By Tayo Ogunbiyi
Lagos, being the commercial nerve centre of Nigeria, and indeed West Africa, has enormous security challenges bearing in mind its estimated 18 million population, its ports and waterways, its border with Benin Republic (which makes it accessible to international robbers, smuggling, child/human trafficking) as well as its numerous banks, industries, companies, and other commercial enterprises. With this peculiar status, the rate of crime in Lagos, over the years, has been relatively higher than those of other parts of the country. At its inception, the Babatunde Raji Fashola [SAN] Administration, reinforced its commitment to security by making it an integral part of its Ten-Point Agenda [TPA]. Consequently, a security committee comprising 31 members, from private and public sectors, with a former Inspector General of Police, Alhaji Musiliu Smith, as Chairman, was inaugurated on 11 June, 2007 with a mandate to determine the causes and effects of small arms proliferation in the state, proffer solutions to the spate of violent armed robbery attacks on innocent citizens and institutions, eradicate the menace of area boys, among others.
The Committee, subsequently, made its recommendations to government which in turn in its white paper pledged to ensure the success of efforts by the State Police Command to recover illegally acquired arms, liaise with the Inspector General of Police on the confiscation and public destruction of such arms, among others. To this end, the administration evolved a comprehensive security initiative known as the Safe City Project which resulted in the establishment of the Lagos State Security and Equipment Trust Fund- a public-private partnership framework for mobilizing and providing equipment and resources for effective operations of security agencies.
Conscious of the need to adopt modern methods in the fight against crime, the State Government conceived yet another comprehensive security programme, whereby a fixed wireless monitoring device will provide a Central Security Surveillance [CSS] of the State from a command post with the aid of surveillance cameras. The whole of Lagos can be electronically monitored through these cameras [Close Circuit Cameras CCTV] in order to prevent violent crimes, protect life and property and to be able to prevent crisis and to manage crime at any location in the state. In a situation where any social group is planning to stage a protest which could lead to a breakdown of law and order, the Nigerian Police can be alerted on this development and then a detachment of policemen could take charge of the situation. The technology of the security surveillance infrastructure, comprising surveillance cameras, sensors and tracking device to function through a network of facility that enables the collection of data across the State in a fixed wireless device. The CCTV cameras have the ability to recall events in real time at an accurate date and provide information that may lead to the detection and prosecution of criminal activities. The Cameras will be placed in sensitive parts in the State such as, banks, schools [to monitor crime rates in tertiary institution, strategic roads/junctions in the State, government buildings, etc. and also, discreetly, installed in all dark spots, while the control room will be in contact with the crack team of police patrols all over Lagos. It will definitely help checkmate crime in the state and also guarantee safety of life and property. It is estimated that 10,000 Lagos State Wireless Security Surveillance cameras would be needed for effective surveillance.
The State Government initially launched about 1,500 security cameras on the Island with the Central Security financed through the Security Trust Fund. Aside its primary purpose of complementing the various security initiatives of the state government, the system offers employment opportunities to young graduates to work at the command centres in various capacities.
In furtherance of the need to secure the life and properties of Lagosians, the State Government recently demonstrated the workings of the live feeds from the 1200 security cameras already deployed across the state, with the interaction of Governor Babatunde Fashola (SAN) with notable pressmen at the Command Centre, where he promised that more cameras would be deployed to combat crime in the state. According to Governor Fashola, the demonstration was meant to demonstrate the commitment of his administration to the Safer City project. He said: œnow we have moved from a zero camera state to about 1200 Camera State. How significant that is, some numbers would show us. We are now in a position where we are now on one camera to about 10 sq kilometres, so we are far behind other cities like New York and London, where they range between 200 and 450 cameras per Sq km. but we have moved from 0 over 4000 Sq. kilometres and we have reduced that distance significantly”.
Governor Fashola further explained that it is critical to centre consideration on the fact that the Camera Control security centre is not a one event intention but a constant and continual accomplishment of many small solutions that has brought the state this far. He added that it is a big web that started first with the Security Trust Fund which provided equipment, vehicles, stuffs and was followed by street signage because it was discovered that while the Police could move they could not identify streets.
It is noteworthy to state that the investment drive of the Fashola Administration is an integral part of its security initiatives. For one, the various donations into the Security Trust Fund could not be seen as the end in itself but just a part of the quest to guarantee safety of life and properties. The solution to security problems are multi-faceted, as such the provision of equipment and other vital logistics alone cannot bring about the total reduction in criminal activities in the state. This explains why a balance is being struck in terms of opportunities and options for those who might have been driven into crime by economic hardships through the creation of an enabling environment that is attractive to investment. Thus, the more job opportunities that are created courtesy through the investment flow into the state, the better for the overall quest for the reduction of crime in the state.
It should, however, be stated that an effective Public security cannot be achieved without the active involvement, participation and support of every segment of the society because public security is the responsibility of all individuals, groups, communities, organisations and other units that constitute the state. It is a known fact that despite the magnitude of government investment in public security, there are still herculean challenges that government™s resources alone cannot tackle. In as much as everyone in a state pursues varied interests, the pursuit of public security should, nevertheless, be the common goal of all. The involvement and participation of individuals and non-governmental actors in issues of public security is, therefore, a necessity for the actualisation of a secure society.
•Ogunbiyi is of the Features Unit, Ministry of Information & Strategy, Alausa, Ikeja
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