash Transfers Scheme, an exercise that commenced about five years ago, and geared towards supporting the poor and vulnerable households in the society.
Beneficiaries received N20,000 each, covering four months. The disbursement as gathered, was in line with a recent directive by President Muhammadu Buhari that the conditional cash transfers for the next two months should be released immediately to beneficiaries.
On the part of the Lagos State Government, it made provision for foodstuff for Lagosians. Unfortunately, apparently due to proper disbursement process, many families were yet to see what these stuff look like, let alone benefiting from the gesture. Others who claimed to have received these foodstuffs in some local governments, made a mockery of it, as they complained that what was given to a community would not be enough to go round a family of five, for two days , let alone an entire community.
Others also alleged that their share of the foodstuff was ridicule of the whole palliative measure. They alleged to have got less than the mandated five kilograms of rice, garri, and beans respectively
Impact on commercial sex workers
Everyone is affected by the compulsory stay- at- home directive. When this reporter drove round some parts of Lagos, most brothels and hotels had lost its original bustle.
Commercial prostitutes in brothels around Okota, Ire-Akari, Ikorodu, Ikeja, Bolade and Ajah areas of Lagos , were seen lamenting the impact of the lockdown on their trade.
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At a popular pup on Ire-Akari street, Isolo, some of these commercial sex workers were sighted at about 11 pm Wednesday, looking for any stray customer to ‘service’.
Unfortunately, there was none. In an outburst of anger, one of them, spoke in pidgin, “ e no go better to this stupid Corona virus, wey come spoil market for us “. In response, her colleagues burst into laughter, cursing under their breath at the same time.
In what seemed like answered prayer to their petition, a grey coloured Venza car stopped in front of them. Immediately, these ladies in their skimpy bum shorts scrambled towards the car , trying to out – run the other, in order to gain the motorist’s attention.
But the expression of excitement on their faces turned to disappointment, as the motorist turned out to be a lady , who alighted to check one of the tyres that deflated.
In anger, they booed the lady and shouted at her to take her car away from their business place.
Crime rate drops
Crime rate has also dropped drastically in most parts of Lagos, following the lockdown, as pickpockets have been rendered useless because their prey have been forced to remain indoors. Workers and traders who usually left their abodes before 5am, are also heaving sighs of relief, from the incessant attacks by robbers who operate on motorcycles.
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Traffic robbers, Catch-in-the Air robbery gangs and robbers who attack customers coming from banks also have their own share of regrets, following the forced break-in operation, owing to the lockdown in Lagos, especially.
Also, information revealed that the rate of shop breaking at the Idumota and Balogun markets have dropped , apparently due to the restriction of both human and vehicular movement which deprive burglars of having any means to transport stolen goods . In addition, cult clashes and killings seem to have been put on hold this period .
This is because everyone, with the exception of those on essential duty, have been compelled to stay at home, including criminal elements.
More importantly, the attendant gridlock in Lagos has completely disappeared, thereby making driving pleasurable. A journey that usually took one, over one hour to get to one’s destination, owing to the traffic situation, now takes less that 15 minutes. But for the resultant consequences of the long stay at home, one would have wished that Lagos roads remain the way it is.
However, there are fears and insinuation that crime rate is likely to resurface, as criminal element could device new means of carrying out their nefarious activities.
The signal to this, is evident in some text messages and email, purportedly from reputable companies and financial institutions, where Nigerians were requested to fill some forms, in order to benefit from one form of government’s gesture or the other, towards ameliorating the sufferings of Nigerians, while at home.
Also, these criminally-minded individuals who are in possession of bank accounts and telephone numbers of account holders, contact these unsuspecting bank customers, requesting for some information that would enable them hack into their accounts. Usually in this case, these fraudsters would pose as bank officials who intend to pay in money purportedly from the Federal Government.
Already, there are online posts, where people are requested to provide information, in order to benefit from the Central Bank of Nigeria , CBN N50 billion loan scheme.
In some parts of Igando and other suburbs, residents received letters, where a robbery gang informed them to be ready for their imminent visit. In fear, some of these residents have fled their abodes while others, are praying that the robbers’ convenient day should never come.
IGP alerts Nigerians
This fear was further confirmed by the Inspector-General of Police, IGP Mohammed Adamu, who has alerted Nigerians on the emerging crime trends. He advised Nigerians to take precautionary actions against criminal elements who might want to explore the emergency situation created by the COVID-19 pandemic to defraud them.
His advise as contained in statement signed by the Force Public Relations Officer, DCP Frank Mba, was informed by intelligence at the disposal of the Force ,suggesting that fraud and cybercrime in particular, were expected to rise at this time, owing to the lock-down emplaced by Government at all levels, to contain the Covid-19 pandemic.
Scammers on the prowl
The statement read: “Specifically, intelligence obtained from the INTERPOL Headquarters shows that scammers in Nigeria and other parts of the globe have begun to create and set up fraudulent websites, e-commerce platforms, fake social media accounts and emails claiming to sell and deliver covid-19 medical products.
“In some cases, they use names of prominent companies involved in the production and distribution of these items. Victims are then asked to pay via bank transfer”.
The number one cop in country therefore, reeled out some security tips to Nigerians, urging them to adhere strictly to.
He said, “ Avoid opening suspicious emails and clicking on links in unrecognized emails and attachments. Ensure proper back-up of online and offline files regularly and securely. Use strong passwords for securing your emails and social media handles, keep your software updated, including antivirus software and manage your social media settings and review your privacy and security settings”.
He further advised Nigerians to be wary of scammers who use names of prominent companies to create fraudulent websites, e-commerce platforms, social media accounts and emails claiming to sell and deliver medical products.
He said, “ You are advised to ignore and report calls purportedly emanating from a caller who pretends to be a relative currently being treated at hospital asking you to pay for the cost of the medical treatment by transferring money or by paying cash to fake public health representatives.
“Do not open letters or emails related to the pandemic from unknown persons who claim to be health authorities. Often times criminals access sensitive information, steal personal information and steal funds of victims by tricking them into connecting to a specific webpage and logging-in with their credentials;
“Be mindful of fake news, deliberate misinformation/disinformation and avoid circulating untrusted and unverified messages on your social media handles.
“Educate your family, especially your children, about how to stay safe online and offline. If you become a victim, ensure prompt report to the police”.
Places CP Interpol on Red alert
As part of proactive measures to checkmate this crime trend, , the IGP, placed the Commissioner of Police in- charge of the Interpol National Central Bureau, NCB, Abuja, on red alert.
By the way, the NCB houses the cybercrime unit of the Force. The bureau according to Adamu, “ shall in the coming days and beyond work closely with other Interpol member states across the globe particularly to carry out intense monitoring of the internet highway in the most legitimate and ethical manner. This is to engender concerted efforts in cracking down on any individual or all forms of organized criminal gangs that may want to take advantage of the Covid-19 pandemic to perpetrate crimes”.
Advices commercial banks operators
He also enjoined commercial bank operators to strengthen their online banking security systems and promptly report any suspected case of fraud and other cybercrime related activities in their banks.
While reaffirming the determination of the Nigeria Police Force in providing support services to relevant agencies saddled with the task of curtailing and containing the COVID-19 pandemic, the IGP, assured that the Force was unrelenting in clamping down on criminals who might want to take advantage of the situation to perpetrate criminal acts.