Tuesday, April 20, 2021

Robbers everywhere, no police in sight: Lagos residents recount brazen attacks of metro thieves

Instead of finding reprieve in the wake of #EndSARS, Lagosians are witnessing violent and petty crimes spiral out of control.

and • January 27, 2021
Buhari and Sanwo-Olu
Buhari and Sanwo-Olu

Recent armed robberies in Nigeria’s commercial hub, Lagos, have left many living in fear as they go about their daily activities. 

According to crime statistics by the National Bureau of Statistics, 125,790 crimes were reported in 2016. Lagos has the highest percentage share of total cases reported with 36.08 per cent and 45,385 cases recorded. The death penalty serves as a sanction for those convicted of armed robbery in the country. 

In recent months, media reports and social media posts suggest there has been an uptick in crime rates leaving many Nigerians wondering if policemen are still around. Others are saying that the current situation is as a result of the #EndSARS protests (that started last October as a campaign against police brutality including extrajudicial killing, rape, and extortion), resulting in the disbandment of the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) on October 11, 2020. 

During the protests, policemen and their stations were attacked as other public and private properties were looted and vandalised by hoodlums. 

In the aftermath, many policemen withdrew from Lagos streets likely for fear of further attacks on them. Since that time, Nigerians have complained of the rising crime rate in Lagos. Besides the perceived withdrawn mood of the police, the rising rate of unemployment (from 8.9 per cent in 2014 to 29.7 per cent in 2018) is a cause for concern. 

Social media is replete with gory experiences of armed robberies as some people claimed armed robbery has reached an epidemic level in the state, increasing the sense of insecurity and adversely affecting people’s daily commute. 

Within one year, between December 2015 and November 2016, the Lagos State Police Command arrested 472 armed robbers and recovered 390 arms and 16,034 rounds of ammunition. 

Robbers everywhere, no police to stop them?  

Samson Adeniji could hardly sleep the night before he was killed. He was filled with hope and excitement as he looked forward to a job interview. He had woken up before 5:00 a.m. and less than 30 minutes later his world ended. 

Looking dapper, he set out in a black-and-white corporate attire. He did not make it to the job interview. Around 5:30 am, Mr. Adeniji’s hope and excitement disappeared. He lay still on the ground, helpless and lifeless.

“The deceased lived in Rogo in the Iju area and had set out for an interview around 5:30 a.m. on a Monday morning. He was to be picked up at Iju/Shaga bus-stop by his pastor,” Segun Akinleye, chairman of an associate of residents in the area Mr. Adeniji lived, told Peoples Gazette. 

Mr. Adeniji did not make it to the bus stop. Several calls by his pastor could not summon him. The agitated pastor made several calls to Mr. Adeniji’s phone. There was no response. 

“But later (he) got a response from one of the robbers (who had attacked Adeniji,” said Mr. Akinleye. “The robber said in the Yoruba language, ‘Better go and pick him up at the spot where we killed him.’”

Following the tragic news, the younger brother of the deceased, Adebayo Adeniji, reported the incident at Red House police station close to Rogo but he was referred to the State Criminal Investigation Department (SCID), Panti, Yaba, Lagos. 

Social media commentary lamented how Adeniji’s death underscored the crude savagery inflicted by rising cases of armed robbery in Lagos.

A Facebook user, Dim Stanley, while commenting on a robbery, recounted an ordeal of his own. 

“This is how Nigeria stands as of now. It happens daily both day and night,” he said. “I was a victim last December. They pointed a gun at me, asked me to bring my phone or they’d shoot me.”  

Another victim, Umunna Okens, was also attacked by robbers last December in Okoko close to Planet Hotel. 

“They are four in number. When they stopped me, they called me ‘guy man’ and warned that if I really valued my life, I should cooperate with them,” Mr. Okens recalled. That ‘cooperation’ would mean the victim should willingly let go of any possessions on him. 

Continuing his narration, he stated, “They collected my bag, phone, and necklace. But they forgot that street is not a playground.” Fortunately, he got his belongings back. 

“I recognised two of them. I called one of the robbers’ elder brother. I urged him to tell his brother to return everything they collected from me within 24 hours.” 

Some of the victims disclosed that the presence of policemen in the robbery hotspot could have prevented many of the crimes. 

Seyifumi Michael, a student at Yabatech, was not that fortunate. 

He told the Gazette: “In the first week of January, I was on my way back from work when I was approached by two young guys who requested that I hand over my phone to them. They took away my phone and my wallet. There was no policeman was in sight.” 

Continuing, he said, “I had to walk home that evening because my ATM card was in the wallet. I didn’t go to the police station because I felt going there would be a waste of time and energy.” 

Some Lagos residents pointed to the Agege-Abule axis as robbers’ paradise. Folorunsho Ajewole was attacked in that area. 

He narrated to the Gazette: “I was robbed on my way back from a church service by these boys that regularly approach people on the Agege-Abule Egba axis. Those boys always approach people to beg for money in a very rude and crude manner.” 

On the day he was attacked and robbed, Mr. Ajewole had thought it was business as usual. He was wrong. 

“I was thinking it was the usual thing not until after these two guys approached me and pulled out a dagger and requested that I hand over my phone to them,” he said. 

An upset Mr. Ajewole said further, “Agege and Abule-Egba roads are filed with these jobless guys who will approach you rudely to intimidate you and ask you for money.”

Apart from armed robbery, pickpocketing, burglary, and mugging are reportedly on the rise. 

At Fagba Junction, a young lady’s bag was snatched as she tried to cross the road. According to her, the bag contained her mobile phone, toiletries, among other things. 

The widely suspected apathy of the Nigerian police to reports of crime following the #EndSARS protests was displayed when the Gazette contacted the police command. 

Repeated efforts to speak with the Lagos Police Public Relations Officer, SP Olumuyiwa Adejobi, on the rising crime rates yielded no positive result as he did not respond to phone calls and messages, saying “Okay” in a text message reply to a slew of questions. 

Hapless authorities 

The Lagos government, like other state governments, is hapless as it has no control over any armed security agencies. This was illustrated when Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu watched helplessly as vandals and looters took over Lagos metropolis in the aftermath of the October protests. 

The Lagos Neighbourhood Watch agents have not been seen stepping up to the plate. Nobody expected them to since they are unarmed.  

Previously, Lagosians slept with one eye closed, a situation that has become even more precarious with recent spate of armed robbery. 

Residents now feel they are exposing themselves to a peril whenever they go to bed or walk on the street, said criminal defence attorney Eric Okhia.

’’Lagos has long been a haven for criminals but we learnt only of recent that it could be worse’’ Mr. Okhia said. ’’ It is a vote of no confidence when citizens feel they cannot get security from their own government.”

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