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THE HAVEN CALLED LAGOS

By NBF News
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•Ibirogba
A journalist, activist cum politician, Abdul-Lateef Aderemi Ibirogba, the Lagos State Commissioner for Information and Strategy, explains to some select journalists in his office, factors that make Lagos State relatively peaceful and crime-free inspite of its large population.

RAZAQ BAMIDELE was there. His reports:
On peace in the state
We thank God that Lagos state is peaceful and relatively crime free. If you look at it, you will realise that it is the only state in Nigeria with about 18 million people. Yet, you still see how people troop into the state every day. So, with this background, one can appreciate that having peace and stability in such a state will tell us that the state government is putting a lot of things in place to guarantee peace and stability.

Our own idea is to invest in the equipment for the police to make them function well. And at the same time, we do invest in people. We are interested in developing the man called Lagosian. And this is to ensure that everybody lives happily and goes about his daily activities in a peaceful and stable atmosphere without any form of molestation or hindrance.

And you can appreciate the fact that it is our state that has invested so much in the Police. We are providing them with everything that would make them function and function very well. It is only Lagos state that has provided helicopters. We have also provided marine boats to fight crimes even on water. We have also provided them scooter machines, just as we give them patrol vehicles. All these are along with ammunitions with a view to enabling the policemen that are posted to the state be up to the task. The Rapid Response Squad (RRS), is our own formula to combat crime effectively through a well equipped security team. We believe that nipping crime in the bud is the type of challenge we want to tackle in the state that has a large number of people.

We are developing our people too so that they would not take to crime. Even, our employment system in the state is such that, that man that lives in Lagos has something to do and somewhere to go to earn a legitimate living without molestation on the way. This will prevent him from taking to crime.

Pockets of crime
But you will discover that as people do troop into the state more heavily than into any other states, the rate of crime is not as heavy as it is obtainable in those places that are not as densely populated. Think of how long Jos in Plateau state has been boiling. Think of how long other states like Bauchi and Borno have been boiling. And interestingly, you still find a state of 18 million people being as peaceful.

We are aware that we accommodate different people from different backgrounds-Hausa, Ibo, Yoruba. All of them do cohabitate in the state without ugly scenes. We have also put in place a Security Trust Fund (STF), which involves private people and corporate bodies as well as good spirited Lagosians to have a say in managing crime. And we are very happy that the STF has been taking care of a lot of things. It is the STF really that has been providing Police with information, and sort of things in the past three to four years. I can not remember all the police stations that the Fund has provided Patrol Vehicles and other required equipment relevant to fighting crime

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Communication formula
We are the only state too, that has told the people that whenever there is problem there are emergency lines-767 and 112 they can call for help. And this has been helping too. People have been calling and those in charge have been responding.

It is possible for people to say crime is on the high side here. But let me quickly remind you that, our neighbouring Ogun state was at a time sacked for one week by criminals and people could not go out for their normal duties. Banking in Ogun state was being serviced from Lagos State here for one week. Yet, Lagos has remained as peaceful as it is known to be.

We are not saying that wherever we find people, we would not have some who would want to take to crime. We are only saying that whatever it is, we have men on ground and we have always collaborated with security agencies to make sure that we nip everything in the bud. The recent arrest of those who attempted to perpetrate kidnapping crime is a testimony of what I am trying to point out. Don't forget that it is the combination of the police, the State Security Service and other security agents that are involved. It is only that others could not come out openly to be identified.

Only the Police are meant to do so. Simply that we nipped that in the bud was an indication that we are not sleeping. If they had carried out their nefarious acts before we started to run up and down, it would have been a disaster. We have put all the checks in place. But I can not be telling you everything that went into apprehending those crooks in the open because of security implications. What I can volunteer is that Lagos is a peaceful place to live in and that anybody who wants to live in the state should forget about taking to crime because there is no way you do it that we will not get you. We have on ground everything needed to get such a person even when it is at the planning stage.

And we have to thank Lagosians too, because they have been coming up with useful information and we have been treating the information with utmost confidentiality and not the way the Police used to treat such information and would reveal the informants' identity. Just pick your phone and dial 767 or 112. We shall be there without telling anybody that the informant is Mr. A or Mr. B. and that has been helping us really.

Pro-active leadership
What is more, we have a governor that is pro-active. He appreciates that there is no price you can pay for any soul lost unjustly. To Fashola, everybody is entitled to live in Lagos and live well without being molested.

And so, everything must be put in place to make sure that nobody is harassed and no crime is allowed to go unchecked.

So, I want to assure anybody who wants to take crime as his own way of life to please leave Lagos for us. He should excuse us because we have no place for such people here. There is no way you do it that you will not get arrested. There is no way you do it that the long hand of the law will not be over you. So, it is better for anybody who wants to take to crime to have a change of heart because living in Lagos is living legitimately and doing legitimate business. Our state is haven for anybody who wants to do legitimate business because we have ample opportunity for whoever wants to do the right thing. And the government has created the enabling environment for anybody to excel in his legitimate business. But, whoever wants to misbehave now and put the whole community into problem, we will always catch up with such people. We are ready to go all out to make sure that whoever is not ready to do the right thing falls into the hands of the law.

Governor's assurance
From the governor of Lagos State, I want to assure Lagosians that Lagos state is a place to be. It is a save place to be and save place for everybody who wants to do clean business. Whenever you set your feet on the soil of Lagos, we don't want to query how you come or where you are coming from. The moment you are here, you are entitled to live in peace without any form of harassment or molestation and without any threat to your life because everything to make sure that you are safe here is on ground. So, Lagos state is a save place for people to be so far they are ready to be peaceful and law abiding.

Area boys
That they are government tools may really be an assumption that is really unfounded. Let me tell you that a lot of our people are quick to jump into conclusion when they see few people gathering especially at this election time, that they are Area boys. They will conclude rather erroneously that it is the government that is encouraging them and using them. I think everybody should be objective in his analysis before jumping into conclusion. Area boys have no place in Lagos state. We have been trying to rehabilitate them. And we are happy that they have been responding positively to the rehabilitation scheme. Don't forget that those you have condemned as Area boys are those participating in some of our developmental programmes and they have been responding well. And they have been showing that it is the society really that has pushed them to be on the street.

I think our own effort is to satisfy the basic needs of we, the Lagosians to live well and be happy to say that, yes, I am a human being. When you de-humanise a person, you can not turn round to say the man you have turned to something else is misbehaving. We always strive to give value to human beings. We make sure that everybody is respected and that everybody has the right and opportunity to live well and do well so that the society would be better for it. You know we have spent so much money on curative measure. The man you don't train today will become a liability tomorrow. We are putting everything in place in health, education, environment and in security so that every Lagosian will have opportunity to grow and become better Nigerian.

We have seen a Lagos government that is people oriented that wants to give everybody equal opportunity to progress. You can see that in doing that within the last one hundred days, we have commissioned two Housing Estates to make sure that everybody has opportunity to have a home on his head. We have done a lot of thing in education, health, security, environment so that every Lagosian will have a place to be and also have confidence that I am living in Lagos and living well.

Really, our approach is, develop the man, and you will have less to spend on armour tanks and all that. It is not that we are not doing that really, but we are saying that when we invest in a man to make sure that every man is an asset to the state and will not strive on drugs and will not strive on crime. So, we put our money on things that would allow the man on the street to develop and grow well.