The Lagos state government in their characteristic mode of taking “military-like” sweeping actions have scored another point with a mass arrest of its residents, leaving many wondering if these actions are aimed at solving existing problems or creating more. Recently, commercial motorcycles Okada were banned from moving along major roads in Ikeja. This has turned a lot of residents to long distance walkers as they now have to trek distances where there are no available alternatives.
Yesterday, Wednesday 28th March 2012, between the hours of 11pm and 1am, some officers of the Lagos State Task Force on Environment and Special Offences (Enforcement) Unit arrested 86 people in the state. Punch News reports that the “86 suspected illegal squatters, food vendors and aliens in Ikoyi area of the state” were arrested “for not having definite residential address and means of livelihood.”
The report further states:
“It was learnt that the arrest was in response to complaints by residents of the area about the presence of illegal squatters in uncompleted buildings and makeshift shops. It was also learnt that the report of a security investigations conducted by policemen did not favour the squatters, as they were classified as security risk.
Task Force Chairman, Bayo Sulaiman, subsequently led policemen that raided the area between 11pm and 1am on Wednesday.
Sulaiman said those arrested were found in abandoned houses, shops and were food vendors and aliens. He said some of them were suspected to be part of criminal gangs terrorising Ikoyi residents.
The Chairman said, “They were arrested at Lugard Street, Bedwell Street, Glover Street and three different spots in Parkview Estate. Those arrested were those selling and living in shanties and those living in uncompleted buildings.”
Sulaiman explained that the food vendors were arrested because they usually sell food to suspected criminals squatting in uncompleted buildings. He said the raid would continue because government wanted criminals out of the state. He added that the government would no longer tolerate people living in uncompleted buildings, saying a large number of them were criminals.
Sulaiman said, “Those arrested will be further investigated and charged to court.”
It’s bad enough that these people were homeless and living in uncompleted buildings and makeshift shops. Their plight has now been compounded with this arrest.
How shocking would it have been for them to be arrested at the time when they thought it was time for sleep. But now that the deed has been done, will they have access to proper legal representation if charged to court? Does this solve the problem of homelessness of which Lagos state has a glaring popularity for?
Aside from the reason of wanting to rid the streets of criminals, maybe the government should come out and tell us how they intend to ensure that the innocent ones get justice because definitely not all 86 of them deserve to be thrown in jail. Except if homelessness has now become a crime.
News Source: Punch News