MUCH has been made about the discovery of improvised explosive devices, bombs, and guns in an abandoned Lagos building belonging to the Bayelsa State Government that the impression could be created that the ownership of the building was more important that the import of the discovery.
Terrorists and other criminals find comfort in abandoned buildings. We had so warned in an editorial earlier in the year about the waste and illegal uses of abandoned buildings, many of them belonging to governments.
Abandoned buildings pose a combination of risks. Their use for criminal activities is only one of them. There are hundreds of thousands of uncompleted or abandoned buildings in Lagos and our other towns and cities, some on the verge of collapsing. They belong to federal, state, local governments, corporations, or individuals.
In the case of governments, the buildings form part of a bigger national malaise of unplanned projects, their poor funding, and supervision. At the individual level, ambitious developers who run out of funds, die, or are otherwise incapacitated also account for abandoned buildings.
If construction stops, within days, the building is stealthily occupied, first at nights, and later, it becomes a rooming house for all kinds of characters. Illegal immigrants, vandals, vagrants and criminal elements find abandoned buildings useful as bases for their nefarious activities.
They are hardly challenged. Abandoned buildings also accommodate illegal immigrants who pour into our country assured of free accommodation. Many unemployed people, who have lost means to secure housing, use these buildings. What is certain is that crimes are never far from those surroundings.
The search for criminal hideouts should include vehicles, many of which their owners abandon for years and nobody cares how others use them. Criminals would remain unrelenting in inventing new ways of protecting their activities.
Legislations and effective planning regulations could be helpful in dealing with abandoned buildings. The statutes should be enforceable. Given our current security conundrum, there should be an all-out effort to ensure that uncompleted buildings are properly policed to avoid their being used as criminal hideouts.
The recent arrest of nine suspected terrorists, including a Chadian, in the Ijora Badia area of Lagos metropolis, in the Bayelsa abandoned building – they had lived there for years – again shows the security challenges abandoned building pose.
Security agencies should remain ahead of criminals. For now, the best efforts of the security agencies are still behind the criminals’. Security agencies therefore need more intelligence to uncover the tracks of the criminals.
It would be more effective to block supplies of arms to criminals than discovering where they hide their arms. All these call for a more intensified approach to the war against terror.