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The Architecture of Fear

Tunde Agbola

6. Summary, suggestions and policy recommendations

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1Various suggestions were made by the respondents on how to make metropolitan Lagos a better place to live and work, a Lagos free from daylight robbery, car snatching and the like, where the residents will sleep with both eyes closed (see highlighted text, p. 113). These suggestions include both the orthodox and the radical. They include, for example, how to make the police more effective in combating crime; although many still look towards the improvement of urban infrastructures to solve the problem of urban violence in Lagos.

Summary of Findings

2A summary of the major findings are highlighted below.

  1. The incidence of residential burglary is highest in the high density residential areas (26%). However, a disaggregation of crime into house types reveals that flats and duplexes have a higher incidence of residential burglary (30%), while tenement houses have the least (21%).

  2. The number of residents that have fallen victim to other forms of urban violence is highest in the high density residential areas (22.11%).

  3. Loss of life from crime is highest in the low density residential areas, accounting for about half of lives lost. Loss of property is highest in the medium density residential areas (35.97%). Estimated loss of property amounted to about N6.2 million.

  4. Concrete is the most common material used in wall construction, accounting for 63.3 per cent. The predominant wall height is between 2.50m and 2.99m (51.47%) but as much as 35.33 per cent of the walls are well above 3.0m. Broken bottles (41.60%) and barbed wire (including spiral and electrified) (17.74%) are the most common materials which are added to the top of the walls to deter criminals from scaling them.

  5. Burglary proofing (87.50%) is significant in fortifying buildings; it is used on windows, doors and verandas against criminal intrusion. Iron and steel account for 87.64 per cent of materials used for burglary proofing.

  6. About 23 per cent of the residential buildings have been re-modelled, mostly to incorporate burglary proofing (50.19%).

  7. An estimated N8.2 million was expended on security devices/measures by sampled households; individual amounts ranging from about M 10,000 to over N70.000 per household.

  8. Neighbourhood streets which end in cul de sacs experience the least disorderly behaviour (31:4%).

  9. The employment of nightwatchmen on streets is the most common (53.6%) security measure used to keep a neighbourhood safe. This is followed by the installation of gates on streets (50.3%). Other methods include the use of speed bumps (14.3%), warning signs on restriction of movement (6.1%) and security check points (5.6%).

  10. There is poor street lighting, as only 10.7 per cent of streets have functional street lights.

    1. In the neighbourhoods, about 38 per cent of households did not join any landlords’ association while as high as 81 per cent had no vigilante group.

    2. The feeling of insecurity in neighbourhoods decreased from the high density residential areas (20.4%), through the medium density (17.6%), to the low density residential areas (14.8%).

    3. While there was no marked difference between the feelings of insecurity and aggregate house-level security measures, there was a marked difference between the feeling of insecurity and the aggregate neighbourhood- level security measures put in place. Households felt more secure in neighbourhoods with high levels of security measures.

    4. The low density, high income/status areas such as Ikoyi, Victoria Island and Ikeja were perceived as the safest areas to live in, while the high density residential areas such as Ajegunle, Mushin and Oshodi were perceived as the most dangerous areas to live in.

    5. The police were rated as inept, inefficient and ineffective, and not doing much to reduce crime. Although Operation Sweep was adjudged by the respondents as having noticeable effects on crime reduction, the effects were seen as transient.

    6. When the police were called to intervene while a crime was being committed, only 25 per cent of the victims received prompt attention, about 45 per cent received a delayed response while, about 30 per cent received no response.

    7. Only about 43 per cent of cases of crime were reported to the police. The two most significant reasons for not reporting to the police were; that the police were corrupt (54.26%) and that not much would be done by the police anyway (23.25%).

    8. The private security agents render services with varying spatial coverage to reduce crime in Lagos. They are, however, handicapped by constraints of finance, personnel and equipment. Many of their clients have a backlog of uncleared debts, and this indirectly waters down their effectiveness.

Suggestions by Respondents for Reducing Urban Violence

3Reducing urban violence is a major preoccupation of residents of Lagos. The scourge of violence has been costly to them in all spheres. Amazingly, residents have sought to tackle it on all fronts, which shows that they understand both the remote and the immediate causes of urban violence. For example, to reduce urban violence in Lagos, a large proportion of households believed that the provision of gainful employment is essential (31.8%) (table 6.1). The proportion of those who held this view was about three times more than those who made the second suggestion for the need for regular police patrols (13.2%). It implies that if citizens are well employed, there is a high probability that the incidence of crime would be reduced. Even among those households that made the second suggestion, the issue of the provision of jobs still ranked very high (second).

4However, the fact that five of the suggestions were directed at the police shows the significance of the police in crime prevention. These five suggestions on the police were given as first optional suggestions by approximately 37 per cent of all households. Other households suggested the use of burglary proofing, provision of street lights, and the use of security guards in every house.

Attributes of Cities Fit to Live in
As a centre of opportunities, the city will continue to attract people. To make a city attractive, there should be care for contrasts. The characteristics of a good city, full of opportunities, can be summed up as follows:

  • Good cities are liveable places, where growing old can be a pleasurable experience, where children can live and learn.

  • Good cities incorporate nature in simple and complex forms. This contributes to balanced urban climates, wildlife and habitats. Nature in cities can contribute to food production, the recycling of organic waste, education and recreation.

  • In good cities, a lot of activity is going on. There is continuous and multiple use of space.

  • Good cities are safe. Pedestrians and cyclists are given priority. Women, children and handicapped people can get around easily.

  • Good cities are clean and healthy. They have good air, water, and healthy buildings in which it is pleasant to stay. They are built with materials that last and give a ‘patina’ to the city.

  • Good cities combine centralized infrastructure with decentralized systems. Management of flows of water, materials and energy is optimal and attuned to natural life cycles.

  • Good cities offer valuable experiences. Activities, movement and flow are visible. This enhances the emotional, behavioural and cognitive growth of citizens and facilitates their involvement with urban life and the environment.

  • Good cities have a past and a future, identifiable in their built form as well as in their social and cultural life.
    Source: T. Deelstra, Cities Fit to Live, Nature & Resources, 32 (2): 9.

Table 6.1 Suggestions to reduce urban violence in Lagos

Table 6.1 Suggestions to reduce urban violence in Lagos

Table 6.1 cont’d

Table 6.1 cont’d

Source: Fieldwork, 1996.

Survival in Dangerous Neighbourhoods
Violent crime, ail over the world, is increasing on a daily basis. Since violence is no fun for the victim, everybody has a strong desire to be safe. This is one reason why citizens demand more police officers on the streets, stiffer prison sentences for offenders, acquisition of guns for self defence and a host of other policy strategies they believe will reduce the wave of crime. Despite the bad news that crime abounds, there is no need to despair, as there are several ways people can cope in dangerous neighbourhoods. Let’s examine these ways.

  1. Always try and maintain a positive attitude, do not feed your mind with fear of bad things that might happen because this causes unnecessary tension and panic.

  2. Always mind your own business, do not be curious about what your neighbours do for a living.

  3. Avoid keeping late nights and avoid street areas that are considered dangerous.

  4. Avoid carrying a large amount of money, or exhibiting jewelry, gold rings or expensive watches; walk and travel normally showing no fear.

  5. In case you are a victim of robbery:

  1. Remain calm so as not to make the thief nervous.

  2. Be ready to hand over what the thief wants. If you delay, the danger increases.

  3. Do not fix your eyes on the robbers as though you want to identify them.

  4. In case of random shooting, throw yourself on the ground; clothes can be cleaned afterwards.

Source: The Watchtower, 1995. When will fear end? 116 (16): 3-6.

5Since the public expect a better police force to protect their lives and property, suggestions were made on how to make them more responsive to crime prevention (table 6.2). Some of the suggestions include the need to increase the numerical strength of the police (22.2%), and the need to make the police honest, serious and committed to crime prevention (16.5%). It was also suggested that the police needed to be motivated through better conditions of service, including a good insurance policy (11.0%). Furthermore, the police need to improve on their surveillance of Lagos metropolis (8.9%).

Table 6.2 Suggestions to improve police services to reduce crime in Lagos

Table 6.2 Suggestions to improve police services to reduce crime in Lagos

Source: Fieldwork, 1996.

6The respondents were of the opinion that if the police force could be made to function effectively in combating crime through the current transient Operation Sweep within the last one year, then a rejuvenated police force could be made responsive enough to combat urban violence at all times. Operation Sweep is one of the few sustained deliberate efforts of the police to sweep out of Lagos all undesirable elements. It is a forceful patrol of the city with the sole aim of arresting and prosecuting suspected criminals in Lagos. Respondents, however, expressed mixed feelings about its operations. More than half of the people of Lagos approved of the force (table 6.3). Another 7.1 per cent observed that it has helped to reduce crime in Lagos. However, although 17.0 per cent viewed the operation as a temporary measure to curb urban violence, they felt that much is still needed to be done to make it achieve its objectives. A small fraction of households felt that the operation should be stopped (4.0%). Some households even claimed that some of the armed robbers in Lagos are police/soldiers, since such robbers put on police or military uniforms to rob innocent citizens (0.3%). Others felt that the major shortfall of the operation was the indiscriminate arrest of innocent citizens (1.9%).

Table 6.3 Assessment of the intermittent crack-down on crime in Lagos — Operation Sweep

Table 6.3 Assessment of the intermittent crack-down on crime in Lagos — Operation Sweep

Source: Fieldwork, 1996.


7The suggestions by the residents of Lagos provide vital citizen participatory inputs into solving the problems of crime in a city where they are the sufferers. Many of these suggestions are central to reducing the spate of urban violence in Lagos. Consequent on the above suggestions and based on the findings of this study, the following policy recommendations are made.

  1. The emergence of gates on residential streets is a response to inefficient design of residential areas by planners. Too many outlets are provided in residential areas ostensibly to improve accessibility. Such outlets can provide routes for escaping criminals. Planners and urban designers should, therefore, endeavour to be security conscious in the planning and design of residential neighbourhoods while keeping general environmental health and accessibility in view. This is the most important recommendation of this study.

  2. One major finding in this study is that residents felt more secure in residential neighbourhoods where security measures were good. Such measures were usually the outcome of concerted efforts by residents to reduce crime in their neighbourhoods. Neighbourhood associations should be encouraged while residents should be more security conscious and organize vigilante groups. While the impersonal characteristics of Lagos might be a hindrance to the organization of vigilante groups, landlords’ associations could engage the services of night guards/security agents for their neighbourhoods.

  3. Most other recommendations are subsidiary to the security measures provided by the police. The influence of the police in crime prevention in Lagos (except for Operation Sweep) is currently minimal, if it exists at all.

8Many police patrol teams do not get to some parts of the metropolis, and in some cases, they only pass by the areas occasionally. Police patrols are usually concentrated along the major roads to the neglect of most residential neighbourhoods. It is, therefore, recommended that the numerical strength of the police should be increased and they should be adequately provided with modem crime-fighting equipment to match and outmanoeuvre criminals. The police should also increase its fleet of patrol vehicles and personnel to expand its patrol coverage.

9The government should put crime prevention on its priority list and allocate sufficient funds for this. The morale of the police should be improved by providing better conditions of service. Only then will the police be able to redeem their public image by reducing corruption, collusion with armed robbers and open and flagrant extortion of money from the public, especially motorists.

Table des illustrations

Titre Table 6.1 Suggestions to reduce urban violence in Lagos
Fichier image/jpeg, 292k
Titre Table 6.1 cont’d
Légende Source: Fieldwork, 1996.
Fichier image/jpeg, 284k
Titre Table 6.2 Suggestions to improve police services to reduce crime in Lagos
Légende Source: Fieldwork, 1996.
Fichier image/jpeg, 164k
Titre Table 6.3 Assessment of the intermittent crack-down on crime in Lagos — Operation Sweep
Légende Source: Fieldwork, 1996.
Fichier image/jpeg, 225k

© IFRA-Nigeria, 1997

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