From: TONY JOHN, Port Harcourt Hundreds of youths in Rivers State yesterday, staged a peaceful protest in Port Harcourt, condemning the activities of some operatives of the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) of the state police command. Protesting on the platform of Niger Delta Non-Violence Youth Leaders Assembly (NDNYLA), they marched through some major streets in…
Until recently, the name Badoo was not all that bad. Russian entrepreneur, Andrey Andreev, launched a dating cum social networking site in London in November 2006 and named it Badoo. In 2007, it raised $30 million in funding. It was a pretty smart move by a guy who saw the future. Today, Badoo has grown to over 300 million-user community spread over 190 countries with a networth in excess of $3 billion. Good business! It has created thousands of direct and ancillary jobs but much more it has satiated the desire of its founder: to match-make people across the world.
And by Jove, it has become the preferred dating site ever since. Nothing bad about this; just smart thinking by a smart guy in an ever expanding digital economy. And its faithful users are a happy bunch sharing values that tend to fill the vacuum of loneliness in their lives. That is the Badoo the world knew. That is the Badoo the global community, including Nigerians, has come to idolize for its fancies and the fantasies it creates.
But in recent time, in Nigeria, precisely in Ikorodu, a buzzing suburb of Lagos, there has been the emergence of another Badoo. This one is totally different. It is not an app; does not run on Android platforms or blackberry or on any of the geeks in modern geekdom. It is a ragtag assembly of young, misguided urchins; a cult of products of bad breeding; a club of mean and menacing often inebriated and drug-propelled boys who go about killing, maiming and causing pains to innocent citizens.
Whereas Andrey Andreev’s Badoo is a product of deep thinking and good feasible business plan which has brought fortune and fame to its progenitors and joy to its users (though some bad boys have found it a fertile ground to fleece unsuspecting and gullible victims especially women); the same cannot be said of Ikorodu Badoo, a fatalistic fantasy from hell. Ikorodu Badoo is a blood-sucking ‘app’, a merchant of pain and the shame of a nation. Yes, it’s a national shame that an unschooled gang of dirty urchins would terrorise a community for close to one year and rather than being degraded and exterminated by the nation’s anti-crime agencies, is waxing bolder with blood-cuddling hubris.
From the various profiles created about the Badoo cult gang, these are mere low self-esteem boys who attack their victims to obtain human parts which they trade off for ritual in the dark and surreal kingdom of voodoo and magic. They attack with the crudest of weapons: mortars, bricks and clubs; meaning they are of the very miserably poor variant of criminals who cannot afford an AK-47, a bazooka or a carbine. Such group ought not pose any challenge to the police. But here we are; they have operated since last year and the police are yet to break their band. I shudder to believe that the Badoo boys are operating comfortably in Lagos State with all the logistic support from the State government to the police under Governor Akinwunmi Ambode.
No governor in Nigeria has impacted the police with logistics support more than Ambode. His government has spent billions of naira to procure vehicles, communications gadgets, speed boats and other appurtenances of 21st century policing but the state seems to get very little return on investment. The Epe and Ikorodu axis have become a hotbed of kidnapping and cultic killings. The state probably noticed a gap between the communities and the police. It introduced neighbourhood security corps. Lagos is the most militarized state in Nigeria with all manner of uniformed brigades and garrisons. There is LASTMA, KAI, local governments officials in cheap and clumsily sewn uniforms all enforcing order and pretending to be fighting one form of crime or the other.
Yet, the state is scoured daily by crooks and criminals, from break-in thieves and burglars to brazen, well-armed robbers who rob banks and homes for hours unchallenged. Something is wrong. The police especially need to change their strategy. Why is the difficult for the police to infiltrate the ranks of the Badoo boys and get up-to-the-minute intelligence about their plans and movement; why has it taken over 40 days to get students and teachers of Igbonla school in Epe released from the grip of their captors?
Here is why. The Lagos police and indeed the Nigerian police do more of arm-chair surveillance than the real deal of patrol surveillance. With the number of vehicles now at the disposal of Lagos police command, you would expect them to patrol their jurisdictions frequently at night when these crimes are hatched. Never! I live in a neighbourhood in Lagos and my street is less than two minutes drive from the local police station.
After a recent incident which I reported at the police station, I had the cause to engage the senior officers at the station. I was shocked when the District Crime Officer (DCO) and another junior cop told me they have never been to my street. So, what are the patrol vehicles for? The police should engage more in discreet, incognito surveillance and patrol of their neighbourhoods especially at night. They should identify and partner with Landlord-Tenant Associations in their neighbourhood.
Without a doubt, there is public distrust towards the police but the police can win the confidence of the people and build reliable synergy with communities when they move closer to the people. The reason Nigerians do not enthusiastically incident reports of crime and brigandage in their immediate environment including the ones they suffered directly at the police station is a function of this distrust.
Effective community policing comes from active and direct engagement of the police with their immediate publics. Rather than assign three cops to guard the house of one big man in the neighbourhood, the police can send just one cop who will call for back-up in the face of any danger such cop cannot deal with and let the other two go on a patrol. Regular patrol of neighbourhood will curtail crime.
No criminal likes the presence of the police because they are the ones licensed to take on the criminals, arrest and prosecute them or even kill them when the occasion demands.
Lagos police command should take the incident of the Badoo boys to rev up the engine of community policing. The State Commissioner of Police, Fatai Owoseni, a super cop by every standard, should rouse his men to action. It is beyond the flashing of identity cards by residents of Ikorodu as evidence that they are not criminals or members of Badoo. Even the worst criminals have identity cards including Driver’s licence and national ID card.
From the testimony of witnesses to the Badoo crime, the cultists have a common signature and unique way of maiming or killing their victims. Such signature has trailed killings in Ogun and Ondo states; meaning the Badoo cell spreads beyond Lagos. This calls for urgent intervention of the Inspector General of Police and AIG in charge of the afflicted zones. If we do not stop Badoo now from getting more ruthlessly basal, they will scale up their onslaught. For sure, they are not spirits, but human. Therefore, it should not be a hard nut to crack for the police. They only need to deploy the experience of their training, their arsenal and the vehicular infrastructure at their disposal. There are many more serious security challenges threatening the nation. The Badoo cult should be the least of our worries only if the police could just do their job, and do it very well.