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Tackling cross-border crime in Nigeria: Ogun-Oyo example

From left: Oyo State Police Commissioner Ngozi Onadeko; Attorney-General and Commissioner for Justice Prof Oyelowo Oyewo; Governor Seyi Makinde; his Ogun State counterpart Dapo Abiodun; Ogun State Attorney-General Oluwasina Ogungbade; and Commissioner of Police Lanre Bankole (Ogun) at the communique signing session after the States’ Joint Security Meeting at the Presidential Lodge, Abeokuta.

The Lagos-Ibadan Expressway constantly makes the headlines given the significant volume of traffic it experiences daily and its importance to Nigeria’s socio-economic life.

Besides being a major gateway into the country’s commercial capital, its importance lies in the fact that it intersects three states – Lagos, Ogun and Oyo.

Criminal activities are reported in other parts of these states, especially the border communities, which calls for concern and reinforces the need to bolster security in the affected areas.

It is against this backdrop that the Ogun – Oyo Joint Security Meeting held in Abeokuta, comes as a welcome development.

The meeting convened at the instance of Governor of Ogun State, Prince Dapo Abiodun, and his Oyo State counterpart, Seyi Makinde, seemed driven by the conviction that no state is truly secure if a neighboring state is burdened by criminality.

Given how highways crisscross various states in the federation in a way that almost literally blurs boundaries, it is increasingly evident that no single state can live as though it were an island.

Beyond the imperative of securing their various states and curbing cross-boundary crime, there is an even greater socio-economic significance that underlines this meeting: Ogun and Oyo are the closest states to Lagos, Nigeria’s commercial capital.

Both states have lately experienced an unusual rise in brazen crime such as abductions, mostly along federal highways where the sister states have common boundaries.

A couple of weekends ago, a passenger bus heading for Lagos from Ibadan was reportedly attacked by kidnappers who suddenly emerged from the bush at Onigaari end of the expressway and started shooting sporadically.

The commercial driver was killed in the process and five passengers were abducted, while another victim was shot in the thigh. One of the passengers was said to have narrowly escaped.

A week later, a Nollywood actress, Bimpe Akintunde, shared how she and her daughter had a close shave with kidnappers along the same Onigaari axis on their way to Lagos from Ibadan.

It was also reported that some hoodlums, donning military-style camouflage similarly abducted seven wedding guests at the Isara, Ogun State end of the expressway.

It is gratifying that both governors have pledged their commitment to collaborate in tackling an incipient problem that threatens security in the two states.

For many, the recent spike in crime is further validation for the introduction of “Amotekun”, or the South-Western Nigeria Security Network, by South-West states to complement the role played by the conventional law-enforcement agencies.

It also beams an uncomfortable searchlight on the operational mode of the Nigeria Police. Despite its listing as an exclusive function, years of inadequate funding and outright misappropriation of funds have essentially made responsibility for police welfare a shared function between the federal government and states.

Such shared burden has, ironically, failed to yield for the governors any leverage in the control of security personnel deployed in their states.

This is often a sore point, especially from the governors’ standpoint, given that they are, statutorily, the chief security officers of their states who, to all intents and purposes, bear the rage of the people when the security situation goes awry.

It is in this light that the relaunch of “OPERATION MESA” – one of the most potent examples of inter-agency collaboration comprising the military, police, Department of State Services, Nigerian Security and Civil Defense Corps and Amotekun – by the Ogun State governor is quite commendable.

Similar actions have also been taken to bolster the capacity of security agencies in Oyo State. Both states’ combined support has helped in bridging the manpower needs and equipment shortfalls often cited as factors that severely limit the capacity of the police to be truly responsive.

Being possibly the first of such collaboration between any two states in Nigeria, it is hoped that it inspires other states to replicate similar collaborative dialogue to tackle security challenges peculiar to their states.

Writing by Retired AIG Olusola Subair; Editing by Abdullahi Lamino