OPINION: If Lagos Anti-Cultism Bill must bare its ‘dangerous’ fangs – By Segun Michael Adeyemi

NEWS DIGEST – Recently, the Lagos State Police Command issued a press statement, where it disclosed that it has arrested over 127 traffic robbers.

According to the Police Command, the ‘petty’, yet daredevil criminals, were nabbed in the last 3 months.

The Commissioner of Police, CP Hakeem Odumosu, in the statement, dated 17 June 2021, however, reassured residents of the ‘State of the Aquatic Splendour’ that his team has “deployed its human and material resources to tackle the menace headlong”.

Odumosu announced that they have commenced a combat training exercise, musketry, and range practice for Police personnel in the State, even as training for police operatives attached to the newly-formed Anti-Traffic Robbery Squad (ATRS) has been kick-started.

Checks by this writer revealed that the ATRS personnel will be tasked with the exigent responsibility of ending the menace of robbery in the ever-chaotic Lagos traffics, by the time their training program is completed.

If the truth must be said without any prejudice, the ATRS security initiative is commendable. The management of the Lagos Police Command deserves a pat in the back, if not resounding applause for conceptualizing the innovative idea.

But it must be said also, that long before Odumosu’s disclosure about the ATRS, series of reports on traffic robberies, hooliganism, cultism and cult clash, violent gangsterism, and a host of even juvenile crimes were not short in demand. At a point in time, the wave of crimes in Lagos State was unstoppable.

In the first quarter of this year, the State Governor, Babajide Sanwo-Olu, assented to the Anti-Cultism Bill, with strict clauses contained in the bill. The notable one is the 21-year jail term for anyone found guilty of engaging in cultism.

Six months after, cases of traffic robberies, hooliganism, cult clashes, street killings, among others, staple items in media reports. Sadly, not even a single conviction has been recorded by the State Ministry of Justice.

Just recently, the All Progressive Congress (APC) local government primaries in the State, witnessed terrifying attacks on rival hooligans/thugs and even innocent party faithful, to the extent that two persons were said to have died in Surulere local government.

If the above ugly and disturbing trends must not continue, the State Government, with the support and cooperation of the judiciary, must start making scapegoats of criminals who wittingly desecrate the provisions of the anti-cultism bill. It will deter others. The punishments outlined in the bill must be put to the practical test on defaulters.

Our collective and darling ‘Centre of Excellence’ must not be allowed to degenerate into a haven for criminals. It is time the newly-promulgated bill bare its full and dangerous fangs.

Segun Michael Adeyemi, From Lagos State

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