The subject of safety and security embodies a plethora of concerns and issues. In recent times, Abuja has been in the news due to the increasing numbers of abductions that has taken place within the city centre, satellite towns and villages. While these abductions are not entirely new to some original inhabitants who live in villages in Abuja, residents in the satellite towns and Abuja city centre have for a long-time lived-in denial or oblivious of the abductions.
The insecurity has reached heightened stage and is fast assuming a cancerous form that requires urgent chemotherapy for it to be flushed out completely, so citizens and residents can feel secure to go about their lawful businesses.
For context, since the growing insecurity conundrum became mainstream news, businesses especially those who operate in the evenings have lost customers/clients and this has grave impact on the employees who are either let off work or forced to take salary cut from the often not-so-much wage that many households depend on for survival; further increasing the ever-burgeoning unemployment statistics.
There is also palpable fear in the public transport sector, many motorists look at each other with mistrust due to the “one chance situation”, where many have been robbed of their valuables, with some being killed in the process. One of the quick solutions many residents are turning to is; the purchase of more private vehicles which further burdens our roads, increase our carbon footprint and increase air pollution.
Food insecurity – with increasing kidnapping and other forms of violence against unarmed civilians, many residents in villages and communities whose mainstay livelihood/occupation is farming have stopped farming or are now farming at subsistence level around their homes; the general implication on the populace is food shortages leading to food inflation where only the rich can afford. In the last 3 years, commercial farms in parts of Kuje and Bwari have had to shut down operations due to security threats.
HOW CAN AN INCLUSIVE AND PARTICIPATORY URBAN GOVERNANCE SYSTEM HELP CURB INSECURITY IN ABUJA?
The world over, city residents and government share an intricate interdependent relationship. This relationship encourages and promotes trust building, sense of belonging and ownership, patriotism and an obligation to jointly safeguard the territory.
This assertion does not apply to Abuja as there exists governance gaps in the city. The relationship between government and citizens is vertical, where the elite speak to the elite and work for the elite while the average residents are treated as inconsequential members of society. Moving away from this; Abuja administrators led by the FCT Minister must alongside civil society groups engage with citizens on the security challenges facing the city as a matter of urgency alongside other developmental plans of the government. The people want to be heard; they need to be heard. The residents want to help safeguard their city but whom do they trust?
solving security problems requires more than only police-action. As a basis, a strong strategic partnership of local stakeholders and decision-makers. Local actors that otherwise would not interact need to come together and share their perspectives.
To effectively improve insecurity, contact with citizens is key. With a strong citizen-government relationship, neighborhoods, shopping malls, communities can be encouraged through a government led public private partnership (PPP) subsidy program (that makes light the cost burden) install a centrally managed neighborhood surveillance centre where closed circuit television cameras (CCTV) are installed at strategic positions to stimulate community surveillance and policing.
Mass Media Campaign/Awareness: The government can identify social media influencers and media establishments with huge followership through partnership run awareness campaigns on safety tips, security numbers to call in distress and provide real time security information to residents to assuage the fears that many now live in.
Data Management: As at today, the population of Abuja is speculative based on estimations and projections. A model city like Abuja should have a database of all city residents (those coming in and moving out) that they can track and follow-up on. These data provide an avalanche of opportunities for planning and the deployment of scarce resources to meet city resident needs and for security purposes.
Effective public transportation system: Public transportation in Abuja is majorly private sector driven with majority of the players being private individuals. With an effective public transport system dedicated city buses can be equipped with installed surveillance cameras, trained and verified bus drivers who are known and traceable can contribute to reduce the incidence of one chance who operate in the obscurity of poor regulation. Existing public transport fleet business operators should register all their drivers and or update their records to reflect current reality. The policy or unwritten policy that restricts designate registered public taxi operators from accessing certain places such as Airports, Malls, government offices etc should be abolished as this is also contributing to why residents board unregistered taxis because they can easily move in and out any choice location.
An effective urban governance will contribute to city safeguarding, removing the burden of policing from the shoulders of the state security outfits and sharing it across to all residents who will excitedly contribute towards measures that will reduce the prevalence of insecurity around their neighborhood and city.
Bassey Bassey is the Executive Director of HipCity Innovation Centre and writes from Abuja. Bassey can be reached via firstname.lastname@example.org
Photo Credit: Nigerian Tribune