Last Saturday, four landlords and their trainer, of a group of landlords who had gone jogging in the Isheri area of Lagos, bordering Ogun State were abducted by gunmen, while the others managed to escape by jumping into a nearby swamp. By noon yesterday, the media was awash with news that the abductors have made a demand of ₦1.2 Billion Naira for the release of the abducted landlords.
This is the latest in the cases of abductions and kidnappings that have bedeviled Lagos in recent times. Shattering the notion that have long existed about it being one of the safest states in Nigeria even as lately as two years back before this current Governor Ambode’s administration. It is widely known that there’d been kidnappings prior to this time, when Babatunde Raji Fashola was governor, but that he’d managed to coerce the press to put a lid on many of such cases, so as not to scare investors thronging into the state to plough their funds into the state for business, but I doubt he’d have been successful at it the way he was at the time had the cases been this rampant, frequent and of high profile individuals, as that of a traditional ruler in the Isolo area some weeks back.
Children haven’t been spared in this ugly trend, though the high profile one, that saw even the involvement of the governor, led to the recovery of the children and subsequent arrests of the masterminds of the dastardly act at the beginning of the year. Hence, Lagos which used to be safe is now wearing a new unenviable toga, as the new kidnap capital of Nigeria, while areas formerly notorious for it are beginning to heave huge sighs of relief, not necessarily because the measures put in place by the formerly affected state governments have worked, but possibly because those that were targets, usually parents and siblings of the rich who reside in such places, were relocated to safe havens like Lagos, besides the heat on their activities, even from members of the security apparati under whose cover the kidnappers had hitherto operated.
With fewer targets in those areas because of their activities, the next area of concentration shifted to the supposed safe haven, which may have being responsible for the increase in abduction cases in Lagos, which though had fewer or no cases in the past would leave not a few in doubt about the true situation on ground with the kind of security presence especially following and around the very wealthy and their children, and also white expatriates who move only in large convoys made up of security details, when they come to town. Only recently was this state of affairs shattered during Mark Zuckerberg’s visit to Lagos (See: http://madukovich.blogspot.com.ng/2016/08/when-mark-zuckerberg-came-to-town.html?m=1), where he trekked on the mainland, and jogged on the island to the amazement of Nigerians, enough for President Muhammadu Buhari to allude to it in his speech when the former visited him at the Villa. I had to Google what Mark’s security apparatus in the United States was like after his visit to Nigeria, and found that he was only second to one another in the amount expended on security on his person, family, home and business place, and it then dawned on me, that maybe if those who took pictures of him performing the feat he endured in Lagos, had but cast their periscope wider, they’d probably would’ve seen “Mark’s men” in the background.
Many Lagosians made jokes about how Mark couldn’t have repeated what he did in Lagos, elsewhere in Nigeria especially in the Niger Delta and not get abducted. It shocked them to see $55.2 Billion, the sixth richest man on earth be so down to earth and simple, apparently without fear for his life, in Nigeria’s fastest growing kidnap capital. I don’t know if Mark’s action played a role in bouying these landlords into doing what most of their peers can only do in their daydreams. But this isn’t to say that wealthy Nigerians don’t jog, in fact they do and frequently for that matter. One young and very wealthy car dealer actually does the Lekki-Ikoyi bridge every other morning, with body guards and patrol vehicles on his trail.
I fear now for this growing trend in Lagos, because we tend to exaggerate everything here, and if so, it means that whatever other parts of Nigeria have experienced in the name of kidnappings and abductions, will be child’s play to what is about to be unleashed on Lagos, if the security agencies rest on their oars and not proactively tackle this growing menace. And by this I mean, not by visible presence at every nook and cranny of Lagos roads where they more often than not harass citizens, for extortion purposes, rather involving the use of technology, which doesn’t only mean installation of cameras along Lagos roads for starters, but actually having personnel manning the several monitors real time, for which the deployment of the recently acquired drones can be speedily employed before boots go on ground for necessary recon.
No one needs tell the government of Lagos and security agencies, that the lax monitoring of the waterways has made that a preferable route over and above the roads, notorious for heavy build up of traffic even in off peak periods, for perpetrating crime in the state, hence the need to channel resources not only in acquiring the necessary equipment to combat waterway enabled crimes, but also the building of the capacities of the personnel (to prevent the kind of situation in Bayelsa State recently, where four soldiers drafted to the OPERATION CROCODILE SMILE task force, meant to halt the blowing up of oil and gas infrastructure in the region, drowned at sea) to be saddled with the responsibility of keeping our waterways safe and prevent their use as escape routes from crime locations on land. A stitch in time they say, saves nine.