Friday, November 14, 2008

Armed Robberies Rising

THE deafening silence of the police as the crime rate soars is as concerning as government’s thorough failure to address insecurity throughout the country.

Whether it is kidnapping, which has spread from oil workers to anyone the criminals think can pay ransom, or the random incidents of armed robbers snatching cars, invading homes, offices, hospitals, banks, churches, mosques and dispossessing people of cash and cars in traffic jams, the increasing security is becoming alarming.

The few cases that are reported show that the tactics of the robbers keep changing. What has remained constant is that help hardly gets to the victims, even when they call the police. Help, if it ever comes, is usually after the robbers have departed.

The police have essentially restricted their duties to check points where they extort money from motorists, especially commercial vehicle drivers and motorcycle operators. These check points serve only the selfish interest of those who man them.

Some of the nation’s busiest highways have become havens for robbers, who operate unchallenged and sometimes spend hours in their dastardly enterprise. The Lagos-Ibadan Expressway, in the past couple of months, has provided a lair for robbers. The Port Harcourt-Enugu Expressway and the long highways that link various parts of the North, especially the Kano-Maiduguri road, are notorious for fatal robberies.

Many failed portions of these roads ensure motorists must slow down to navigate the dangerous spots. Robbers strike in those areas.

More daring ones simply mount road blocks, sometimes on both sides of the road, and ask motorists to hand over whatever appeals to the robbers. Those who resist lose their lives.
Neither day, nor night is safe. Robbers operating under various guises invade home at their convenience and leave when they please. Some stay long enough to ask for choice meals to be prepared for them. Such confidence baffles those who accuse the police of indifference to their duties.

It is as dangerous to live in the city as in the countryside. When armed robbers invade villages, the raid can last days. Who cares? In the cities, traffic jams work in their favour as they can walk from car to car taking whatever they want, including lives. Nobody challenges them.

At night, poor electricity supply has made neighbourhoods vulnerable to attacks. Hundreds of generators blasting away at the same time provide the perfect cover for robbers. Neighbours cannot hear any distress calls, they learn of the horror the following day.

The usual complaints from the police about poor equipment are no longer tenable. All over the country, governments, organisations and individuals keep donating equipment and vehicles to the police. These have not reflected on improved security. These vehicles are deployed to the personal comfort of officers.

We are not denying the difficulties with which the police operate. What we condemn emphatically is the situation where robbers operate as if police do not exist.

The Federal Government should wake up to its responsibility of securing the people by getting the police to act - urgently.