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Friday, 22 March, 2002, 21:11 GMT
Nigeria gets tougher on crime
Dead man in a Lagos street
Police vow to bring "sanity to Lagos"
Nigeria has launched a new 2,000-strong police unit to fight armed robbers which for many years have been terrorising residents in the country's commercial capital, Lagos.

The project is the brain-child of the new police chief, Tafa Balogun, following public complaints about the rise of crime levels in the city.

The squad will incorporate around 300 members of an existing unit, the Rapid Response Squad.

On Wednesday, Mr Balogun set up another special operation in Lagos called "Fire for Fire" made up of 500 police officers from different parts of the country.

Armed police

Members of the special branch, equipped with appropriate firearms and special communication facilities, have been given orders to use their guns to protect themselves or to subdue armed criminals.


You and the local force will join hands to make the area crime-free

Tafa Balogun
police chief

Mr Balogun said that "Fire for Fire" officers were on "a special mission to restore sanity to Lagos", a city of between 10 to 13 million people.

"You and the local force will join hands to make the area crime-free," he told the officers.

He said that all the black spots and escape routes used by robbers in the city and its suburbs have been identified.

Police sources said that similar units squads will be launched in the other 35 states and Abuja, the federal capital.

The new initiative will bring the number of police officers in Lagos to 12,500.

This means that there will be one officer for approximately 1,000 residents.

The United Nations recommended average is one police officer per 400 residents.

Over the past two days the squad is reported to have killed 11 suspected robbers in gun fights.

Reservations

However not everybody is pleased with tougher policing.

A member of theYoruba militia group, Odua People's Congress (OPC), told the BBC that he found the whole project "disturbing".

"I know that drastic decisions require drastic therapy," said Dr Frederick Fashehun.

"But I hope that the government will sit down or may be have a conference on national security rather than sending in policemen and asking them to just fire.

"The security agency cannot do it alone. Even in civilised countries where the police are seen to be very efficient, they still depend on information given by good citizens of the country.

"The OPC have in the past arrested antisocial elements and handed them over to the police. But within 24 hours you see these anti-social elements walking freely in the streets," Dr Fashehun said.

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Dr Frederick Fashehun
"I know that drastic decisions require drastic therapy"
See also:

06 Mar 02 | Africa
05 Feb 02 | Africa
18 Mar 02 | Talking Point
25 Feb 02 | Country profiles
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