Intercepted 17 suitcases loaded with explosives, prosecuted suspects
Minister for Works and Housing Babatunde Fashola on Thursday narrated how attempt by terrorists to bomb Lagos State in 2013 was foiled.
Fashola who was governor of the state at the time said they intercepted 17 suitcases loaded with explosives which were smuggled in to wreak havoc.
He disclosed this while delivering a lecture titled “Insecurity: Taking actions against organised crime” at the fourth annual public lecture of the United Action for Change (UAC) held in Lagos.
Noting that security was not the job of law enforcement agencies alone, Fashola said the suitcases were discovered with the help of citizen information.
“It is when information is offered that law enforcement must act to check, recheck and verify. So, when 17 suitcases loaded with explosives were brought into Lagos in 2013, law enforcement missed it.
“It was citizen information, which we did not discard, that led to their seizure, apprehension of the suspects and their cargo of terror. They were tried in Lagos without public show. That was the period new courts were being built in Badagry and we prosecuted them there. They were given fair trial because they had lawyers representing them. They were over 20 and were convicted and this enabled government put them in a place where they could no longer harm residents of Lagos,” he said.
According to the Minister, the collection of information and the use of it to prevent crime or apprehend criminal activity was often discussed as if it was the prerogative of law enforcement agencies alone.
“Let me be clear that this is the duty of the citizen and it starts with all of us being interested in our own wellbeing and security. It involves not only careful choices about lifestyle which will prevent us from being attractive as victims to criminals. It requires us to show more interest in what/who is around us and to pay more attention to unusual things.
“It also requires courage, a lot of it, to be able to share information no matter how innocuous, with law enforcement, to enable them keep us safe. There is no magic to Intelligence gathering, it is rooted in civic responsibility.
“One institution of civic participation that we must revive, reform and reuse is the Residents/Landlord Association. We need them very quickly. Know your neighbour is a critical first line of defence against any criminal activity and in particular against organised crime.
“It helps to occupy the space of anonymity in which all criminals thrive and provides information or suspicion about irregular or abnormal behaviour that requires attention,” said Fashola.
To contain insecurity, the Minister said multilevel policing must be allowed to thrive, noting that those opposing the creation of state/community police were denying a reality they were currently living.
He endorsed the Southwest joint security operation Amotekun, adding that there should be a legal framework to outline creation of state police for those may wish to do so.
Fashola also advised states and local governments across the country must as a matter of urgency, take control of open spaces, empty buildings which usually provide free and unmonitored accommodation for criminals as well as storage for weapons, drugs and proceeds of crime.
He said laws should be put in place to compel people to identify themselves in public buildings, guest houses/ hotels and have surveillance systems in place, adding that unregistered vehicles or covered number plates should not be tolerated.
“We must recognise that organised crime is a business that we must put out of business because it thrived at our collective peril. The people behind organised crime earn their livelihood from it and also employ people, including the young and able bodied who play critical roles in the value chain of its operation.
“They have collaborators in critical institutions of the state and at sensitive placed like our borders. Seizures of containers of arms and tramadol at our ports are not accidental. They are product of vigilance and dedication by border security against organised crime.
“But the question to ask is how many actually got in undetected? Therefore, the case for immediate action by budgetary commitment and spending against an illegal business that is investing must be a compelling matter of national consensus.
“The United Kingdom recently made the case for investing £2billion to its existing budget, in order to fight organised crime. Because of the rewards that organised crime offers by way of illicit funds, and its appeal to the young, old, unemployed and vulnerable, we must move financial controls to another level.”