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The Architecture of Fear

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Tunde Agbola

5. Public and private security organizations in Lagos

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Introduction

1All over the world, the incidence and intensity of crime have been increasing. Most countries of the world are, therefore, looking for additional ways of combating the rising wave and increasing sophistication of urban violence. A 1990 survey by the United Nations revealed that while most countries of the developed world spend an average of 2 to 3 per cent of their annual budgets on crime control, those of the developing world spend an average of 9 to 14 per cent. This is spent on increasing the size of the police force, equipping them, hiring new judges, and building new courts of law. Nigeria is no exception to this. The Nigerian Police Force has grown over the years, they are better equipped than before and the number of judges and judicial adjudicators has risen.

2This study started from the premise that the Nigerian Police has a statutory role in protecting the lives and properties of Lagos residents and, indeed, the whole of the nation, and has been adequately equipped to do so. However, with the frightening statistics that emerged from the findings of this study (see chapter four), we sought to know the impact of the Nigerian Police on crime prevention and their ability to provide timely intervention and control urban violence in metropolitan Lagos.

Police Intervention in Crime in Lagos

3From the research results of this study, the general perception of the role of the police in reducing crime in Lagos was not encouraging. Only 29 per cent of all households felt that the activities of the police were satisfactory (table 5.1). Almost all found fault with the activities of the police, except for about 10 per cent that could not assess the impact of the police.

Table 5.1 Assessment of police role in crime prevention

Table 5.1 Assessment of police role in crime prevention

Source : Fieldwork, 1996.

4Approximately 29.5 per cent of households claimed that the police had not done enough to curb urban violence in Lagos, while 22.2 per cent rated the police as being poorly equipped. Some households saw the police as unreliable (4.2 %) or corrupt and taking bribes to set culprits free (1.9 %). A small proportion of households (0.6 %) saw the police as timid, patrolling during periods of calm and disappearing during times of urban violence. To corroborate these assertions, although only 259 (21.9 %) of all households had called on the police in times of urban violence, only 25.48 per cent of this group had received prompt attention from the police, as high as 44.79 per cent obtained delayed responses, and 29.73 per cent did not get any reponse at all (table 5.2). Table 5.3 shows how households could contact the police during periods of crime. A reasonable proportion of households had telephones (35.05 %) or access to a neighbour’s telephone (5.57 %). However, many others either trekked to the police station (20.27 %), went by public transport (9.71 %) or went in a personal vehicle (4.81 %).

Table 5.2 Response of police to calls during urban violence

Table 5.2 Response of police to calls during urban violence

Source : Fieldwork, 1996.

Table 5.3 Method of contacting the police in times of urban violence.

Table 5.3 Method of contacting the police in times of urban violence.

Source : Fieldwork, 1996.

5Although the proportion of those who had access to a telephone was high, it was surprising that only 43.61 per cent of the group knew the correct number to dial to call the police in times of emergency. This could be due to a number of reasons such as : poor education of the public on the role and responsibilities of the police ; the poor image of the Nigerian Police, perceived by the public as inept, mostly corrupt, highly ineffective and inefficient, and without any sense of justice. These observations are corroborated by the fact that 24.6 per cent of all households did not bother to call the police during emergencies. Among the households that fell victim to urban violence of various types in Lagos, only 43.42 per cent reported the incident to the police (table 5.4). The other 56.58 per cent did not report their cases to the police for a number of reasons (table 5.5). The most prominent reason concerned the lack of confidence of the public in the police.

Table 5.4 Reporting of cases of urban violence to the police

Table 5.4 Reporting of cases of urban violence to the police

Source : Fieldwork, 1996

6As many as 54.26 per cent of households claimed that the police was corrupt while 23.25 per cent felt that the police would not do much. These two reasons, jointly reveal and confirm the poor confidence of the Nigerian public in the Nigerian police and accounted for the negative answers received from 77.51 per cent of all households. There are, however, other reasons such as the inability of victims to identify assailants (that is, there could be no immediate suspects) accounting for 10.08 per cent ; that the crime involved relations (1.55 %) and that property stolen was recovered (3.88 %). On the general assessment of police readiness to reduce crime, 33.19 % of households believed that police performance was satisfactory (table 5.6). A large proportion of these respondents based their assessment on the feeling that the crime rate had reduced (49.62 %).

Table 5.5 Reasons for not reporting incidence of urban violence to the police

Table 5.5 Reasons for not reporting incidence of urban violence to the police

Source : Fieldwork, 1996.

Table 5.6 Reasons for assessing the police as doing enough to reduce urban violence in Lagos

Table 5.6 Reasons for assessing the police as doing enough to reduce urban violence in Lagos

Source : Fieldwork, 1996.

7However, those who felt that the police were not doing enough pointed to issues such as the police taking bribes even from complainants (39.19 %), the police being ill-equipped (22.76 %), and the continuance of crime (13.53 %) (Table 5.7).

Table 5.7 Resons for assessing the police as not doing enough to reduce urban violence in Lagos

Table 5.7 Resons for assessing the police as not doing enough to reduce urban violence in Lagos

Source : Fieldwork, 1996

8Various suggestions have been made by the respondents on how to make the police more effective in combating urban violence in Lagos. These are reported in chapter six.

Private Security Companies

9The dereliction of duty and failure of the Nigerian police to protect the lives and properties of Nigerians, especially Lagos residents, made those who could afford to engage the services of private security organizations do so. Unfortunately, despite spirited efforts made to enlist the support of these organizations, most neither filled the questionnaires presented to them nor granted interviews. Our findings are based on the responses of the six security organizations that responded and filled the questionnaires given them. Three of these were on Lagos Island while three were on the mainland.

Nature of security services and operational strategies

10The three basic types of security services provided by private security agencies are : static guards ; dogs ; and protection of cash- in-transit. Static guards are hired security guards stationed at specific locations to keep vigil over the lives and properties of their clients. They normally operate 6 to 8 hour shifts, covering clients for 24 hours of the day. Static guards wear official uniforms which carry the label of their company. They may operate with or without dogs.

11The second type of service provided involves the use of dogs specially trained for security purposes. Usually, they are Alsatian dogs hired at agreed prices and for specified periods of time, day or night. To protect passers-by, the security companies meet the legal requirement by displaying signboards at the gates of premises they are protecting, carrying such warnings as, ‘Beware of Dogs’.

12Thirdly, the private security companies also operate cash-in- transit services which involves the transfer of large sums of money from one place to another within the metropolis, or from the metropolis to other locations in the country. This is usually done in security vans operated by highly experienced, skilled drivers who have all the necessary vehicle and driver particulars.

13Generally, the services rendered are limited to particular parts of Lagos. Although the companies interviewed revealed that they could operate anywhere in the metropolis, they expressed reluctance to operate in crime prone areas of Lagos such as Idimu, Agege and Festac Town. None of the companies visited was willing to disclose details of the location of their clients in the various areas of the metropolis, purely for security reasons. However, they all stressed that the ability to pay their charges and a linkage between clients and corporate bodies are two major requirements which a household contemplating hiring their services must possess. In any case, the average charge per annum depended on the volume of business involved in the contract. Security agencies were of the common opinion that households would be well advised to consult reputable security companies for advice before building their houses. This would enable landlords to assess what security devices they could afford to install. When asked to recommend what landlords should provide as security measures in their streets and neighbourhoods, they were quick to reply that they should make sure they employed reputable security companies.

Problems encountered in the discharge of security services

14The loss of life and the loss of property are the most serious problems facing security agencies in the course of their duties. For instance, Arksego Security Company lost two employees between 1987 and 1996. In various recorded incidents, the company also lost over N6 million (six million naira) in terms of stolen motor vehicles, motor cycles and other equipment and guard dogs killed by hoodlums. However, our investigation revealed that no client suffered a huge loss in terms of life and property. Security companies also experience financial problems. Many of their clients owe substantial arrears of rental charges. However, because of the long standing business association which these security companies have with such clients, they usually hesitate to discontinue their services. This has brought hardship to several security companies which have found it difficult to pay the salaries of their employees. This phenomenon has adverse implications for job performance and efficiency, because it has resulted in the collusion of field staff of security agencies with hoodlums, resulting in the successful carting away of clients’ properties worth millions of naira.

Level of effectiveness

15The problems facing security agencies in Lagos have adverse consequences on the effectiveness of the companies in curbing urban violence. Constant loss of staff and equipment seriously impair the capacity of a security agency, no matter how strong its organizational ; structure or capital base. Furthermore, the frequent laying-off of staff for misbehaviour and the lack of confidence of many clients in some employees of these companies have the combined effect of watering down the level of effectiveness of many security agencies. The private security companies acknowledge a cordial relationship with the Nigerian Police Force (NPF). In the course of our investigation, one member of staff of a security agency observed that :

We have had reason, particularly during emergencies to alert the police on security matters. They are our good friends, and we owe them a lot of gratitude. In fact, our cooperation with the police is very cordial.

16We can safely report that, on the whole, the private security agencies are effective. As long as the employees are adequately compensated in terms of prompt payment of salaries and other emoluments, and given the appropriate training and equipment to work with, there is no doubt that they will remain effective in the discharge of their daily duties.

Table des illustrations

Titre Table 5.1 Assessment of police role in crime prevention
Légende Source : Fieldwork, 1996.
URL http://books.openedition.org/ifra/docannexe/image/500/img-1.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 272k
Titre Table 5.2 Response of police to calls during urban violence
Légende Source : Fieldwork, 1996.
URL http://books.openedition.org/ifra/docannexe/image/500/img-2.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 92k
Titre Table 5.3 Method of contacting the police in times of urban violence.
Légende Source : Fieldwork, 1996.
URL http://books.openedition.org/ifra/docannexe/image/500/img-3.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 136k
Titre Table 5.4 Reporting of cases of urban violence to the police
Légende Source : Fieldwork, 1996
URL http://books.openedition.org/ifra/docannexe/image/500/img-4.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 72k
Titre Table 5.5 Reasons for not reporting incidence of urban violence to the police
Légende Source : Fieldwork, 1996.
URL http://books.openedition.org/ifra/docannexe/image/500/img-5.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 188k
Titre Table 5.6 Reasons for assessing the police as doing enough to reduce urban violence in Lagos
Légende Source : Fieldwork, 1996.
URL http://books.openedition.org/ifra/docannexe/image/500/img-6.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 184k
Titre Table 5.7 Resons for assessing the police as not doing enough to reduce urban violence in Lagos
Légende Source : Fieldwork, 1996
URL http://books.openedition.org/ifra/docannexe/image/500/img-7.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 212k

© IFRA-Nigeria, 1997

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