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Urban Violence in Africa

Eghosa E. Osaghae
Ismaila Touré
N’Guessan Kouamé
et al.

Urban violence in Lagos

Jinmi Adisa

Full text

1. Conceptual Overview

1Sociological literature establishes a clear link between modernization and increasing levels of criminality (Galbraith, 1958). Specific forms of criminal behaviour such as property theft, armed robbery and burglary are associated with increasing affluence and improved technology, which are by-products of structural changes associated with industrial productivity and concomitant value transformation (Odetola, 1980/81; Clinard and Abbot, 1993; Herbert, 1977; and Brantingham and Brantingham, 1980). Such changes have important impact on urban locations, which are invariably the usual locus of such developments. ‘Cities represent an enormous concentration of capital assets invested by a multiplicity of builders, some officially recognized, but increasingly operating outside existing norms and regulations’ (Hardoy, 1993).

2It is hardly surprising, therefore, that violence has generally been rampant in most cities of the world. ‘From Los Angeles to New Delhi’, observes (Hasan, 1993) ‘urban crime statistics reveal that not only is the incidence of violence becoming more frequent, but the nature of those crimes more heinous’. The situation is very depressing in developing countries where the rapid growth of unplanned cities and population pressure force impoverished inhabitants to live in crammed spaces, undermining social relations and increasing the propensity for conflict and violence. This disorderly growth of urban areas is aggravated by poverty, the breakdown of traditional value structures and social norms, psychological disorientation, child abuse, street trading, unemployment and violence for example, in television programmes.

3Group differentials entrench this capacity for violence as it integrates into a system of social relations whereby the incidence of violence affects all segments of society but has greater impact on the poor. This is particularly the case in Nigeria where public policy encourages and even inspires the cycle of violent activity. Military governments set aside democratic dispensations at will and rule by fiat. Thereafter, the government itself not only often disregards its own laws, but enacts decrees that place its actions above the law, thus undermining the ‘rule of law’.

4Law enforcement agencies are relatively inefficient, ill-equipped and corrupt, while policies designed to ensure public safety are apparently targeted at low income groups. The judiciary is hampered by political considerations and, in an increasingly materialistic society, legal aid is expensive. In this setting, the criminal justice system, even when it works, offers little succour to the poor. Rebellion against these conditions takes the form of endemic violence as the rhetoric of social warfare is complemented by the increasingly polarized social relationships in the harsh exposed environment of the city ‘where poverty, political and social exclusion and economic deprivation are all working against the solidarity that would enable city inhabitants to live together peacefully despite their conflicts’(Pinheiro, 1993).

5The case of Lagos provides an excellent illustration of the pattern of urban violence. Lagos is a city of both political and commercial importance, and its patterns of growth and development emphasized its strategic importance. Violence is then established as the logical corollary of this process of development and situated within the national perspective. The monograph examines different categories of violence and identifies and explores the most important ones. Finally, it probes the failure of public safety measures in this regard and suggests measures and social policies that can facilitate control of the incidence of urban violence.

2. Metropolitan Lagos in National Perspective

6Metropolitan Lagos occupies a very strategic position in Nigeria. Located on the coast, the metropolis is situated within Lagos State, in the southwest corner of the country, in the equatorial rain forest (map 1). Lagos metropolis is Nigeria’s most populous city. It occupies a geographical region of about 1,800 square kilometres and is inhabited by more than 5 million people. (Bolade, 1993). The city has the country’s premier ports and serves as its commercial, political and industrial hub. By the early 1970s it was estimated that metropolitan Lagos had 38 per cent of all the industrial establishments in Nigeria, offered 45 per cent of all industrial employment and produced over 50 per cent of total industrial output (Makinwa-Adebusoye, 1984). The consolidation of the Lagos-Otta industrial axis in the late 1970s and 1980s, gave further impetus to this development. Thus a study in the early 1980s observed that metropolitan Lagos accounted for 60 per cent of the value-added to production in the whole country (Oyekanmi, 1982).

Map 1. Lagos in the National Setting

7The city’s position was enhanced by its dual status as the political capital of Lagos State and of Nigeria as a whole. The national seat of government was shifted to Abuja in December, 1991; but Lagos retains significant political status. Almost all government agencies continue to maintain a strong presence there and the metropolis remains the headquarters of the major trading and financial concerns, the stock exchange, foreign legations, banks and security agencies; the implicit suggestion is that Abuja is simply a bureaucratic contraption of political convenience, a pretender to power.

8The predominance of Lagos can be traced to its allure. It is perceived as ‘Camelot’s territory’, a land of opportunities where fortunes are easily made. The average Lagosian has pretensions to this Cinderella syndrome. He poses as being brisk, smart and able, always seeking to manipulate to his own advantage and inclined to take risks. The general refrain is Eko for show, which implies that in Lagos one must be some sort of exhibitionist – You have to advertise. The pose is a commercial commodity. It attracts migrants. Everyday more and more rural people move into Lagos in search of the good life. In the 1970s and 80s which witnessed severe economic depression and political instability in neighbouring west and central African states, such as Ghana, Niger and Chad, the wave of rural migration to Lagos was supplemented by an influx of refugees from these countries. The consequence is that Lagos in general has experienced an unprecedented growth rate.

9To appreciate the significance of this phenomenon, it is best to situate it in the overall national context. The past five decades were a period of rapid urbanization in Nigeria. From 1963-1980, the overall growth rate of population was estimated at 2.5 per cent while the corresponding growth rate of the urban population was in the neighbourhood of 5 per cent - double the corresponding overall rate of the total population. The urban population estimates for 1963 were about 19.2 per cent of the total population, while estimates for 1980, put urban population at 27 per cent. The case of Lagos was unique, as no city grew as fast as the metropolis.

10The population of Lagos almost trebled in the decade preceding 1963, rising from 267,407 in 1953 to 662,246 in 1963. Moreover, the estimated population of greater Lagos rose from 1.14 million in 1963 to 3.55 million in 1976 and 4,068,578 in 1982 (Mabogunje, 1961, 1968; Aina and Salau, 1992). The 1991 census figures, which were greeted with reservation in several quarters, put current estimates at over 5 million. Early estimates by the National Population Commission had given Lagos a population of 5.84 million for 1985, leading analysts to the view, that given an annual growth of 10 per cent, the population of Lagos could be expected to reach 12 million by 2000 AD (Mabogunje, 1961, 1968; Aina and Salau, 1992). The 1991 census figures considerably reduces this expectation, but still confirms the view (Makinwa and Adebisoye, 1984: 112) that ‘Lagos heads Nigeria’s urban explosion’.

3. Growth and Pattern of Development: The social setting

11Lagos grew in phases, but its physical and spatial features as it developed reflected the varied economic and political roles that the area was called upon to play (Mabogunje, 1961; Awomotu, 1991; Adalemo, 1975; Aderibigbe, 1975). The area of Lagos began as a non-urban settlement occupied by farmers and fishermen. At this time, it was a colonial backwater, a sandy insignificant island far removed from the centres of power in the Nigerian hinterland. Lagos started as an Awori settlement and the first large group of people settled in Isheri, from where they dispersed to other locations such as Ebute-Meta and later Iddo Island, which they perceived as more secure. The first farmers and fishermen were itinerant; their habitation assumed a more permanent character when they moved across the Lagos Lagoon, to the area we now call Lagos Island. The settlement was known as Oko (the Yoruba word for ‘farm’) which was later corrupted to Eko, as the city is now fondly called by its inhabitants. When the Portuguese arrived in the 17th century, they christened the settlement Lagos.

12Subsequently, as Mabogunje (1961) has shown, the city grew in three main phases. The first phase of growth took place between 1851 and 1900, the early colonial period; the second phase, between 1901-1950, was a period of rapid growth; the third phase, the post-1951 period, has been one of metropolitan explosion. In 1851, the British who had arrived originally as traders and merchants, waded directly into the internal politics of Lagos, deposing the ruling King Kosoko and setting in motion the process of colonization. By then, the activities of foreign traders had established the commercial importance of Lagos, and given the settlement a more critical role in the history of politics within Yorubaland. Colonialism consolidated its pivotal role in Nigerian history and politics. Within this period, population changes began to assume momentum, largely as a result of immigration, rising from 25,518 in 1871 to approximately 40,000 in 1901. In the second phase, between 1901 and 1950, Lagos experienced a phenomenal rise in population rate and areal expansion. Three major factors that contributed to this development were commerce, increased activities at the seaports, and the growth of industries, which attracted people from various other parts of the country. The older part of the city – Lagos Island – experienced intense development and became overcrowded. New neighbourhoods such as Yaba, Apapa and Ikoyi were created to join Ebute-Meta.

Map 2. The Lagos Metropolitan Area

Source: E. Igah, 1994.

13The third phase was the post-1951 period of metropolitan explosion. Immigration was the principal factor behind this tendency, and it was and still is a logical consequence of the prime commercial profile of the city and the concentration of industries there. Industrial estates such as Apapa, Mushin, Ikeja, Yaba and Ebute-Meta, attracted a rapid influx of people seeking employment. Moreover, as political independence drew nearer, the status of the city was further enhanced, bringing in more and more people. By 1963, when Nigeria became a republic, Lagos had expanded past the limits of its municipal boundaries. The city grew from 65 square kilometres in 1960 to 1,140 square kilometres in 1985, thereby occupying one-third of the total land area of Lagos State. Current patterns of development are an intensification of this early pattern. The forces of industrialization and immigration have become more pronounced as catalytic agents. The city is growing in three main directions. The dominant one is the North-South axis along the Ikeja plains and stretching westward from Ikeja, Agege, Ikorodu Road, along the Abeokuta Road and the Lagos-Ibadan Expressway. The second wave of development, is the Western axis, which follows the alignment of the Lagos-Badagry Expressway, especially the Ojo municipality. The third follows the Eastern coastal plains along the Lagos-Badagry Expressway.

14The metropolitan explosion in which the city of Lagos engulfed its smaller neighbours created several problems. It established a demand for urban services which could not be accommodated by existing capacities and frameworks. The provision of housing, water, electricity, transport facilities, refuse and sewage disposal became problematic, engendering the degradation of several neighbourhoods. Slum areas sprang into existence and continued to grow as overcrowded tenements led to a further desecration of the environment. Employment opportunities contracted, as the demands for skilled labor far outstripped supply. Jobless youths drifted into criminal activities as the social conditions of the city with its ever-increasing pressure of ‘mass’ in limited space accentuated and reflected the contemporary decay of urban life, where crime and violence continued to grow rapidly.

SOURCE". ADELEMO (1981), KOMBS 0989) and MABOGUNJE (1968).

Map 3. The Growth of Metropolitan Lagos

4. Violence and Crime in Lagos

  • 1 Personal interview, Lagos, 29 August, 1994.

15Rampant crime became a serious problem in Nigeria after the civil war of 1967-70. Consequently, in the two-and-half decades that have followed, concern about public safety has became an overriding concern among Nigerian citizens. The total crimes reported to the police in 1980 was 245,972; the figure rose to 325,073 in 1983 (table 1). Since then, it has stabilized, falling to 297,060 in 1986 (table 2); 279,058 in 1987; and 325,061 in 1989. The available figure for the first half of 1990 was 85,602 (table 3). This figure reflects those crimes that have been reported to the police. Public concern derives from the knowledge that approximately 50 per cent of the offences go unreported. Police sources admit this anomaly. The reality’, commented an Assistant Police Commissioner at the Force Headquarters in Lagos, ‘is that the Nigerian public harbour strong delusions about the police. They do not see the force as a friend. If a culprit is apprehended and makes restitution they see no need to go to the police. Even where the contrary is the case, they would only go to the police as a last resort. Nigerians do not like the costs or bother of litigation. Even after prosecution has commenced they often want to drop the case suggesting that they feel they made a mistake in calling police attention in the first place. A large number of offences – I would put the figure at half of the total – go unreported.’1

  • 2 See Daily Champion, 14 December 1988; and Nigerian Tribune, 17 October 1988.

16This view is substantiated by the edge of hysteria that one notices in newspaper reports. On March 28, 1970, The Nigerian Tribune was extremely adamant about the need for public authorities to take adequate measures to ‘save us (Nigerian citizens) from the rule of hoodlums’. When, in response the Federal Government promulgated Decree No.47 of 1970, legalizing the public execution of robbers, The Express heralded it as a momentous decision. However, the tension precipitated by crime and violence nationwide did not abate, and in 1988 public concern about the rising crime wave motivated the Armed Forces Ruling Council (then, the nation’s highest legislative body) to set up a special six-man committee under Admiral Nyako, to find ways of ensuring ‘the safety of lives and property of Nigerians’.2

  • 3 October 31- 6 November 1988.

17In this respect, a feature article in West Africa3 noted that ‘with most people sleeping these days with one eye open and an ear cocked for the faintest scratch at the door, it is not surprising that the new initiative has elicited a lukewarm response from a dispirited citizenry’. The extent to which this skepticism was justified is reflected in a Sunday Times Magazine feature in April 26th, 1992 which intimated that no worthwhile result had been achieved by the work of the Nyako Committee. ‘Almost two decades since the promulgation of the first armed robbery Decree, No.47 of 1970, robbers are back in full force with new vigour’. The situation marred Nigeria’s diplomatic image and scared investors such that in 1993, the then Head of State, General Ibrahim Babangida admitted, while receiving in audience the outgoing Australian High Commissioner to Nigeria, that his administration was conscious of the damage this lack of security was causing to the country’s corporate image. He pledged his dedication to provide security to all foreign nationals and the country as a whole, and reiterated that measures were being taken to beef up the security of life and property, particularly in crime-prone districts like Lagos.

Table 1. Crime Report for Nigeria by States (1980)

Table 1. Crime Report for Nigeria by States (1980)

Source: Nigeria Annual Police Report, 1980.

Table 2. Comparative Crime Statistics – 1985 and 1986

Table 2. Comparative Crime Statistics – 1985 and 1986

Source: Dansada. 1987 Journal of the Nigerian Police Force. 14.

  • 4 Personal interview, 20 September 1994. The figures which show the Bendel rating which the Chief Sup (...)

18Babangida’s declaration directed attention to two main factors: First, that urban population concentration provided the setting for the bulk of violent activity, a view echoed in a Daily Times editorial of November 13, 1992. Second, that Lagos was the prime location of intense activity, the crime capital of the country. Official crime statistics attest to this fact. The figures for 1980 show that Lagos accounted for 38,615 cases reported to the police, representing approximately 15.7 per cent of total crime in the country (table 1). The figure clearly exceeds the national state average of 12,946 crimes by 198 per cent. Moreover, since crime is regarded globally as primarily an urban problem and since Lagos metropolis clearly dominates Lagos state, it is certain that metropolitan Lagos accounts for a substantial proportion of the figure. Crime statistics for the first half of 1987 (January-June), shown in table 4 repeat the same trend. Lagos State accounted for 31,321 reported cases out of a total of 160,592, or about 20 per cent of the total figure. A Chief Superintendent of Police at the FIIB saw the centrality of Lagos within the general profile of violence as inevitable: ‘Even when 1988 figures saw Bendel emerging as the leading crime state we reckoned that it was a fluke and events have proved us right. Lagos is where it happens. Why Lagos? The enabling environment is there – the frustrations, the hopes, a glimpse of what life could be, the people, the sophistication, the desire and the guns. Violence in Lagos has a distinctive brutal character. Peculiar categories absorb the bulk of energy’4.

Table 3. Crime Statistics 1987-Jan. - June, 1990

Table 3. Crime Statistics 1987-Jan. - June, 1990

Source: Police Records.

4.1 Important categories of crime in Lagos

19The profile of urban violence in Lagos demonstrates that it covers the entire gamut of criminal activities. Offences range from murder, robbery, petty theft, burglary, storebreaking, rackets and counterfeiting to slave dealing, domestic violence, gambling, narcotics, rape, indecent assault, arson etc. Mukoro (1994) has also shown that violence has spread through all neighbourhoods in the city, though there are variations according to income categories (table 2). Even so, certain categories of crime attract more attention than others, either because of general prevalence and/or because they rank high in the scale of concern about public safety. These include armed robbery, fraud, assassination or hired killing, organized street violence associated with the drug trade and the notorious ‘area boys’, 419 scams and political violence.

4.1.1 Armed robbery

20Public concern about the rising wave of crime in Nigeria has focused attention on armed robbery which ‘is robbery involving the coercive use of weapons’. Armed robbery is perceived by the general public and public authorities alike as the crime for attention. The attention is deserved. Armed robbery has undergone an amazing transformation from isolated night attacks on lonely highways of the 1970’s to daring exploits executed in broad daylight. Robbers no longer go masked. They operate unmasked and wear expensive designer clothes which give them the appearance of successful business executives. Their firepower is impressive. Local rifles and homemade guns have given way to powerful assault weapons and machine guns, like AK-47s and Russian made K-2s. Their bases of operation are the cities because that is where the profit is.

  • 5 National Concord, 22 April 1985.
  • 6 Daily Champion, 12 May 1990.

21’Latest public opinion polls and newspaper reports’, noted a highway traffic safety expert in 1985, ‘revealed that armed robbery has become the country’s most glamorous and fastest growing crime. As a mini-industry, it tops the ten violent committable crimes in Nigeria and the profits are tax-free’5. Statistics confirm this observation. In a paper presented to the National Seminar on Sharia and the Problems of Discipline in Nigeria, it was noted that in 1970, 12,153 cases of aggravated robbery were reported to the police in Nigeria6. By 1976, the figure had jumped to 105,589 and in 1984, 187,411 cases were recorded, with a property loss estimated at a value of 7.8 million. The figures have increased substantially since then and by 1987, 226,462 cases of aggravated robbery involving allied offences; theft, grievous bodily harm, burglary, assault and storebreaking were reported, while the corresponding figure for 1989 was about 199,360 (table 3).

22The largest proportion of armed robbery takes place in Lagos as both official police records and newspaper reports show. The Financial Guardian of December 14, 1992 observed that ‘available statistics paint a grim picture. According to the Lagos State Police Command more than 200 armed robberies have occurred in the first two weeks of October (1992) while 321 cars have been snatched since September this year (1992)’.

23The figures tell a small part of the story. It is the brazen nature of the crime that has generated serious anxiety among Lagosians. Every Lagosian moves about with suspicion and alertness. The ghost of armed robbery haunts every part of Lagos. Cars are snatched from motorists not just on deserted streets but in crowded districts. Financial institutions are raided on a regular basis with only feeble resistance from law enforcement agents. For instance, in July 1993, a gang of armed robbers attacked finance companies at the Murtala Muhammed International Airport in the night. Rather than seek to beef up security measures to prevent this, the Nigerian Airport Authority simply ordered the closure of all the twelve bureaux de change which conduct foreign exchange transactions at the airport.

24Robbers in general display a sadistic disregard for life and they often shoot and kill victims, even when the latter put up no resistance. At times, they are daring enough to warn homeowners of their impending visit, displaying their lack of regard for the police. There are reports that some robbers have insisted on being treated as guests, requesting food and drinks before departure. When they come at night they are infinitely more brutal. They lay siege to the homes of citizens, terrorize and intimidate them in the presence of their children and cart away valuables, such as videos, cameras and jewelry which can be disposed of quickly. The side attractions of such midnight parties include: assault, murder, and rape. In order to get into the mood for such heady nightlife, gang members stimulate themselves with hard drugs and alcohol. Members of the household may be beaten in order to disorient them or simply to show ‘who is in charge’. The tempo of events often gets out of hand leading to accidental discharges or even wilful murder.

25The effects of this state of siege on the psychology and social life of Lagosians is extremely telling:

  • 7 The Nigerian Herald, 6 March 1985.

Lagosians now live behind bars, in houses caged with tough iron rods. In such homes, it takes occupants 20 to 30 minutes to get through the barricades each time they want to go out or get in. Driving in Lagos as well is done in a style intended to avoid interception by armed robbers. The basic rule is that no driver allows the vehicle behind him to catch up with his and overtaking at the wrong side of the lane by another motorist is avoided at the risk of death. In Lagos, people live in such terrible fear of armed robbers that those who are not attacked as each day passes regard themselves as fortunate7.

26Worse still, the telegenic effect of the activities of the hoodlums nurture crime among youths who identify them with the Robin Hood characters of Indian and American movies – Amitabh Bachan, Dhramendra or Rambo (Sylvester Stallone). Each season has its own criminal dramatic stars and most of them are Lagos-based. Ishola Oyenusi, the robber kingpin of the early 1970s began the trend. He terrorized Lagos and the Lagosians. He was followed closely by Babatunde Folorunso and his gang and Youpelle Dankoru, the army deserter who masterminded the most vicious daylight robbery in Lagos, when he raided Bolous Enterprises, killing two policemen in 1978. Thereafter, came popular figures such as Mighty Joe, Isiaka Busari, Yemo and Captain Blood. Lagos lost its crime star status when, for a brief period in the 1980s, the exploits of Lawrence Anini and his able deputy Monday Osunbor, caught national attention and dominated the air waves in Benin City (Edo State). However, Lagos soon recaptured its first place when Peter Presley Preboye stepped into Anini’s shoes. He operated mainly in Victoria Island of Lagos with an eye for expensive jewelry. The latest rave is Shina Rambo, the terror of Lagos roads in 1992. He snatches expensive cars and escapes with them in convoy to the Republic of Benin. Shina normally operates in broad daylight.

Table 4. Crime Statistics (January - June 1987)

Table 4. Crime Statistics (January - June 1987)

Source: Dansada: Journal of Police Relations Vol. CRIME/No.14, 1987.

27In the final analysis, the tragedy of armed robbery is that government efforts to curb the phenomenon has yielded little dividend. The death penalty, decreed in 1970 by the Gowon administration, has hardly proved to be a deterrent. It was suspended by the civilian administration of Shehu Shagari (1980-1983) but the wave of robbery continued to the extent that the house of the Vice President, Dr. Alex Ekwueme, was raided in 1983. The successor administration of General Buhari again restored the death penalty under the Robbery and Fire Arms Special Provision Decree of 1984, but without any effect. The subsequent Babangida administration then experimented with a variety of devices: check points, road blocks, foot and motorized patrols, to no visible effect.

4.1.2 The rackets

  • 8 Interview, Lagos, 6 September 1994.

28The case of armed robbery is related to racketeering as syndicates sponsor the robberies. Shina Rambo specialized in snatching cars and there is some evidence to show that he had a syndicate behind him. The Lagos State Deputy Commissioner of Police in 1992, Mr. Yekini Adeoye, was quoted in The Daily Times of December 15, 1992 as saying that there are more than 3000 Nigerian armed robbers in the Benin Republic working for various receivers. He further noted that any of the receivers would simply handpick some robbers and tell them what vehicles were wanted and the robbers would come to Nigeria to get them. Other police sources at the Force II Headquarters confirm this. The trade is organised as a racket. Robbers are well trained in the use of sophisticated weapons and then sent to Nigeria to snatch posh cars. Benin provides arms, a ready market and sanctuary from the Nigerian Police’8.

29Police sources add that activities are well sponsored by barons in Benin who hand the cars over to standby syndicate receivers who respray them, change the engine chassis and registration numbers, and then sell them in neighbouring countries or recycle them back into Nigerian markets as tokunbos (used cars).

  • 9 Interview, Lagos, 7 September 1994.

30The situation’, boasted a criminal underboss at Ojuelegba in Surulere, Lagos, ‘is not unique. Rackets are part of Lagos life. The sea and air ports are organised. Even touts at motorparks operate more effectively as part of a syndicate. The only difference is that there are institutionalized rackets by government officials as you would know when you want to clear goods at Apapa port or Tin Can Island. Those of us you label as criminals simply operate a private enterprise’.9 The base for this private enterprise in the 1970s was Quayside, in the Marina (Ayaeze, 1984). The centre has since shifted to either Idi Oro in Mushin or Oluwole area in Lagos Island around Martins Street, and the vicinity of Bristol Hotel. Oluwole is the prime location. One can get almost anything there: fake visas that resemble genuine article, passports, counterfeit currency exchange, arms and ammunition for robbery operations, burglary or murder.

4.1.3 Assassins or hired killers

31Another spectacular dimension of urban violence in Lagos is assassinations or hired killings. Statistical figures on the subject are hard to come by for two major reasons. First, assassination is often hushed up for various reasons, and second, it is often masked by armed robbery. Whatever the case, like other similar crimes, the phenomenon of hired killings has grown significantly since 1983.

32Armed assailants broke into the Ikoyi residence of the ex-Speaker of the Federal House of representatives of the Second Republic, Edwin Ume Ezeoke at 2.30 A.M. on November 29, 1983 and shot him in the stomach and chest. He miraculously survived. On the same day, Chief Joe Nkpang, the Assistant General Manager of Ports Authority was not so lucky. He was returning from Murtala Muhammed Airport when his car was stopped at Iganmu and he was shot in cold blood. Earlier in 1983, an attempt was made on the life of Senator Gigiri Lawan, when he was severely matcheted.

33In February 1984, Mr. Ayodele Gisanrin, a salesman about 30 years of age, was killed at his Yaba residence in what initially appeared as armed robbery but which police evidence later showed to be premeditated murder. In addition, his neighbour, Mr. Adebiyi Sanni, was killed in the assassin’s bid to escape.

Table 5. Standard Score on Violent Crime in Lagos Metropolis (1990-1992)

Table 5. Standard Score on Violent Crime in Lagos Metropolis (1990-1992)

A Murder; B Grievous Harm and Wounding (GHW); C Assault; D Rape; E Robbery; F Total (Composite) Score.

Source: Mukoro, 1994.

34On March 28, 1984, Adeshina Ettu was hacked to death at about 3 A.M. at his Agege residence. He had come from Cross River State to give evidence in a case of robbery slated for the same date. The incident enraged Mamman Nasarawa, then boss of the Lagos State Police Command, who vowed in reaction that ‘no policeman’s blood will be shed with impunity’. Later in the same year, both Elvis Ibegha, a businessman and Mr. Olajide Amole, an engineer, were shot dead on Obafemi Awolowo Way, Ikeja, in November. On January 30, 1985, it was the turn of Chief David Adeyemo, the Commercial Director of West African Portland Cement, who was gunned down at 7.30 A.M. as he attempted to enter the company’s premises. The assassins in a get-away bid crashed into the car of Mr. T.T. Agbaje who was silenced in the same manner.

  • 10 The murder of Dele Giwa has been associated with the alleged death of Gloria Okon, a reputed cocain (...)

35The list continues. Indeed, the cases from November, 1983 to January, 1985 were chronicled to demonstrate that the assassination of Dele Giwa by a mystery letter bomb in 198610 was simply the climax of a growing tendency.

36Giwa attracted public attention because he was a prominent media executive and two state security chiefs, Colonel Halilu Akilu, then Director of Military Intelligence, and Colonel Tunde Togun, then Deputy Director of the State Security Services, were accused of killing Giwa by the renowned Lagos lawyer, Gani Fawehinmi, who sought their indictment without success in the law courts. Fawehinmi implied that it was a case of state terrorism, a politically motivated assassination. Politically motivated assassinations are, however, uncommon, though the cases of ex-Speaker Ume Ezeoke and Senator Lawan and Dele Giwa (if established) may suggest a silent trend.

  • 11 Personal communication. 17 May 1994.

37Hired killings are normally carried out to cover up clues or evidence, to hide fraud or eliminate witnesses or in the course of a personal vendetta over land disputes, family squabbles, etc. In the process of my research, a Zonal Controller of Customs related an instance in which his wife had put out a contract on his head to prevent him from marrying another wife. The saving grace was that his passport photograph which she gave the killers for identification purposes was recognized by the leader, a smuggler whom the customs officer had treated well while serving at Idi-Iroko border. The situation proved to be problematic. The gang leader insisted on going back to kill my wife and I had to pay 10,000 to save her. Thereafter, I sent her back to her parents.’11

  • 12 For details of Obusez’s case see New African Magazine, February 1989.

38A dramatic case of assassination which proved to be of critical political importance was that of Cornelius Obusez. On Sunday, 29 May 1988, Obusez, a young handsome business executive in his thirties, drove to a church in the suburb of Surulere. Obusez was chief executive of several companies including Cornels Limited. He arrived at the church in his gleaming Mercedes Benz 190 at about 8.30 a.m. As he entered the church, five assailants sprang up and pumped a hail of bullets into him and escaped in a Peugeot 504 car.12

  • 13 Personal interview, Lagos, 20 April 1994.

39The case would probably have gone unnoticed as another unresolved murder, except that Obusez was a personal friend of Colonel John Shagaya, who was then the Minister of Internal Affairs. Shagaya wrote a petition to the Inspector-General of Police expressing dismay at the shoddy handling of investigation of the murder of his friend. The Minister complained that five suspects arrested for the murder had confessed but that the police did not bother to write down the confession. He also insinuated that three of the suspects arrested for the murder were left off the hook ostensibly for lack of evidence, but in fact because they came from the same area as the investigation officer. Shagaya alleged police complicity in the crime because, as he related to this writer in Abuja, even information which his Ministry made available to the Inspector-General seems to have found its way back to the criminals. The incident generated serious friction between the Minister and the Inspector-General and the case had to go to the Head of State, General Babangida, for arbitration. Informed sources also allege that it was a primary factor in the military domination of the composition of the six-man panel, under Nyako, that looked into means of arresting the crime wave13.

40The phenomenon of assassination requires serious attention because it is organised as a business enterprise which cheapens the commodity of human life. The price of a hit varies according to the target, the circumstances and the material capacity of the person seeking the contract. However, murder is a lucrative venture and young unemployed graduates are drifting into it. Worse still, is that assassination could find anchor in the political matrix and thus make public service a grim venture in Nigeria.

4.1.4 Street Violence: Drugs and the notorious area boys

41The problem of street violence is associated with Lagos youths. It marks a dangerous phase in the degeneration of young people who are generally regarded as the future hope of the Nigerian society. Certain factors prompt this phenomenon.

42First, there is social disorganisation resulting from the breakdown of values and norms in society. Normally, as a young child is growing up, his parents tell him what he should or should not do, and sanctions are applied to ensure conformity. Peers, teachers in schools, the church, mass media, etc., all contribute to inculcating group and society ethos and encourage him or her to live up to group expectations. The rootlessness of Lagos life, the state of anomie, resulting from migration and social dislocation, rapid economic and social changes, the breakdown of the traditional family structure – which still tends to produce a large number of children who go largely uncared for under this harsh economic setting – where both parents have to work and children are sent out hawking in the streets in order to survive. Thus, one finds many children on the streets of Lagos without parental guidance or proper care.

43Such children are subjected to the temptations of the street, and the streets of Lagos are veritable workshops for criminal apprenticeship. The rising tide of commercialization that gathered steam in the Structural Adjustment Programme (SAP) period of the Babangida administration has created a situation where reserved open spaces and even sidewalks are converted into business space in Lagos. Indeed, the entire Lagos metropolis itself can be described as a market place. Shadow markets are everywhere. Hence, one can hardly distinguish between purely residential and commercial areas. Apart from the 400 established and recognized markets in Lagos Island, Mushin, Somolu, Apapa, Ajegunle, Ikeja and Agege, many other illegal markets exist in many places wherever inhabitants of an area find convenient.

  • 14 See National Concord, 10 May 1993; African Guardian, 7 February 1994; and The Guardian, 27 June 199 (...)

44Street trading in Lagos is the norm rather than the exception.14 Highways and roads are littered with empty cans, broken bottles and other dangerous containers which constitute a nuisance to the flow of traffic. Hawking on Oshodi, Agege Motor Road, Yaba bus terminus, Boundary Road in Ajegunle and Ikorodu Road is a normal occupation, even though the traders run the risk of being run over by vehicles. Indeed, the Lagos State Deputy Governor, Mrs. Lateefa Okunnu, in 1991 lamented that despite an edict on street trading, ‘it has reached such an alarming stage that there is an average of one death per week of traders caused by motorists’.

  • 15 See “Kids in Crime,” Sunday Times, 26 February 1989.

45For the youth, the consequences are more detrimental.15 Illegal roadside markets have become fertile grounds for petty thieves, daylight robbery and activity. Those youths who survive the period of apprenticeship provided by the streets normally graduate into area boys. They grow into jobless youths with a penchant for ‘living in the fast lane’, aspiring to a lifestyle of wealth and flamboyance which makes them easy targets for employment in the network of drug merchants, where money flows fast and easy. Drug dealers employ area boys as drug pushers at the retail level to carry drugs to the doorstep of domestic consumers. Once an area boy attains this level, he is known as a striker. A striker’s life generally follows two roads. Either he retails the drugs and uses the proceeds to purchase the ‘good life’ or he becomes a user himself. Those who take the first option, usually few in number, eventually graduate into dealers and at times, even merchants. Most strikers become drug users. Users are of two varieties: irregular takers and those hooked on drugs. The second option is more common, because the background of area boys induces an addict’s lifestyle.

46Area boys, once conditioned, are tools of others. At times, the vocation appears useful. Traders at Idumota pay one naira each per day to area boys who operate on behalf of the market council. The money is used to procure brooms, rakes and wheelbarrows to clean the streets. Sometimes, however, the money is taken and the streets are not swept, creating a potential conflict with market traders. Again, area boys harass people on the street for money and this irritates potential buyers and incurs the wrath of market women. Hence, there are often disputes provoking violent clashes with market women.

  • 16 For a detailed exposé on this subject see the paper by Mr. Wuyi Omitoogun, in volume 2 of the Proce (...)

47Area boys are also used for organized street violence in several ways. Several area boys interviewed between mid-April and June, 1994, at the Adeniji Adele Rehabilitation Centre set up by the Peoples Bank in Lagos, alleged that politicians hired them to disrupt political campaigns of their opponents or disrupt voting during elections, especially in areas where their rivals had a strong following; so that the results of those neighbourhoods would be annulled.16 They cited the Agbalajobi and Sarumi gubernatorial tussle of 1992 as an instance where they were employed by both parties.

  • 17 Area boys and the Lebanese Connection. Daily Times, 29 February 1994.

48Similarly, Lebanese businessmen hire area boys as bodyguards of intimidators; while night clubs, restaurants and brothels in several parts of Lagos employ their services as enforcers.17 Enforcement activities took on the dimension of ethnic violence when the crime barons of Ita Agarawu (Ojuina) and Oluwole areas gave out a contract to area boys to chase out Igbo traders and shopkeepers in Idumota, whom the landlords accused of not paying rent. Area boys caused confusion and provoked confrontation, beating up the traders, stabbing people and stealing wares. Area boys were similarly involved in the street war on Martins Street where they waylaid the Hausa mallams engaged in foreign exchange transactions, snatched bags of money from them and ran away into the protection of their Oluwole hideouts. The mallams after the initial shock rebounded to give them a fight, in which screwdrivers, broken bottles and swords were used with abandon. Business transactions ceased and several people were wounded.

49Area boys also engaged in gang warfare on the streets to nourish macho images. Rival outfits engage each other in brutal fighting to demonstrate superiority and one such case which lasted for five days, at Okesuna/Patey Street in Lagos Island in 1992, produced one fatality and several wounded.

50Lastly, it should be noted that the activities of area boys are strongly associated with the drug trade. Nigeria has gained notoriety as a major transit centre in the global trade but as security measures are tightened in several western ports, a considerable quantity is now recycled for home use, proving the theory that sellers often become users. Area boys are locked into the drug habit and crime barons are content and desirous to keep them so, to ensure the desperation that makes them conducive to use in organized violence. The addicted drug users are found at hot spots in the day and night jonesing (suffering from withdrawal symptoms, shivering and feeling pain) a condition which can only be relieved by taking another dose of gbana (heroin or cocaine). This drug dependency makes them the foot soldiers for organized street violence. Thus, the solution to the problem of area boys must be taken together with the drug problem.

4.1.5 Scams—419: High-tech violence

  • 18 See: Fraud PLC. Newswatch, 9 November 1992.

51Four-one-nine is the Lagos crime of international reference. Lawrence Martin, a British businessman with long experience of commerce in Nigeria, former South African foreign minister, Pik Botha, Sidney Conn, a North Carolina businessman, and a Bavarian widow, code-named Helga Krautner, have one experience in common. They have all been victims of the 419 scam. Indeed, 419 has drawn victims from London, Texas, Tokyo, Bonn and Pretoria, etc.18 Various international organizations, such as Interpol, the US Federal Bureau of Investigations and the German Federal Criminal Police have shown concern in uncovering these scams which have been associated with prominent Nigerian figures such as Fred C. Ajudua, a Lagos millionaire socialite and Arthur Nzeribe, former presidential aspirant and head of the infamous Association of Better Nigeria (ABN), which set in motion the process of the annulment of the 1993 presidential elections that threw Nigeria into turmoil. Nzeribe has been linked with the scheme whereby former South Africa’s Foreign Minister, Pik Botha, spent $500,000 in a bid to set up a magazine in Nigeria that would have been sympathetic to the former apartheid regime.

  • 19 The Economist, 8 February 1992.

52Four-one-nine derives its name from the section of the Penal Code under which such fraudsters are prosecuted in Nigeria. No fewer than 25,000 cases were reported in Britain in 1991 and about 1,000 cases were under investigation in Nigeria during the same period.19

53Four-one-nine scams are in two broad categories. One involves the use of fake documents to lure mostly foreign business interests to transfer huge sums of foreign exchange to Nigeria. The second involves the sale of goods from overseas firms using fake bills of credit. As soon as the goods are delivered in Nigeria, the local partners either vanish or default on payment.

54The first category of this high-tech scam has proved to be more notorious. The modus operandi is one which plays on the greed and/or gullibility of the foreign fish. Time Magazine (18 April 1994) has provided details of how the scam works. Letters on official stationery are sent to addresses culled from trade directories and telephone books. In a variety of schemes, recipients are promised millions of dollars if up-front fees or bank account particulars are provided. Typically, the inducement hints at some sort of material impropriety – such as money laundering – to discourage contact with authorities. Once the fish swallows the bait, the Nigerian fisherman in Lagos reels in the line. Potential prey are invited to Nigeria and accorded august receptions. They are often given armed escorts and immigration officials may be bribed to allow them passage without a visa. Still unaware, they are taken to rented offices where they are asked for minor payments to cover local taxes, cash transfers, notary and legal fees. As months or even years pass, more fees are demanded while excuses pile up about additional charges and continued delay.

  • 20 Newswatch, 9 November 1992.

55Quite apart from the psychological trauma inflicted during the process, the scam is subsidized by strong arm tactics. Potential victims, once they arrive at Lagos, can be brutalized. Victims are threatened with prosecution for travelling without visas. Others are kidnapped until payment is made. Some have even been beaten or killed for refusing to co-operate. Indeed, in July, 1992, David Rollings, a 61-year old businessman, was found murdered in his hotel room in Lagos. He travelled to Nigeria in an effort to recover three million dollars swindled from him by fellow businessmen.20

  • 21 Time, 18 April 1994: 41.
  • 22 Ibid.

56Authorities abroad complain that they are powerless because the crime takes place on Nigerian soil. Josef Schon, a spokesman for Germany’s Federal Police, was quoted as saying that, ‘our lawyers tell us that it is not a crime to write letters’.21 Nonetheless, the 419 scam is a crime under Nigerian law, and it embarrasses legitimate Nigerian businessmen, gives the nation a bad image and has had adverse effect on the investment climate. Indeed, it has forced the government to set up a task force to crack down on the scheme. Foreigners complain that the task force itself is another scam. ‘Despite recent claims from Lagos authorities that they are cracking down, there have been no convictions and none of the millions have been recovered’.22 The situation may be attributed to three possible factors. First is that the crackdown is a public relations exercise. Second is that the government lacks the willpower to prosecute the offence. Third is that those engaged in these scams have political connections and perhaps even godfathers in the corridors of power. The last alternative has explanatory power.

4.1.6 Political violence

57Bruce Smith (1968) observed:

…that violence has always been part of the political process…Protest activities of one form or another, efforts to dramatize grievances in a fashion that will attract attention and ultimately the destruction or threatened destruction of life and property appear as expressions of political grievances even in stable, consensual societies …the ‘ultima ratio’ of political action is force. Political activity below the threshold of force is normally carried on with the knowledge that an issue may be escalated into overt violence if a party feels sufficiently aggrieved. Accordingly, Charles Tilly (1969) maintained that ‘collective violence has flowed regularly from the political process …men seeking to seize, hold or realign the levers of power have continually engaged in collective violence as part of their struggle’.

58Remi Anifowose (1982) has argued on the basis that the sources and dynamics of political violence in Nigeria are fundamentally comparable to those of civil violence elsewhere in the world. ‘Nigerian rioters share with their counterparts throughout the world certain psychological characteristics; most of them feel frustrated in the pursuit of their political and economic goals and in seeking redress for grievances. As a consequence they are angered and because of their immediate social circumstances, they feel free or desperate enough to act on that anger.’

59The history of political violence in Nigeria is a long one. Independence was achieved without bloodshed or the stress of political violence; but the First Republic which followed independence was mired in the politics of violence.

60The pattern was set by the Tiv riots, and thuggery and vandalism became an integral aspect of party politics in that period. Those in power perceived violence as a way of nurturing their authority. Alienated subjects replied in kind. Disputes over census and elections results generated inter-ethnic and regional acrimony which gave way to violence and eventually culminated in the bloody coup d'état of January, 1966, which was a coup de grace. Justice Sowemimo, in the famous treason trial case of Chief Obafemi Awolowo summed up the situation thus:

  • 23 Cited in Anifowose, 1982, pp 2-3; See also L.K. Jakande, The Trial of Chief Obafemi Awolowo. Seeker (...)

On the evidence before me, it would appear that politics generally in Nigeria has been conducted with a certain amount of bitterness. It appears that a person belonging to a party becomes an enemy to another who belongs to a rival party. Political parties are equivalent… to, warring camps – elections are conducted with party thugs protecting the campaigners and this state of affairs has been described to have assumed a pitch that no method would be spared, however vindictive or extreme by any rival political party as against another in order to score over one or the other.23

61Worse still, coup d'états instituted governance through the barrel of the gun and when party politics were resurrected in the Second Republic in 1979 the experience was not better than in the First Republic. Again, the military intervened, ostensibly to restore political sanity. In all these instances, Lagos, as the capital city of Nigeria, bore the brunt of violent activity.

62The period of the Babangida administration and the relative stability that characterized its first two years, in spite of severe economic problems, tended to give the impression that political violence in Lagos was on the downward trend. The riots that were occasioned by police brutality in 1988 shattered this illusion and were soon followed by the SAP riots of May, 1988, the Orkar coup of 1990, and later on the pro-democracy riots of 1993. Of the various incidents, two events – the SAP riots of 1988 and the pro-democracy riots of 1993 – stand out in bold relief as critical examples of political violence in Lagos.

63The SAP riots of May, 1988 were a response to the aggravated living conditions of the Lagosians. The Structural Adjustment Programme (SAP) of the Babangida administration (1985-1993) severely affected the living conditions of the average Nigerian, but the effect was most critical among the urban poor in Lagos. Transport costs in the metropolis soared and workers in the formal and informal sectors suffered economic pains, hitherto unwitnessed in the annals of Nigerian history. The unemployed and lumpen proletariat became more impoverished. The cost of food and accommodation rose sharply in a context where real wage incomes were plummeting down. What made the hardship more difficult for Lagosians was a wave of affluence that cut across the social divide. Cocaine dealers, 419 scam artists and government officials were putting up lavish mansions in Victoria Island Annex, Ikoyi and its environs, and driving around in expensive automobiles – Mercedes V-boots, Cadillacs, Toyota Four-runners, Nissan Pathfinders, etc., hosting ostentatious parties and hiring designers to sew only me dresses. They were wallowing in conspicuous wealth amidst a sea of want.

  • 24 See also Margaret Peil, Lagos: The City is the People, Belhaven Press, London, 1991.

64Structural violence was inherent in this system of social relations. Group differentials inspired psychological venom largely because, as Duru Tobi (1991) aptly noted, the political class was insulated from the direct effects of their own policies and this nourished insensitivity to the basic pains inflicted on the wider populace. This set the scene for the 1988 SAP riots which lasted for two weeks. About 50 people were killed.24

  • 25 The Vanguard, 13 June 1989.
  • 26 Ibid.

65The riots appeared as a mass uprising that cut across the social fabric of Lagos. The police in particular were targets of rioters unlike in 1987 when the killing of two policemen precipitated a demonstration that ‘even old people joined’. Students were the building blocks of the 1989 SAP riots, but they operated against the groundswell of public support such that the then Lagos State Police Commissioner noted ‘the complete absence of any form of intervention or appeals by respected individuals and organizations in the community urging students to desist from violence’.25 Instead, the students were joined by workers and the unemployed, housewives, market women, etc. The Nigerian Medical Association commended the activities of the students as being inspired by ‘a high sense of social responsibility’ and declared their support for the ‘spirit of the …action for amelioration of mass suffering’.26

66The riot was the outcome of latent discontent within the context of a precarious urban substructure. Roberts (1994) observed:

The SAP riot was the vent for the socio-political expression of this grouse against the limitations of urban governance in Lagos. It was little surprise that the target was a common enemy: everything that reflected governmental failing in urban service provisions. Specifically about 100 buses belong to Lagos State Transport Corporation (LSTC) were destroyed during the riots.

67In time, however, the protests subsided as the activities of government security forces and the ensuing political climate dampened general expectations that the mass protest could force the displacement of the incumbent regime. The Lagos public accepted government promises of relief in recognition that the protests lacked the organizational edge that could give it a transformational capacity.

68The pro-democracy riots which greeted the annulment of the June 12 election results in 1993 followed the same pattern. Mass protests broke out as a spontaneous reaction. The then Governor of Lagos, Sir Michael Otedola, soon had to admit to the federal military authorities, who charged him with the task of maintaining order that he lacked the resources to cope with a civil disturbance of this magnitude and that the army should take charge. General Sani Abacha, then the Defence Minister, ordered troops into the streets to quell the riots. The riots persisted for several days and the protest ebbed and rose with the political tide. Estimates of those killed ranged from 100 to 300 people.

69In the meantime, the area boys were manipulating the opportunity to their advantage – ransacking stores, extorting money and terrorizing the highways. Traders could not pursue their livelihoods. Workers needed their monthly remuneration. Thus, in the absence of a social security system that could mitigate the adverse effects of a political breakdown, and in view of the nature of the political class, which was not conducive to transforming mass protest into a revolutionary movement for change by lending it an organizational perspective, the protests subsided. Particularly as some prominent political leaders, including Professor Bolaji Akinyemi, formerly Nigeria’s Foreign Affairs Minister, and the renowned lawyer and social activist, Gani Fawehinmi, had appealed to certain factions of the military to intervene and bail the nation out of the crisis. The lesson is that those who aspired to qualitative or revolutionary political change were forced to realize that the political class lacked the organizational skill and/or vision to bring it about. Until they do, or a new generation of leaders emerge, the public will have to continue to rely on effervescent mass protests to make political points at grave cost to life and property.

5. What Is to Be Done?

70Our discussion has highlighted the serious problem of urban violence in Lagos. The precise computation of the economic costs of urban violence and crime is impossible because of statistical discrepancies in police records and the gap between cases reported to the police and the five indices of crime rate. However, police sources estimate that it is about 0.4 billion naira annually. This is made up of the cost of police protection, detective, investigative and preventive measures, the criminal justice system – court, prison, general administration and the private costs of fighting urban violence, such as security guards, physical and electronic security gadgets, etc. It does not include the value of human lives lost and the harrowing ordeals or the emotional and psychological trauma attached to them. Again, because the issue touches on the social security and stability of every citizen of the nation, the cost becomes incalculable. Thus it is imperative that measures be sought to alleviate the effects.

71Such measures must take into account the wide ranging causes of crime and violence, which extend to poverty, migration, lopsided affluence, unjust social and economic policies, urban pathology, food scarcity, unemployment, media effects and the failure of the educational policy.

72Within this context, three types of palliatives may be offered. The first seeks to protect the individual, the second focuses on the community while the third directs attention to the overall structure of public policy and the model of governance. In the first place, public safety demands puts the onus on individuals to engage in some measure of self-protection. In terms of certain categories of crime such as armed robbery, theft, car snatching, assassination, etc. a security conscious populace could easily ensure some measure of self-protection. However, it should be noted that this is not a licence for obsessive individualism. Urban violence is essentially a social problem which can only be confronted in a community context. Self-help therefore is simply an adjunct to community regulation.

73Within the community context, policy considerations operate on two broad levels. The first is technical and the second is social or systemic. At the technical level, there are certain practical measures which can facilitate the mitigation of urban violence. First is an increase in the strength, organization and equipment of the police. By United Nations standards, Nigeria is underpoliced. Moreover, Nigerian policemen carry obsolete equipment, while robbers often have impressive firepower, including assault rifles and machine guns. It is true that the economic condition of the state does not permit any attempt to ‘baby-sit’ the police but something must be done within these dire economic circumstances, to enhance police efficiency for the purpose of crime control.

74Similarly, the issue of police corruption or the complicity of security agents in crime commission or concealment is a serious one. In addition, the reform of the criminal justice system – the police, the prisons and the law courts and the parole or pardon system is overdue.

75The negligence of the executive arms of government also demands attention. The negligence of the executive arms of government also demands attention. It is well known that the prosecution stage is the most important aspect in the trial of suspected individuals, yet the executive branch of the government officers. How can the courts expect police sergeants or corporals without legal training to match wit and strategy with the kind of qualified barristers these culprits employ. The result of the mismatch is that many prosecutable crimes end up with the accused going free.

76For example, the scoreboard of the Lagos State Police Command for 1983 shows that out of the 431 persons arrested for armed robbery in that reporting year, only 72 were prosecuted, out of which only 3 were convicted. Yet armed robbery is a visual crime involving three elements; victims, weapons and offenders.

77Indeed, there is a general requirement for the standardization and modernization of colonial police procedures. This is the age of computers. The police should computerize crime records in urban centres for the purpose of intelligence and to keep records of car ownership, movements of criminals, etc. Intelligence gathering and detection techniques also require revision to establish a precise network of able informants. This implies that the police must have a foothold in the community.

78This leads to consideration of community policing. Community policing deserves serious attention, first to establish the precise requirements of specific communities and in particular what crimes are prevalent in certain locations. Thereafter, the police can deploy their manpower effectively to combat crimes. Secondly, since criminals live within society, they enter into intercourse with other members of the community, even in urban centres. Accordingly, some form of community participation in crime control is a logical imperative.

79As a first step, vigilante units should be encouraged and properly organized in self-defence units and given relevant para-military training under police supervision – particularly in places where the problem of armed robbery (the scourge of Lagos) is prevalent. Official recognition of these self-defence units, which should be elected by and responsible to the communities in urban residential locations can play a useful role, not only in the prevention of crime, but also in the protection of the civil population against the abuse of office and corruption which some law enforcement agents are inclined towards.

80Community participation in law enforcement could also serve as a measure of counter-intelligence providing information about criminal activities and helping to gather evidence for prosecution purposes. Community liaison offices should be established immediately in the 27 police divisions of Lagos. Each should be manned by even-tempered responsible officers.

81Community participation schemes in this context should be well integrated into broad schemes for social security that must be designed to ensure the liveability of the city. Accordingly, community participation schemes along with youth re-orientation and public campaigns to ensure greater security consciousness can serve as the tripod for experimental projects designed to make cities more liveable. Such projects should be multidisciplinary and should necessarily involve academicians, policy-makers, urban managers and community residents. A ‘Liveable Lagos Project’ would be a logical first step in this direction.



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1 Personal interview, Lagos, 29 August, 1994.

2 See Daily Champion, 14 December 1988; and Nigerian Tribune, 17 October 1988.

3 October 31- 6 November 1988.

4 Personal interview, 20 September 1994. The figures which show the Bendel rating which the Chief Superintendent referred to were published in The Vanguard of 29 October 1989.

5 National Concord, 22 April 1985.

6 Daily Champion, 12 May 1990.

7 The Nigerian Herald, 6 March 1985.

8 Interview, Lagos, 6 September 1994.

9 Interview, Lagos, 7 September 1994.

10 The murder of Dele Giwa has been associated with the alleged death of Gloria Okon, a reputed cocaine smuggler; see The Guardian, 20 October 1986 and 18 March 1988; Sunday Triumph, 16 November 1986.

11 Personal communication. 17 May 1994.

12 For details of Obusez’s case see New African Magazine, February 1989.

13 Personal interview, Lagos, 20 April 1994.

14 See National Concord, 10 May 1993; African Guardian, 7 February 1994; and The Guardian, 27 June 1993.

15 See “Kids in Crime,” Sunday Times, 26 February 1989.

16 For a detailed exposé on this subject see the paper by Mr. Wuyi Omitoogun, in volume 2 of the Proceedings of the International Conference on Urban Management and Urban Violence, 1994.

17 Area boys and the Lebanese Connection. Daily Times, 29 February 1994.

18 See: Fraud PLC. Newswatch, 9 November 1992.

19 The Economist, 8 February 1992.

20 Newswatch, 9 November 1992.

21 Time, 18 April 1994: 41.

22 Ibid.

23 Cited in Anifowose, 1982, pp 2-3; See also L.K. Jakande, The Trial of Chief Obafemi Awolowo. Seeker and Warburg, London: 9.

24 See also Margaret Peil, Lagos: The City is the People, Belhaven Press, London, 1991.

25 The Vanguard, 13 June 1989.

26 Ibid.

List of illustrations

Caption Map 1. Lagos in the National Setting
File image/jpeg, 112k
Caption Map 2. The Lagos Metropolitan Area
File image/jpeg, 1,5M
Caption SOURCE". ADELEMO (1981), KOMBS 0989) and MABOGUNJE (1968).
File image/jpeg, 260k
Title Table 1. Crime Report for Nigeria by States (1980)
Caption Source: Nigeria Annual Police Report, 1980.
File image/jpeg, 72k
Title Table 2. Comparative Crime Statistics – 1985 and 1986
Caption Source: Dansada. 1987 Journal of the Nigerian Police Force. 14.
File image/jpeg, 700k
Title Table 3. Crime Statistics 1987-Jan. - June, 1990
Caption Source: Police Records.
File image/jpeg, 224k
Title Table 4. Crime Statistics (January - June 1987)
File image/jpeg, 576k
Caption Source: Dansada: Journal of Police Relations Vol. CRIME/No.14, 1987.
File image/jpeg, 632k
Title Table 5. Standard Score on Violent Crime in Lagos Metropolis (1990-1992)
Caption A Murder; B Grievous Harm and Wounding (GHW); C Assault; D Rape; E Robbery; F Total (Composite) Score.
File image/jpeg, 123k

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