The Lagos State governor, Mr Akinwumi Ambode, recently inaugurated the Lagos Neighbourhood Safety Corps to complement the efforts of the Nigeria Police in securing the nooks and cranny of the state. The inauguration of the corps followed the signing into law of an executive bill in August 2016 for its establishment. The governor at the inauguration described the Lagos Neighbourhood Safety Corps as a child of necessity, following rising insecurity in the state and the need for intelligence gathering as one way of preventing crime and facilitating arrest of perpetrators. The governor emphasised that the creation of the corps arose from the identified security challenges confronting the state due to its large population. He made it clear that the corps was not in any way created to be in competition with the regular police but expected to, in actual fact, assist and complement the police in performing their role.
We agree with the governor that Lagos State, because of its population as he rightly asserted, has witnessed increase in crime rate, with kidnapping becoming a disturbing issue lately. The setting up of the Neighbourhood Safety Corps is, therefore, the government’s response and contribution towards ensuring that the deteriorating security situation is brought under control.
To prepare the corps for effective service delivery, its members after their recruitment were trained and equipped with 177 cars equipped with communication gadgets, 377 motorcycles and 4,000 bicycles to aid their operation. The governor also noted that through the safety corps initiative, over 7,000 jobs had been created and that in addition to orthodox community policing, officers of the corps had been given requisite training on dispute mediation and the art of negotiating for peaceful resolution, balancing communal interest in resolving disputes and proactive, rather than reactive policing engagement.
In our view, an arrangement such as this will create a second layer of policing in the state and elsewhere in the country if replicated. While the Lagos governor admitted that his state was faced with security challenges, the case of Lagos is not isolated as nearly every state in the country is faced with one form of insecurity or the other, with attendant consequences on the populace. Benue State for instance has been in the news lately over cases of random shootings and killings, the latest being the killing of four persons by yet-to-be identified gunmen in Abaji area of the state. The attack happened a few weeks after several persons were killed in similar fashion in Zaki Biam town. In parts of the north, the issue of cattle rustling has become a huge challenge while clashes between farmers and herdsmen have continually threatened the peace in various parts of the country, this is in addition to inter-ethnic clashes as witnessed between the Hausas and Yorubas in Ile Ife, recently.
All these underscore the need for governors, as chief security officers of their states, to begin to think of ways of ensuring maximum security of life and property of the people in their states and we believe one way to go about this is the Lagos way.
Already, the civilian joint task force exists in the insurgency ravaged North-east part of the country and the contributions of the JTF in assisting the police and military to achieve the successes recorded in that part of the country cannot be understated. We are of the view that with intelligence gathering, which is one role that can be played by such corps at the community levels, the level of insecurity across the country could be greatly reduced, especially if the intelligence gathered is acted on. But beyond assisting the conventional government security outfits in ensuring effective policing, creation of such corps will absorb the army of unemployed youths in the country who can be gainfully employed after requisite training.
In setting up similar corps, governors must, however, be wary of those they enlist to ensure that criminal-minded people do not infiltrate and destroy it from within. The temptation to turn these corps into militia for the use of politicians against the opposition and other perceived enemies must also be resisted by all means. Such corps when established, must have their roles clearly spelt out, which will be to complement and not compete with existing security structures.