AMBODE PUNISHING POOR PEOPLE FOR BEING POOR
AMBODE PUNISHING POOR PEOPLE FOR BEING POOR
- No to KAI and Task Force
By Ayo Ademiluyi
There is nothing to describe the height of assault on democratic rights of ordinary citizens by the Lagos State than the distasteful experiences in the hands of various “enforcement and monitoring” agencies of the Lagos State Government. Among several others, the most notorious are the “Kick Against Indiscipline” (KAI) brigade and the Lagos State Monitoring and Enforcement Taskforce.
The activities of these agencies are backed up by various draconian Laws of Lagos State, majority of which were passed into law under the outgone Babatunde Fashola-led regime. It would be recalled that the Fashola regime went down in history as also the repressive regime that arbitrarily sacked okada riders out of the major roads of Lagos. Such was the anger at Fashola’s government that, in the absence of any real alternative, the PDP increased its support in Lagos in last year’s elections. Now the incumbent Ambode regime has been living up to its biddings as the Governor of “continuity” as it has continued the anti-poor repression under the Fashola regime.
The Lagos State Monitoring and Enforcement Taskforce, popularly called “Taskforce” is notorious for hounding petty traders and their wares into their “Black Marias” at the slightest hint for “illegal trading”. These poor lots and hawkers after being arrested are dragged to the nearest Magistrate Courts across the state for arraignment and trial. The Taskforce officers consciously persuade their “captives” to plead guilty in order to pay the sum of N10, 000 fine and evade trial with the accompanying remand in Kirikiri or Badagry prisons. Upon pleading guilty and paying the fine, they are let go but with the closest possibility of being re-arrested and re-arraigned. For the unfortunate ones, who could not pay the N10, 000 fine, they are left to the fate of six-week imprisonment! Thus, while one percent of the population organised as the political class milk the country dry through brazen looting are not arrested, poor Nigerians struggling to survive are sent to jail!
But the “Taskforce” officers have their match in “Kick Against Indiscipline” Officers. The KAI officers arrest people for “offences” such as wandering, crossing the highways and joblessness! These people are arraigned in court and made to face charges for being jobless! Those who are arrested for crossing the highways have a better fate as they are also consciously persuaded to pay N5, 000 fine or perform hours of community service, based on the discretion of the Magistrate. For the jobless and homeless, their fate is worse. They are sentenced to six weeks imprisonment or the option of N10, 000 fine. The fines are also subject to the discretion of the Magistrate.
The most shocking aspect is the fact that apart from the glaring reality that the KAI and Task Force officers extort these poor lots, the entire process is playing out as a conscious policy of the All Progressives Congress (APC) to depopulate Lagos State through these repressive measures. This is further corroborated by an exchange in open court between a Magistrate and a suspect who was being tried for being homeless and jobless. The accused narrated to the court how he had been coming from Ibadan to attend court sessions in Lagos since the period he was granted bail. The Magistrate simply replied: “Remain in Ibadan â€¦ what were you doing in Lagos in the first place?” Meanwhile to show the irony of the situation, the Magistrate herself is an Edo State indigene living in Lagos! But this did not stop her from playing the “divide and rule” card of pitting indigenes of different states against one another. The reality is that the Lagos of the dream of the All Progressives Congress-led Lagos State Government is a Lagos for the rich with the poor pushed out of the central and “best” areas.
This sort of reactionary ideas is also behind the neo-liberal policies of the APC-led Lagos State Government in consciously commercializing the Lagos State University. As we write, street sweepers in Lagos State have made public outcry over their unpaid salaries of several months.
The monthly “Last-Saturday-of-the-Month” environmental exercise is another charade where movement is restricted and “non-complying” citizens are arrested and tried. The fact that the monthly environmental exercise has not reduced the environmental mess in Lagos state is a further indicator of its complete failure. Forcing people to stay home for some hours on a particular day to clean gutters and surroundings is not only inefficient, it is also backward. And it is also one way by which the state imposes its responsibilities on the people. Would it not be far efficient if the state employed more people with good pay and condition of service to regularly clean not just the roads as we have now but also the streets, gutters and surroundings? Many of the people the government are now sending to prison for being jobless would gladly take up this job.
What is urgently needed is a mass campaign in the communities against these attacks. Socialists must be prepared to lead mass actions against this assault on democratic rights. While the All Progressives Congress Lagos State Government constantly assures itself of its strong grip over Lagos State based on its domineering propaganda that “Lagos is working”, there is seething mass anger in the communities. Only a genuine mass-based campaigning platform of workers and youth fighting attacks on democratic rights can tap into this anger.