Nigerians in self imprisonment as burglary proofs, street gates become part of living

Nigerians in self imprisonment as burglary proofs, street gates become part of living

Nigerians now live like prisoners in their own homes. In major cities and towns, including rural communities, people's homes are barricaded with corrugated iron sheets as burglary proofs on windows and doors.

Sometimes, the iron rods used in constructing some of the burglary proofs are even of a higher gauge than the ones used in the regular prisons across the country.

But even with such iron protectors already fixed on the windows and doors, Nigerians still feel insecure in their homes.

So, they go on to complement the burglary proofs with very high walls and gates that make it impossible for air to even penetrate into the compound freely. It also becomes practically impossible for outsiders to see or know what goes on in such compounds. They do all of those to provide security over their lives and property.

At a time when kidnapping for ransom, and sometimes for ritual purposes, has become the norm, the people are no longer treating the issue of their personal security with levity.

They are not even satisfied with the personal security gadgets already fixed in their homes, they have also gone ahead to mount gates on the streets. They also employ private security guards or community vigilantes to guard such streets or estate gates just to ward off unwanted persons from gaining access.

In some areas, they even install CCTV cameras for aerial security surveillance of the vicinity. And this practice cuts across every city, as well as in most rural communities in Nigeria.

Checks revealed that in the 1960's, 70's and up to early 80s, people built houses without burglary proofs or walls. What obtained then were low fences whose height never exceeded three feet. Added to the three-foot block fence is about two-foot wire gauze, bringing the entire height to about five feet to allow free passage into the entire compound. It also afforded people outside the rare opportunity to see the aesthetics of the building and what was happening in those compounds. There were no street gates at all in those days. But today, the story is different.

The craze to provide burglary proofs in people's homes in Nigeria became prominent in the late 1980's and since then, it has continued as part of building designs, first in cities and later in towns and villages.

Today, it has become a norm. In fact, it is an anathema for someone to build a house without burglary proof, be it in the city or rural community. The street gates are also novel in the sense that they also became prominent in the last couple of years.

The cause of this novel development can be traced to a cocktail of factors- chief among them being the people's loss of confidence in the ability of the security agents to provide adequate security for their lives and property. However, such a bold step is not without some bitter pills.

Just in September, the family of Odioye was in mourning following the death of their 12-year-old son, Dominion, who died in the hospital after he was trapped in the holes of the burglar-proof door of their house.

According to reports, the incident, which happened at No. 4, Ilu Agbado in Ogun State, occurred when the deceased minor folded two curtain materials and turned them into a swing on the bars.

However, what started as a swing play, according to reports, turned ugly when the 12-year-old boy became trapped in-between the holes of the burglar-proof bars at the entrance of their apartment and became worn out while trying to free himself.

The deceased's mother, identified as Justina, who met her son trapped between the bars, was said to have called for help, but the boy had become unconscious before he was removed from the bars. He was later confirmed "dead on arrival" by the doctor on duty at the hospital he was rushed to for treatment.

Confirming the incident in a statement, the Ogun State Police Spokesman, Omolola Odutola said: "Burglar-proof bars like that have now been outlawed.

"We want parents to avoid them. They need to ensure the safety of their children when using burglar-proof bars in their homes. They can use alternative protection. Burglar-proof doors with holes should not be used when kids are in the house."

However, there are several other incidents where families have perished in fire incidents inside their apartment because they could not find keys to the burglary proof doors and they could not break through the security gadgets. And even when neighbours come to rescue such victims, it becomes very difficult to pull down the burglary proof doors or windows and most often, so many have died in the process of trying to break in and help them.

A cross section of Nigerians, who reacted to the desirability or otherwise of burglary proofs in homes, as well as the street gates, agreed that it is counter-productive. They argued that apart from caging Nigerians into prison-like living styles, it has also predisposed them to avoidable dangers of losing their lives in case of emergency situations.

Just recently, in the Ago area of Lagos, a pregnant woman went into labour in the middle of the night and when her husband wanted to rush her to the nearby hospital, the street gate prevented him. It was said that when he got to the street gate, the security men who were supposed to be manning the post were nowhere to be found and the gate was locked.

He made frantic efforts before he could locate the men. He was lucky that his wife did not die; but, what about those who have lost their wives or babies in similar circumstances?

Reacting to the development, a property lawyer, Marcellus Onah said the need to provide security over lives and property, which according to him has not been forthcoming from the country's security agents, was a major contributory factor. He believes that the people should not be blamed because they were responding to the dynamics of the society.

He told Torizone: "The population of people that are jobless far outweighs those that are working. Do you know that in Nigeria today, one person that works has no less than 30 persons who depend on him or her?

"So, people put iron protectors on their windows and doors to prevent robbers from attacking them because very many people who are jobless have taken to crime for survival. People want safety and that is why they resort to all those safety measures.

"When robbers enter your house and you don't have money to give to them, they will kill you. To avoid such untimely death, you find people putting different kinds of iron protectors on their windows and doors."

He made reference to what obtains in the United States of America where one of his friends resides, saying, "My friend who lives in Atlanta, Georgia, USA, told me that people don't fence their houses, not to talk of putting iron protectors on their windows and doors. That is because there is proper security and people have jobs to do.

"So, they would not break into anybody's house to steal. They could indulge in things like drug peddling and consumption, but not steal to feed because the government provides for them to be able to, at least, feed."

Mr Onah does not believe that the development should be blamed on the security agents.

He argued that in a situation where over 70 percent of the youth population is unemployed, not even the American police could guarantee security in such an environment.

"Security agents are not the problem here; I wouldn't say we have poor or inefficient security agents here. In a situation where 70 percent of the population is jobless and hungry, crime is inevitable and there is nothing the security agents can do to stop them.

"Even in the USA, if 70 percent of their youth population is idle due to unemployment, there is nothing their security agents can do to prevent crime. I know that in Lagos, it is estimated that one police officer mans about 4000 people.

"If the 4000 people are idle, how can one policeman control them, but if they are engaged, it will be easy for one policeman to watch over them, because the policeman will simply go and sleep.

"So, everything boils down to our government. The government should improve our economy and provide jobs for the teeming unemployed people in this country.

"I know the government cannot provide jobs for everybody, but there are policies that can be put in place to enable small and medium scale enterprises to thrive and create jobs. That enabling environment should be there so that the private sector could provide jobs because the rate of unemployment is alarming," he submitted.

In spite of all the dangers inherent in the practice, Mr Onah believes that people will always build fences around their houses and provide burglary proof on their doors and windows.

For a retired naval officer, Uchenna Ozor, people no longer believe that God could secure them.

He argued that they believe so much that their wealth and influence could provide them the security they need, adding that it had not always been the case.

"I can say that security is good and very important, but the most important security is in Christ Jesus. Why many people opt for their own personal security which doesn't even work most times is because they don't have confidence in the God they serve. They believe that with money, wealth and influence, they can secure their lives.

"But, what about the common man, who doesn't have access to acquire those gadgets? This leads to impunity in the sense that people will go to any length to make money either by hook or crook to provide personal securities. And at the end of the day, it will be to the detriment of the masses,"

He doesn't believe in barricading people's homes with burglary proof because according to him, it amounted to living in bondage.

He believes that the best way of providing security is for Nigerians to go back to God and live honest lifestyles.

He said: "Everything that has advantages equally has disadvantages. The security that you put in place, which does not allow free movement in case of emergency, is like bondage. If you build skyscrapers believing that you are secured, don't you travel on the road?

"So, what I will advise is for people to go back to God and live an honest life. If you don't have any skeletons in your cupboard, you won't be thinking of all those things. The first security is to secure your body and soul in Christ Jesus and every other thing will be added unto you. The physical security will manifest because the Bible says if God does not watch over the city, the watchman watches in vain."

He agreed that a man, who puts a burglary proof in his house, does so to secure his life but at the same time, he is at risk.

To buttress this line of thought, he said: "If an armed robber invades your house, he will steal; he may not kill everybody in the house but if there is a fire outbreak and people cannot be rescued because of the burglary gadgets in place, the entire family will be wiped out.

"So, it becomes a question of which alternative is better? And in this case, the alternative of no burglary proof is less risky as far as I am concerned."

Also baring her mind on the subject, Rev Gertrude Ike also went spiritual, when she said: "The word of the Lord says if God does not watch over a city, the watchman watches in vain."

She attributed the development to the fact that everybody needs safety because everybody lives in fear due to the high rate of crime, resulting from high unemployment rate.

She also made reference to other countries where, according to her, "There is no burglary proof on the windows and doors. They are like that in case of emergency, but here, it is the other way round because everybody is afraid of armed robbers."

Decrying the situation, she again went spiritual, saying, "It is not fair for us to continue putting ourselves in prison because there is no safety in that. Our leaders have failed us. In the book of Joshua chapter six verses 15 to 16, you see how God allowed the walls of Jericho to fall.

"If we rely on God, we don't need all these. We need to come back to God who is a strong tower. He protects us because He is the only man that can secure our lives. Every security belongs to God and I want to say again that our leaders have failed us.

"When you go to other countries, you see what I am saying. If they can go back to God and ask for wisdom like Solomon did, things will change for better."

She also absolved the police but blamed the government squarely for the ugly trend.

"Our policemen are competent but they are being neglected. They know what to do but they are handicapped. I can't blame the police because they are well trained but the government has failed to do the necessary thing.

"The youths are jobless. In other countries, as a student, you have a job, and as soon as you are through with your studies, you also have a job, but here, the reverse is the case.

"So, until the government rises to its responsibilities, barricading our individual homes with burglary proofs and high-rising walls will not solve the problem," she said.

However, for Mrs Chinyere Anokwuru, the trend is very dangerous.

She buttressed her point with a case of her friend who lost her father in a fire incident that gutted their apartment because the burglary proof didn't allow them to escape in good time.

She narrated thus: "I have a friend whose house caught fire. They had the keys to the padlock but while the fire was raging, it affected the padlock and it became so stiff that when they wanted to insert the key into the padlock, it couldn't penetrate. They were trapped in the fire. They had to go behind to break the less strong iron protector before they escaped.

"Unfortunately, her father died in the incident. He was not strong enough to escape through the opportunity they eventually created. They sustained serious injuries during the incident."

She also corroborated the fact that there is no burglary proof in people's houses in countries like the US because there is security.

She said: "The trend is very dangerous but I know people resort to that because we don't have good security in this country. If we have good security in place, then we won't have any need for burglary proof in our homes.

"Personally, I am not very comfortable with it, even though I have it in my house. I feel so bad and I pray that nothing that will result in an emergency happens in my home, otherwise only God knows."

Accepting that the situation as it is today is a necessary evil, she also said: "Be that as it may, we can only do away with it if we have good security in place.

"There are so many miscreants that can burgle your house when you are not around. There are no police, no cameras and all that. We need to do away with this burglary proof of a thing if our government can put adequate security measures in place."

On the issue of security gates on the streets across major cities, she described it as a welcome development, as according to her, it prevents 'area boys' from taking undue advantage of free access to steal and cause trouble.

"As for the security gates on the streets, they are okay. They will ward off some criminals who loiter around the street looking for houses to burgle.

"So, I will say we need to do away with burglary proofs in the homes but leave the street gates because they are necessary," she submitted.


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