‘How we plan to curb excesses of agberos in Lagos’

The Attorney General of Lagos State and Commissioner for Justice, Mr. Adeniji Kazeem, says the unregulated activities of bus conductors, popularly known as agberos, in the state, remains a huge source of concern to the government.

He said though the government was not unaware of the complaints of residents about the excesses of the agberos on Lagos roads, it had found tackling the issue particularly challenging because the agberos are members of a union.

 But light, he said, was at the end of the tunnel, with the plan by the state to eventually phase out privately-owned buses, danfos, with which the agberosoperate.With the danfos gone, the excesses of the agberos will also be gone, Kazeem said.

The Attorney General said this at the weekend while engaging with journalists in his Alausa, Ikeja office.

He noted that the Governor Akinwunmi Ambode administration had since decided that the danfos would have no place in the mega city into which it was gradually turning Lagos.

He re-echoed Ambode’s resolve to transform public transportation in Lagos State, with his plan to replace the danfoswith world-class luxurious buses to give commuters better comfort on the road.

This plan, he explained, would begin to materialise towards the end of the year, when the state would take delivery of the first tranche of the said world-class buses.

Kazeem said, “The agberos, who are, in the real sense, bus conductors, are members of a union of sort. So, the question will be: Can you proscribe them? Can you regulate them? I will say well, if a union has been recognised, you have to regulate them actually to make things much better. And that is a very important point which we are taking on. The Ministry of Transport and the police interface with these people and it’s something that we are going to take on.”

He added that Ambode had made it clear that the danfos that are on the streets presently are not befitting for a city like Lagos.

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He said, “So, what he’s proposing is that this year, he intends to introduce world-class buses that will gradually replace those danfos in Lagos State. The first tranche, I believe, is over 800 buses and that should come towards the end of the year. What impact it is going to have on the issue of bus conductors is that with those kinds of buses, the rough way which you have complained about will be better regulated. A lot of these people will find jobs but they will have to be retrained, re-kitted and told how to conduct themselves better in public. A lot of the places that these buses are going to operate from are going to well set up and regulated. You’ve seen the Ikeja Bus Terminal, that’s world-class and that’s the kind of place where these buses are going to operate from. And you can imagine that ruffians and people who will wake up in the morning and drink paraga or small gin or whatever will not be allowed in these kinds of places. We are very hopeful that with this reform being proposed by His Excellency, things will get better in that area.”

Crime fighting through forensic investigation

Kazeem said Lagos State was poised to, this year, consolidate on its gains in the area of security and crime fighting.

Last year, the state opened its DNA Forensic Centre, saying it would enhance investigation of crimes and mark the end of wrongful conviction of the innocent or acquittal of the guilty. It said the centre would also help to resolve controversy about paternity and identification of bodies of accident victims by their loved ones.

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Kazeem, who said the DNA Forensic Centre, sited on Lagos Island, had since been delivering on its mandate, disclosed that there was plan to introduce a toxicology section, this year.

He said, “The whole idea was to try and set Lagos as the destination for forensic investigation…Toxicology is one part we intend to add to that facility.”

Since its set up, the DNA Forensic Centre, Kazeem said, had handled no fewer than 40 cases.

“The cases range from sexual assault to paternity issues.  We will be having a press conference in the next two weeks, when we shall give you  very interesting details; cases from West African countries, such as Ghana.  There have been approaches from the German Embassy to collaborate with us; even the US Embassy to collaborate with us in the lab.  So, we are very much encouraged by the attention that has been given to those facilities.  That is what has spurred us on to make additional investment (in terms of toxicology),” Kazeem said.

Added to this, the Attorney General said the state would, this year, introduce a data crime register, christened the Lagos Criminal Information System.

This system, he said, would capture all the people who have been convicted of crimes in the state, adding that the information would come in handy to the general public and law enforcement agencies.

“What it means is that every person who has got a conviction, especially in Lagos State, you will find that person on that system. That is what the public wants to see, whether this personality has been once convicted.  You can go there and check,” he said.

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The system would also capture names of accused persons, who are being tried in court and the offences for which they are being prosecuted. Kazeem, however, said this aspect of the data base would only be accessible to lawyers in the ministry of justice and law enforcement agencies, as making it open to the general public might lead to stigmatisation of accused persons, who may in the end be found not guilty of the offence with which they were charged.

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