The forced withdrawal of Policemen from the streets of Lagos or perhaps, their scampering to safety when a youth peaceful protest against the excess of the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) turned violent on October 20, 2020, leaving the streets unguarded and unprotected to the dastardly whims and caprice of the underworld men, cultists, urchins, robbers and petty pick-pockets who freely harassed, maimed, raped and robbed pedestrians and motorists without fear of arrest, painfully marking collapse of security in the state which has brought the need and importance of law and order in society to the fore.
Youth peaceful assertion of their fundamental human right to liberty and freedom in line with tenets of democracy to put an end to Police abuse, oppression and violation of constitution-granteed rights of suspects without molestation by the investigative SARS operatives hijacked, bastardised and dipped in violence, arson, murder and wanton destruction has stripped Lagos State naked of security framework that guarantees freedom of movement of persons adn goods.
The protest, which started at Lekki Toll Gate on what could rightly be called a black Tuesday was peaceful for its first 48 hours as hell was, however, let loose when light was switched off at the toll gate and bullets rang out from riffles, killing many unarmed peaceful protesters. Vandals, waiting in the wings hijacked the peaceful protest and unleashed violence and destruction on the mega-city.
As the madness and fury raged, many cops were killed, many Police Stations were torched burnt down, while arms and ammunition in Police armouries were looted. Courts were not spared either.
The reign of terror quickly degenerated and destruction spread to private property, hotels, shopping malls, departmental stores, shops, shopping complexes, media houses and even press centre at Alausa, Ikeja were razed. The grotesque remains of burnt houses and structures stared at sky as blighted evidence of the ravaged commercial capital of West African sub-region. As the dwindling, receding palls across the city signalled the end of wanton destruction, and predators of all colours preyed on residents of the mega-city. Without policemen/women, a place or territory pronto becomes an ungoverned space, where life is ‘nastic, brutish and shorts’.
Different cult members who were in superiority contest engaged one another in fierce battle on the streets. Law-abiding people who found themselves in wrong places sustained injuries, while unfortunate ones killed. At Meyaki Street, Gbagada, rampaging armed boys went from house threatening, to rob residents. Major Bus-Stops such as Oshodi, Palmgroove, Mushin, Agege, Pen Cinema, Ojota, Ikeja, Idumota, CMS, Iyana-Ipaja to mention a few became dangerous areas to walk at night even in day light. Handsets, phones, laptops and other valuables were snatched from victims. At Fagba area, Agege petty thieves were on rampage dispossessing people of their valuables.
If petty stealing, snatching of personal effects and pick-pocketing are suffered by individuals and losses limited to victims, bullion van robbery poses greater danger to banks and distribution of money to branches with a disruptive telling effect on socio-commercial life of people. Bank customers could no longer access their money through the use of Automatic Teller Machine (ATM) card because of banks short supply of money to the ATM system.
The distruption of economic activities did not only negatively affect individuals, but also worsened the frigile economic fortune of the country that has been buffeted by Covid-19 and falling crude oil prices in the international market, which has forced the economy on its knees. The enormity of security challenges was worsened by marauders who burnt down many police stations, thus imposing huge responsibility on the state government if its primary function of providing security of lives and property is to be fulfilled.
That, perhaps, was why Jide Sanwo-Olu administration quickly signed an executive order, establishing the Lagos State Reubuilding Trust Fund for immediate implementation to, at least, cushion the harsh, uncomfortable and painful effects of the plunder on the people. The fund is expected to drive and expedite the reconstruction of all things that were destroyed by hoodlums. An 8-member Lagos Rebuild Trust Fund Committee led by Citibank Nigeria’s Chairman, Yemi Cardoso, was charged with rebuilding every destroyed phase of Lagos.
Most important, in order of priority, is the return of the withdrawn Policemen and other law enforcement agencies to the road to bring sanity, ensure security, law and order. Rebuilding of burnt police stations and courts must be expedited too. That is the only way to provide detention space for arrested suspects whose cases are being investigated and charged to court. The need to rebuild the burnt courts is beyond a moot point if cases alloted to the courts are to be tried with dispatch.
Besides, there is an urgent need to draft more plain-clothed security officers to the flash points on the road where criminals could threaten free movement of vehicles and lives of law-abiding people. Henceforth, every bullion van must have a back-up car carrying armed plain-clothed cops to provide impregnable protection for the van. It is the best way to frustrate an attack.
That, to all intents and purposes, is to obviate the challenge posed by the reduced strength of Policemen on the road. Criminals should not be allowed to benefit from the damages wreaked on the state by those vandals who hijacked peaceful protest.