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Opinion

Robbery Attacks during Coronavirus Lockdown

Many Nigerians had foreseen that this would happen. This being the robbery attacks that have almost become commonplace in the southwestern part of the country, especially in states like Ogun, Lagos, and Oyo. Many who had thought that any theft cases or robbery incidents would manifest only by household food items being forcefully carted away since the federal government did not put all odds in check before it declared the stay-at-home order, were perhaps taken by surprise when lots of lives were lost, citizens were injured, valuables were stolen in attacks that seemed like a brazen affront to the safety of the lives of citizens.

It was a friend who shared a Whatsapp message with a panic tone to me, urging that I pray for the residents of Ogun state in areas like Sango, Sagamu, Ifo, and others, because robbery attacks in these areas and beyond are becoming scarier. Similarly, news reports also reeled out the unfortunate incidents that are associated with these dreadful attacks. Painfully, the citizens cannot move out freely for the fear of contracting the deadly coronavirus, and while staying in their homes, they suffer from fervid apprehension and trepidation because the armed marauders can strike them at any time.

To be candid, robbery attacks during this period are unfortunate and heart-wrenching. It is saddening when citizens who strove, by all means, to conform to the directives of the government as regards the need to curtail the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic, live in fear of being killed, maimed and emasculated by the men of the underworld. While some citizens battle with hunger as the so-called government’s palliatives have not proved sufficient to help the hard-scrabbled citizens, they are still not assured of being protected, adequately, from evil machinations.

It took a while for the security operatives to counter these attacks. A response that came as a tortoise-paced security intervention that attempted to calm the heart palpitations of the affected citizens. The residents of Ogun state, according to news reports, were dazzled by the complete insouciance of the armed robbers who rob in the day as against their nocturnal activities. Even, some men in the police force have been reportedly rendered immobile by these robbers. The robbers seemed to be at ease as they unleashed terror to residents, took possession of valuables, and the worst of it all is that they outsmarted men in the police force as well as other security operatives by going scot-free.

In Lagos state, the sad situation is the same as residents in some local government areas share a similar fate with their Ogun state counterparts. In Oyo state too, there are robbery attacks in some local governments which reportedly sprouted from cult clashes. What should in place now is the alertness, efficiency and effectiveness of the security operatives to forestall any attacks—be it a robbery or not—on the citizens. By doing so without any offhandedness and politicization, they would make the citizens be sure that they are being protected, else the citizens can take up arms to confront the life-endangering attacks which can foil the government’s attempts to ensure the stay-at-home order and at large, jeopardize the nation’s security.

 In my opinion, these attacks are not totally hunger-driven. The robbers or thugs, in my purview, are delinquents who took advantage of the lockdown to perpetrate criminal activities. In every case, however, this shows that the building holding the security network in the country is on a very porous foundation. What has happened to the police patrols? What has become of the security operatives designated to enforce the lockdown? Why are they absent when these illegal attacks were on-going?

I would not be caught unawares if these attacks were later found out have some underlying political elements. One cannot be so confident that some big barracudas in the political force are not employing some youth with their tigerish ferociousness to carry out these dreadful activities in return for some token. I would advise that the government immediately commence intelligence gathering to find out the sources of these attacks, the characters involved, and sketch plans to counter these attacks in the most effective and efficient ways—with no peregrination.

However, the citizens should also assist the security operatives by giving information on any suspicious movements in their community because the truth of the matter is that the security operatives cannot do it alone. The citizens also have a major stake in ensuring peace in their respective communities and should be on the alert to call on the security operatives in case of any impending attacks.

The Ogun state government have said that they have begun to counter attacks in affected areas in the state as they urged the citizens to remain calm. In Lagos state also, the police force has been saddled with the responsibility to man areas that are prone to the robbery and other attacks. While these are brilliant moves to regulate peace, it is noteworthy to add that security operatives should be in constant operation to ensure the safety of the citizens and not the few patrols they carry out which stop immediately after the attacks have been reduced to the barest minimum.

The federal government should look into the issues since they are the main actors to ensure the protection of the lives and properties of the citizens nationwide, and this should not be done in their shillyshally attitudes towards security matters that have proliferated terrorist attacks in the country. However, the safety of the citizens should not only be the top priority of the federal government during this stay-at-home period alone it should also surely transcend after this period. It is pertinent to add also that a nation exists when there is peace and that insecurity threatens the longevity and prosperity of a nation. The federal government should learn from states where the armed forces find it hard to restore peace and order because of their offhandedness towards security matters that required swift action.

The governors of the affected states should work closely with the federal government in restoring peace in affected areas in their states. The security of the lives and properties of the citizens should not be foiled by political rivalry or battle for supremacy. Irrespective of the political parties the governors of the afore-mentioned states belong to, they should understand that security comes first before anything else as democratization cannot succeed in an unsecured state.

Asides the issue of ensuring security, the federal government should also be serious in giving palliatives to citizens during this lockdown period. Enough of sharing the meagre amount of Twenty Thousand Naira to the so-called poorest citizens of which there are no available data to ascertain their indigence. Many citizens are struggling to eat one time in a day, and if this lockdown continues and the government does not support the citizens as they claim they are doing, there may be an unprecedented massive breakdown of law and order. It should be recalled, however, the residents of Lagos state as well as in other states had initially defied the lockdown order before the security operatives forcefully ensured that residents obeyed the lockdown.

Much as the federal government attempts to bring coronavirus under effective control, the citizens should also be protected on the other hand. And as Marcus Tarcus Cicero says, “The safety of the people shall be the highest law.”

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