A non-governmental Organization, Justice for All (J4All), Wednesday took its campaign on safety and security to the Agege community in Lagos State.
The event, fourth of its kind tagged Agege Safety Community Initiative (ACSI), is organized yearly to avail stakeholders the opportunity to interface on security improvement and safety of the community.
Government officials, security operatives, traditional leaders, civil society organization and residents were in attendance at the event to seek a common ground in proffering lasting solutions to the challenges plaguing the community.
Speaking on the need for the community to work hand in gloves with the police, the Division Police Officer (DPO) of Isokoko, Amaechi Oliver, urged the residents to support the police.
“We urge you to help us perform better in our duties in ensuring safety of lives and properties. The people always have the fear to report suspects to the police thinking their identity would be disclosed and the accused may come back to haunt them.”
The DPO assured the confidentiality of informants saying the police need the people to succeed in the quest to stemming the rate of criminal in the locale. “Police would not disclose your identity for helping us perform better”, he said.
On a lighter mood, the Officer said: “You are supposed to respect the police more than the clergy. Police are more important than the clergy because they would be in charge to usher-in qualified humans into the heaven.
He allayed the fear of the residents over the impression they have of the police, that they should “see the police as individuals who have signed up to protect them.”
The five-year pilot programme supported by the United Kingdom’s Department for International Development (DfID) kicked off in 2010 has yielded positive results according to the Programme Coordinator of j4all, Ms Ajibola Ijimakinwa.
“This is the fourth edition of this event, we held the first meeting at the Agege Local Government; then the second one was held at the Oba Ologba Palace. The third meeting was held at Ayobo Motor Park and what we have realized is that people have been coming out to talk about issue within their environments”, she said.
She also stated further that: “These are the issues we took back to the partnership and the various stakeholders that are involved to address. We have been able to talk about gender and domestic violence in the community and the reports that we got from the police station on the issues that involved violence and rape increased within that month.
“This showed there was a lot of impact of the sensitization we did on the people especially the women and children in reporting cases of gender based violence”
Speaking on the challenges being faced three years down the line, she identified drug abuse related task as the main crux of the initiative.
“It’s not been easy for one of the working groups dealing with drug related issues as the stakeholders have not been able to take drastic steps to tackle the menace. We have not really been able to get that buy-in to arrest the situation”, she revealed.
Blessing Abere is one of the local consultants working with J4All in Agege LGA; she described the experience as far as eye opening. “The experience has been eye-opening in the sense that you find out that what you think are community problems and priorities are really not. It is when you get to go in deep, interact with them that you begin to know what their real concerns are.
“For instance, before the partnership was able to narrow down the areas to work with, we did a survey within the specified areas to find out what the community issues were. We were able to find out through the survey that issues like gender based violence; defilement of young children; domestic violence; youth involvement in crime and lastly the issues of drug abuse were on the increase.
“Drugs abuse is a very peculiar issue because drugs are sold there. It is however tougher for us to crack down the perpetrators because most of the people who transact business there do not reside in the area. They come during the day, transact their business and go. So also, most of the end users don’t reside here, so it’s like a clearing house. As a result, it’s been difficult to pinpoint people we can reach out to”, she concluded.
A member of the youth working group, Owodina Yakub also spoke on the activities of the initiative in Agege. “We try as much as we can as youths to solve the problems of our mates.”
As regards unemployment which is the main reason of criminal acts, Owoduni said: “We have been able to change the orientation of our youth from running after white collar jobs that are not available through acquisition of skills. They have realized that they cannot really get the job they are looking for because of the level of unemployment and very limited available space. They have decided to acquire skills through which they can get their means of livelihood.”
He however identified source for fund to start up business through skills they have acquired as a major challenge. “After learning the vocation, they face the problem of how to source for funds to get themselves established.”
The event is expected to go a long way in making Agege community violence-free as all hands are on deck to that effect.
by Adediwura Aderibigbe