The trust – In Touch

Sam Omotsheye
THEY are like two red apples on a bough. One is rotten, the other ruddy. They are two of a kind in the country. They bear the name trust fund. One of them is without trust, while the other thrusts ahead. One bears fruit, the other futile. We have the Lagos State Security Trust Fund and the Nigeria Police Trust Fund.
It raises not only a question of trust, but also of money. Not only of money, but competence.  While projecting competence, it impugns men in high office. When the men fail, integrity faints. So, when we refer to a trust fund, it is like a big pot in a family compound, and the communal soup commands the eye and nostril to telegraph a promise to the belly. No one should poison it. The chef should always cook a storm and not play crook.
A trust fund is like a pot of life, a metaphor that an Edo movie painted in colour, concourse, myth and human pathos. But also telling is a 19th century story of a West African kingdom that crafted a pot of many holes encasing the spirit of the land. They were sacred potholes. Every citizen had a hole, and their hand must guard it. One hole guaranteed the whole. Inside the pot is the communal spirit that must not escape. It required only one negligent soul to betray the kingdom.
So, we hear of the Nigeria Police Trust Fund. It is now a place of scandal. It is a story of money not accounted for. The inspector general of police has lamented. Persons who were supposed to hold it in trust are now being held to account. The ICPC stepped in and it is a tale of stale soup.
They conned former inspector general of Police Suleiman Abba, who was its chairman. He cut a sorry figure as he confessed he had no knowledge of the rotten cadaver under his table. His nose could not sniff it. He eyes did not see. But the cadaver of N11 billion lay with broken bones and charred flesh under his table after the men under him had finished their pickings. Hear him: “In all my interactions with the management, I always start my address by harping on transparency and due process. But the management took responsibility of such important operational equipment without my knowledge. They went about this gross anomaly with support of the Bureau for Public Procurement and the Ministry of Police Affairs took responsibility.”
Also of comic value was how the conmen played the president. On January 13, 2022, the president became a guest of fakery. A tear for Buhari. He launched 200 substandard Toyota Buffalo, and other equipment, including helmets of the wrong size and single-sided shield they presented as double sided.
If the commander in chief was conned and the chairman also played out, where is the trust? The ICPC is looking into the pot. The community can secure  its pot no longer.
This is a contrast to the trust in Lagos, and that is what is behind how the Governor of Lagos is handling the state of security in the country. It accounts for why Lagos remains the oasis in a country of banditry.
If the pot lagged in the centre, Lagos takes victory laps over crime. And it is high time the Lagos example nourishes the centre. In a recent interview, the BOS of Lagos, Babajide Sanwo-Olu spoke of layers of security in the state.  He was there at the beginning. He witnessed a Lagos of chaos, when robbers danced on streets, and defied banks. Christmas brought fear and trembling. Banks cringed. You could be tossing your head in your car on Third Mainland bridge  to a favorite song to ward off the humdrum of a traffic jam. Then everyone in front and behind jumped off their cars.  A gunshot, a series of primal screams. Cars revving without drivers. Fear enveloped the highway and the home. But the state started it by a communal idea: the Lagos State Security Trust fund. Lagos has what is called a situation room or command centre. This essayist witnessed it in the days of then governor and Trojan of works, Babatunde Raji Fashola (SAN). On a big screen in Alausa, I saw Oshodi live.
The idea was designed under Asiwaju Bola Tinubu and has held Lagos ever since.  Governor Sanwo-Olu was there on creation day when the command centre was conceptualised and built, and today, it is the nucleus of a vast network of operation in the city.
It is a work in progress, but everyone now takes the calm for granted. Not that it is crime-free. Nowhere in the world is. Not New York, not Paris.
The trust fund is a collaborative effort. Corporate persons, individuals, groups, communities contribute to it. It is transparent, and the money has made the Lagos police, the equipment and their operations the envy of the others.
The centre must learn from Lagos. Imagine that the Nigeria Trust Fund came into being in 2019. It is supposed to ape Lagos. But it is a poor imitation of the original. The Lagos example has a collective buy-in, the communal pot syndrome. The Nigeria Police Fund is a pot for the quick finger. They dip into the soup and keep licking. Now they are ladling out the content while the chef snores.
It is the sort of conscience that went into the Lagos Trust Fund that went into its bus system in Lagos. Lagos will rebound from the devastation of the EndSars rabble who tried to cripple a city on the move. Not that the transport system is perfect. There is room for progress. For instance, it could use technology to fine traffic violators on the go. When they are caught, the offenders’ days are ruined. They may be bound for an interview or a family emergency or a life-changing appointment. The officials, when they fail to ferret bribes from the citizens, drive them far, sometimes across town, to an office. The men tend to be ill-mannered, ill-dressed and sometimes hectoring. There was a recent case of a woman on drips and another woman who could not pay while her three children wept. The LAMATA executives will do well to heed this situation. Some of their field staff are bad ambassadors.
Lagos is always a work in progress. As the governor has noted, there is progress, steady, a state on the march. In the case of Lagos, the Bible gave us the phrase, “the end of the matter is better than the beginning.” Rather than the centre to teach the parts, it is the opposite. Apostle Paul said “the less is blessed of the better.” Here, the better is Lagos.

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