October 16, 2023

Musing the Differences: The Security Architecture of Lagos and Johannesburg

Samson Faboye

Samson's latest blog post explores the contrasting security architectures of Lagos and Johannesburg, shedding light on their unique approaches to law enforcement and the challenges they face.

Night time at Johannesburg

Photo: Paul Saad

There are contextual differences between the security architecture systems of Lagos and Johannesburg. A typical street scene a visitor to Johannesburg will observe is the police (South African Police Service) with their vans armed with pistols… and doing their thing. Alongside, there will also be private security companies also armed with bulletproof vests and pistols (some with rifles) guarding their client infrastructures (ranging from banks, office premises, and housing complexes)… and the municipal police (Johannesburg Metropolitan Police Department), also armed with pistols basically minding traffic.

Whereas in Lagos, there is the Nigeria Police Force, controlled by the federal government. This serves the core of the security service with the monopoly/licence for using force of arms, instigating arrests and pursuing prosecution. Howbeit, there are nagging issues with this security arrangement. There are ever-present cases of clash of interests between the national, state and local governments, with the subnational governments handicapped to enforce law and order independent of the national government. To curtail this gap, the Lagos State Government established paramilitary/security outfits such as:

  • Lagos State Traffic Management Authority (LASTMA): to manage traffic
  • Kick Against Indiscipline (KAI): to enforce environmental laws
  • Lagos Neighborhood Safety Corps(LNSC): for intelligence gathering on crime and community policing.

These subpolicing units established by the Lagos State Government have to work as complementary security units with the national police. Following increasing kidnapping cases across Nigeria in recent times, there have been calls to constitutionally devolve policing to subnational government tiers. However, licencing for the use of arms remains a controversial issue. While there used to be subnational police units at Independence, these forces were dissolved into the national police following the Nigerian Civil War to avert future regional rebellion.

Despite the devolved policing in Johannesburg, urban crime is prevalent. Nevertheless, Lagos would want to aspire for devolved policing. More than devolved policing, socioeconomic inequalities play a significant role in the incidence of crime in both cities. There are increasing calls for the wide installation of street cameras to improve surveillance. On the other hand, there are complaints of police brutality against residents, especially in Lagos. As such, aside from the desired surveillance of the activities of residents, there calls for the same for security agencies.

Incisively, the nexus of security and the social contract demands urgency by the governments of both cities to ameliorate socioeconomic conditions as neither increased digitalization nor force of arms will solve the trick.