Victor Paul*, a motorcycle rider, had set out at 6 a.m.—a daily routine for him—to pick residents trying to make it early to their offices or work environment.
Paul, who services the Egan-Igando routes in Lagos, Southwest Nigeria, was robbed that morning, despite his familiarity with the road.
That morning, he was scouting for passengers when he was stopped by two men, whom he thought would make his first pay for that morning.
The men, who were armed, forcefully collected his bike. When he struggled to defend himself, they hit his head with a cutlass and left him unconscious.
Before the robbery, Paul had just returned from his village in a Southeast Nigerian state where he had dropped off his wife, who is undergoing treatment for a terminal ailment. His hope, upon returning to Lagos, was to get money to aid the treatment.
Rahmon*, another bike man who plied the same route, had a similar encounter with ‘the morning’ robbers. He had left his house to begin his day’s work with over N40,000 cash–a payment for a joint contribution, Ajo– and was attacked by two armed men who collected his bike, the cash, and his phone.
Both Paul and Rahmon could not report their robbery experiences to the Igando Police Station as it has been burnt down by hoodlums who hijacked the #EndSARS protest in October 2020.
Although the Igando Police Station has been moved to a temporary building for operation, the proximity to the people has been compromised.
Vandalised police stations in Lagos
The Lagos State police spokesperson, Olumuyiwa Adejobi, in an interview warned that the “burning of several police stations across the state will lead to retrogression and a waste of money that could have been deployed to other projects.”
“It will make our work harder now because we will have to enhance our patrols in order to cover more grassroots areas that are normally covered by the burnt stations before.”
“I doubt if some of the grassroots stations will ever function at full capacity again, taking into consideration the damaged vehicles and computer equipment that have been lost,” the officer said.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reported that some of the affected police stations include Idimu, Igando, Layeni, Denton, Ilenbe Hausa, Ajah, Amukoko, Ilasa, Cele Outpost under Ijesha, disbanded SARS office under Ajegunle, Ebute-Ero, Mushin (Olosan), Ojo, Ajegunle where two patrol vans were set ablaze, Ikotun, and Ojodu.
The deplorable police stations
This reporter visited some of the vandalised police stations in Lagos and observed the dilapidated condition of most of these stations which no longer serve much use to the communities.
While some of these stations have been totally abandoned – with the operation unit relocated to a temporary building – others are still inhabited by the police division despite their deplorable condition.
Some patch-up works like erecting canopies, wooden, and block demarcations have been done to create segments in the station as they await full reconstructions.
Meanwhile, some other burnt stations that have been abandoned are being inhabited by motorists, street beggars and street hawkers as their temporary base.
The police stations visited by this reporter include Igando Police Station, Ikotun Police Station, Ilasa Police Station, Cele Police Station, Mushin Police Station, Idimu Police Station, Ebute-Ero Police Station and Ajah Police Station.
Fear in Lagos communities
Since the vandalism, there have been efforts by the Lagos State Police Command to curb criminal activities in the state.
There have been increased criminal activities such as cultist attacks, kidnapping, thefts, robbery, vandalism, and safety protocols violations.
According to residents, despite efforts by the police to curb rising crime, the inaccessibility to some of these ‘vandalised’ police stations appears to be fuelling criminals activities in some communities, leaving devastating impacts.
In March, HumAngle reported the fear of Lagos state residents despite the efforts of the command, especially the announced arrest of over 100 cultists in two months.
Rahmon said in the past, he had always sought safety in the Igando Police station when criminals attacked the community but could not when he was attacked.
“Who do I want to tell? I was told to go to report in the station but it is not like before where you just walk in and make your complaints. I just had to gather myself back together, start a new life and repay my debt,” he said painfully.
Explaining how the usual, now frequent attacks are done, Rahmom said, “they can be two or three [people] and even four on the bike. Once you park and they double-cross you, just know you are done. Obviously, you can not beat them all and if you try to attack, they would injure you.”
He added that there were several tactics the criminals could use to threaten your life and get what they want.
For Paul, after he was attacked, he sought help from his immediate family members as well as his cultural association for help.
“The association I belonged to gave money and with the little I had, I was able to manage to get another bike and resume my work after over four months of treatments.
“If I had reported, maybe something would have been done because I may have some people there, but there was no point. It is not like before. Our park is just behind the station, so you could just walk in but now, you will have to live your life.”
A resident of Ikorodu who spoke with HumAngle said, “there has been a lot of news on attacks by cultists, especially in Ikorodu. During the #EndSARS protest, they mobilised themselves into groups and used the opportunity to steal from people.”
“We identified them by their names. After the protest, the police were able to apprehend some but not all. They still constantly disturb us,” he added.
Lagos government denies crime surge
Speaking with HumAngle, the Lagos State Police public relations officer, Olumuyiwa Adejobi said there has not been any crime surge in the state as all units are available everywhere carrying out their duties.
“We are working with the government and all relevant stakeholders to rebuild the stations. But we work as normal and expected.”
“Policemen are available everywhere if you are referring to Lagos State Police Command. No surge in any crime in Lagos State”, he insisted.
Names have been changed to protect the identity of respondents.