LAGOS is not just a state and the former Federal Capital Territory, it is also the economic melting pot of Nigeria. It is home for all Nigerians as well as foreign nationals.
Every part of the country deserves to be secured, no doubt. But the security of Lagos and the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja, is of particular significance because they are the nation’s final frontiers. If insecurity overwhelms these two cities, the perception of Nigeria’s state failure will be complete. This must not be allowed to happen.
Fortunately, the threat of a terrorist attack in Lagos has not materialized, at least not officially. Nigerians of all ethno-religious and regional backgrounds have been cohabiting in relative harmony. But enough strategic steps have not been taken to make absolutely sure that evil elements do not succeed in rupturing the peace and security of the city-state.
Like in most parts of the country, and despite the laws prohibiting open grazing of livestock, nomadic herdsmen and their animals still occupy the forests and farmlands adjoining Lagos and its immediate neighbouring states of Ogun and Oyo, through which the Lagos-Ibadan Expressway runs. Moreover, the Long Bridge, linking Arepo in Ogun State and Isheri in Lagos State, is home to thousands of undocumented migrants from within and beyond the territorial precincts of the nation.
When people with no fixed addresses or identities are allowed to occupy the forests and live under bridges, such places, right in the heart of our economic capital, become ungoverned spaces. There is no way of preventing sleeper cells of terrorists, bandits, kidnappers, ritualists, drug merchants, and other heinous criminals from hibernating among them.“It was only a matter of time before the terrorism, banditry, and kidnapping that have been sweeping the North, especially the Abuja-Kaduna Expressway, descended on the Lagos-Ibadan Expressway, the nation’s number one transportation corridor.
To tackle terrorism, banditry, herdsmen’s militant attacks, and kidnapping, we must start by discouraging nomadism. It may be some people’s “culture,”, but it is pitting armed strangers against indigenous landowners. Everywhere nomads occupy in Nigeria is an ungoverned space because these people and government machinery are unknown to each other.
Indigenous nomads should be settled in ranches in their states of origin. Anyone who wants to do livestock business outside his state of origin is free to do so under the usual terms of doing any other business. Allowing migrants to settle without having a fixed address is playing with fire.
The police can continue “beefing up security.” Vigilantes like the Oodua People’s Congress (OPC), the Amotekun Corps, hunters, and others can routinely organize to comb the forests. These are mere palliatives. Unless we integrate the bush- and underbridge-dwelling strangers into the full purview of governance, innocent citizens will remain exposed to the insecurity they breed.