“Cultural Values, National Security And Challenges Of Contemporary Governance: Perspectives From Lagos State Experience” – A Lecture Delivered By His Excellency, Mr. Akinwunmi Ambode, At The The Institute For Security Studies

“Cultural Values, National Security And Challenges Of Contemporary Governance: Perspectives From Lagos State Experience” – A Lecture Delivered By His Excellency, Mr. Akinwunmi Ambode, At The The Institute For Security Studies

Let me begin by commending the State Security Service (“SSS”) for its notable and distinguished history of promoting, ensuring and maintaining the security of Nigeria through the gathering of domestic intelligence and the offering of invaluable security advisory support for governments at both the Federal and State levels.

Indeed, since its establishment in June, 1986 as one of the successor entities to the National Security Organisation, the SSS has evolved into a sophisticated domestic intelligence institution that has served the country creditably well.

In addition to the many innovations and commendable initiatives by the SSS over the years, perhaps the one to be lauded the most is the establishment and maintenance of the Institute for Security Studies, Abuja. As an institute devoted to the promotion of intra-agency understanding and the coordination and promotion of studies in the gathering, maintenance, and effective utilization of intelligence, this institute and the many participants in the courses offered by the institute have, without doubt, contributed in no small measure to the evolving security architecture of Nigeria which, as all stakeholders agree, will be better served by an even more robust reliance on intelligence gathering and utilisation.

It is therefore my pleasure to contribute to the work of this institute through the presentation of this lecture. I have been invited to share perspectives from the Lagos State experience on the interplay among cultural values, national security and the challenges of contemporary governance. This, indeed, is a topical issue that is most relevant for our times. I am certain that the participants of this course and, indeed, the entire nation will benefit from the Lagos State experience on the issues embedded in the topic for discussion.

I propose to begin by situating Lagos State as a microcosm of the entire nation. Thereafter, I will seek to:

  1. Establish the primacy of national security on the scale of the challenges in contemporary governance;
  2. Highlight the importance of intelligence gathering, processing and utilisation in contemporary times;
  3. Emphasise why cultural values are important for the maintenance of national security; and finally
  4. Share cogent examples of steps taken and policies implemented in Lagos State to confront the contemporary challenges of security and governance..

Lagos State: Microcosmic Window into Nigeria and Strategic Regional Importance

Historians generally agree that Lagos headed the population explosion in Nigeria in general and in urban areas in particular that became noticeable after 1950.  According to the 1952 census, the population of Lagos numbered 346, 137 and the 1963 census records the population of Lagos as 1,135,805. This phenomenal population explosion has been attributed to the significant economic, commercial and political changes which made Lagos the fastest growing city in Nigeria. As a result, Lagos State is the melting point for all cultures and ethnic nationalities in Nigeria. Indeed, Lagos State has always been home to all Nigerians irrespective of language, tribe and culture.

Since the birth of the fourth republic, successive administrations in Lagos State have gone to extensive lengths to preserve and promote the multi-ethnic status and nature of Lagos State and the peace and security in Lagos State over the years is a loud testament to the efforts of the Lagos State Government to tap into the positive aspects of the multi-cultural and cosmopolitan nature of Lagos State.

Also, Lagos State has, without doubt, always been and remains Nigeria’s economic focal point, generating a significant portion of the country’s Gross Domestic Product. Most commercial and financial business activities are carried out in the central business district situated on the island where most of the country’s commercial banks and financial institutions and major corporations are headquartered. Lagos also has one of the highest standards of living as compared to other cities in Nigeria as well as in Africa.

Thus, when you are in Lagos, Nigeria, you are in a city fully open for business and fully reflective of the Nigerian nation. The population is nearing 25 million, of which approximately four million are in the middle class. Again, and very notably, Lagos is the fifth largest economy in Africa and the GDP has hit around $131bn. Lagos State has a GDP bigger in size than many African countries, and is the only state in Nigeria that generates up to 70 per cent of its own income.[1] Furthermore, as has been rightly observed, Lagos State’s “potential to generate revenue has now been boosted even further by confirmation of oil production. Targeted investment is expected to follow the state’s oil production activities and, under the terms of Nigeria’s resource control, as an oil-producing state, Lagos will become entitled to a 13% portion of revenues generated by Nigeria’s government through its oil thus potentially earning millions of dollars.”[2]

As a megacity, the status of Lagos is not in doubt. As a global city, Lagos lays a very decent claim as well. It is the hub for a large portion of all e-commerce transactions in Africa; it is the hub for the conclusion of the largest portion of all crude oil sales from Africa; it houses law firms, accounting and consultancies that are listed in the most prestigious directories. The population is extremely cosmopolitan and there has been exceptionally notable stability, continuity and discipline in governance for about two decades.

I have highlighted the details above as a basis for the argument that Nigeria as a whole can benefit from a close examination of how Lagos State has mined and appropriated the cultural values inherent in a multi ethnic and cosmopolitan Lagos to confront the challenges of security and governance in a state that reflects the cultural diversity and economic leanings of Nigeria.

Scale of Governance Challenges and the Primacy of Security

The task before public sector entities in contemporary times is very daunting indeed. In particular, the challenges confronting the governments of multicultural, cosmopolitan, and mega cities such as Lagos with an ever-expanding population are herculean. Among many others, the government has to provide for the security, transportation, education, and housing of a teeming and diversified population. In order to do this, the government has to craft policies and strategies that take into consideration the demographic composition of residents of Lagos State; these policies and strategies have to be constantly tested, monitored, reviewed and, when found adequate, have to be fully implemented. Add to all these, the all-important task of raising the revenue required to execute and fund these strategies and policies.

It is difficult to rank these challenges which, amongst others, are inter-related. What is clear, however, is that the resolution of these challenges, whether it be revenue raise, improvement in education, or infrastructural development, devolve on, and revolve around, security. The existence of security within a geopolitical location will ensure that policies are crafted in an atmosphere that allows for objective decision making and logically-reasoned policies.

Furthermore, an adequate, efficient, and effective security architecture will ensure the implementation of all other policies and the preservation of investments made. After all, that is what really grows our GDP and that is what makes other people to want to come to Lagos State to live and work and invest.

It is for the foregoing reasons that successive administrations in Lagos State since 1999 have prioritised the pursuit and enthronement of a world-class security architecture befitting a multicultural and mega city such as Lagos State. Indeed, the security of lives and property of citizens remains the topmost pursuit of my administration. Indeed, one of the biggest achievement of my administration in the last three years is the security of the lives and the property of Lagos State residents. And, of course, it is gratifying to note that Lagos State is now one of the safest cities in Africa.

At the beginning of my administration, one of the early challenges was the issue of kidnapping that was so notorious in certain areas of the state. Right from the beginning, we had the support of the security agencies to set up military bases and launch security operations that resulted in the rescue of kidnap victims and, in other cases, the arrest of kidnap kingpins. Indeed, the last three years have been very peaceful, and everybody would agree that crime rate has reduced in Lagos State.

The Primacy of Security and the Unrivalled Importance of Intelligence

In the pursuit of the primus inter pares of all governance challenges, we have identified that the gathering and utilisation of intelligence is of paramount importance, even ahead of the provision of physical security apparatuses. Why is this the case? It is the coming together of two important developments. The first is that the number of critical national security issues facing Nigeria and Lagos State, her microcosm, has never been greater than it is today. Of course, there have always been times of intensive assault on our collective security, but contemporary challenges are many, large, multi-dimensional, extensive and pervasive. There are challenges relating to international terrorism and insecure borders, local terrorisms and the issue of the so-called ‘lone wolf’ terrorists, the proliferation of small arms into big cities, cyber warfare, drug trafficking, human trafficking, and, of course, the regular misdemeanors and other petty crimes.

The second reason for the importance of intelligence is that, for the vast majority of these issues, if policymakers cannot understand them, they cannot make effective policies with regard to them, and they cannot implement relevant policies without first-rate intelligence.

Everyone in Nigeria can recall the kidnap of students from Lagos State Model College, Igbonla area of Lagos State. These six students were abducted from their school and when the kidnappers established contact with the parents, it was said that a ransom of N400m was demanded but this was later reduced to N100m owing to the inability of the parents to meet up with the demand. Among others, it took the identification and interrogation of the relatives of key members of the gang in an operation coordinated by the Deputy Commissioner of Police in charge of operations at the Lagos State Police Command and the Inspector General of Police Special Intelligence Response Team to pressurize the gang to release the students. It also took similar utilisation of intelligence to capture a gang that had engaged in kidnapping in Lagos State but was hiding in the creeks of the riverine areas of Ondo State.

The import of my submissions here is that many of the high-profile crimes recently reported in Lagos State could not have been resolved without reliance on, and effective processing of, intelligence. You may also have read that the Lagos Police Command would soon establish Divisional Intelligence Offices at police stations across the state to handle information provided by members of the public. The Commissioner of Police was reported to have said that “Every police officer will now have a pocket notebook to jot down information given to him/her by members of the public while on duty” and that the “information by policemen will be forwarded to the Divisional Information Officer at the end of the day for thorough processing.”[3] These intelligence units would, of course be in aid of community policing in the state. As is well known, I am a huge proponent of community policing.

Indeed, I strongly believe that the fight against crime and all forms of criminality would be better enhanced if efforts are geared towards embracing community policing to complement the police and other law enforcement agencies. This is what informed the setting up of the Lagos Neighbourhood Safety Corp Agency of which I shall later speak. However, what we have found in our experience in Lagos State is that intelligence gathering through community policing will be ineffective in the absence of certain germane cultural values in the society.


Reclaiming Cultural Values in Multi-Cultural and Cosmopolitan Lagos State

Cultural values are fundamental in all human societies and the argument has been made that cultural values dissipate and become eroded in the face of multiculturalism. The same argument applies on a larger scale in the context of globalization. However, what we find in Lagos, Nigeria’s economic and ethnic microcosm, is that, notwithstanding multiculturalism, there is a nucleus of cultural values that continues to endure.

The reason for this, I dare venture, is that migrants to Lagos State carry their core cultural values with them. Is this a good thing? My answer is yes, it is. In other scenarios, the answer might not be a definitive yes but, given that cultures of Nigeria themselves are united by a strong thread of similar values, multiculturalism has been beneficial to the cohesiveness of Lagos State. This is not to say that these values are not under siege. Indeed, they are. And all hands must be on deck to resuscitate them where resuscitation is required.

Two Nigerian academics[4] published an article on the resilience of Nigerian moral and cultural values in the face of globalization. They then identified four of such values that, in my opinion, are sine qua non to the maintenance and appropriation of the values of intelligence gathering and utilisation through community policing. I will share these four cultural values with you.

The first of these is Truth (also called ‘Ooto’ in Yoruba). For all the Nigerian cultures co-existing in Lagos State, Truth is the major strand that wields society together. Without truth, there would be no need for human society. The trust built in society lies mainly in the ability of the individual members to tell one another the truth. Thus, it is obvious that the pillar stone of every community is the telling of the truth. All Nigerian cultures believe that truth is life. Embodiment of truth in our actions both in private and public affairs stand the chance of dealing with security threats such as embezzlements of public funds, sale of fake drugs, human trafficking, kidnapping and the lapses in our judicial systems among others.

The second important cultural value identified by these academics is Justice. Justice is an important notion in all the cultures co-existing in Lagos State. Most of these cultures have the concept and insignia of ‘justice’ embedded in the emblems of their deities and this “reminds the community of the power of justice which in its nature is believed to involve transparent honesty, innocence and fair play.” The rain, like justice may seem weak, but it is capable of leaving its mark on the ground. Thus, in the traditional conception of Justice, there is enough room for all to ‘perch’ and achieve fully the supreme value. Greed, jealousy, destruction of other people’s chances for making success of life and the lack of the spirit to give and take by which the community could live harmoniously, and grow are greatly deprecated by our different cultures. The traditional idea of justice frowns at marginalization and the increasing level of poverty as a result of the unjust distribution of abundant natural resources in the society.


Hard-work is the third cultural value identified by these academics. Our cultures lay great emphasis on the importance of hard work and the consequences of laziness, and not showing seriousness towards one’s work or means of livelihood. There are proverbs in all Nigerian cultures used to remind both young and old that there is dignity in labour. Any lazy person, dependent on others for survival, is looked down upon and considered a failure. Inculcation of these proverbs among the youths is capable of discouraging examination malpractices and the urge to acquire ‘certificate quick syndrome’. These proverbs also teach that wealth is obtained by strength and not by cheating, kidnapping for ransom of money, and other corrupt practices.

The fourth and final cultural value identified is Character (‘iwa’). According to these academics, the Yoruba conceive of ‘iwa’ (character) as providing the means by which man regulates his life to avoid conflict with the supernatural forces and also to be able to live in harmony with his fellow men. Thus, in a system dominated by many supernatural forces and a social structure predominantly authoritarian and hierarchical, the Yoruba believe that each individual must strive to cultivate a good ‘iwa’ to be able to live a good life in perfect harmony with the forces that govern the universe and the members of his society. This, then, accounts for the high premium placed on good character. It is always considered to be very important that one does the right things so that one should ensure that one’s good destiny becomes a reality. Thus, the character of the person would determine, to some extent, his situation in life. If he is a man of weak character, he could easily become a prey to a philosophy of resignation and idleness.

I fully agree with the four cultural values distilled by these academics as highlighted above. The next logical question however is: how has Lagos State appropriated these cultural values to meet the contemporary governance challenge of security?

Appropriating Cultural Values for Security: The Lagos State Experience

I will now proceed to share with you how we have built two major security programmes and initiatives on the cultural values identified above. These are the Lagos Neighbourhood Safety Corp and the Lagos State Security Trust Fund.

The Lagos Neighborhood Safety Corps (LNSC) is a uniformed security agency established by a law of the Lagos State House of Assembly in 2016 to assist the Police and other security agencies to maintain law and order in the state. They operate in all the 20 Local Government Areas (“LGAs”) and the 37 Local Council Development Areas (“LCDAs) of the state.

The Lagos Neighborhood Safety Corps (“LNSC”) officers are indigenous locals from the various LGAs/LCDAs where they operate, which is a deliberate policy in order to make use of their local knowledge to achieve maximum grass root intelligence gathering and community policing.

The statutory functions of the LNSC include:

  • Gathering information about crimes, crime in progress, suspicious activities and crime suspects among other things.
  • Making available such relevant information on crimes, crime in progress, suspicious activities and crime suspects to the police or other security agencies that require it.
  • Putting structure in place to ensure that hoodlums and cult groups do not have the opportunity to operate.
  • Undertaking routine motorized patrol day and night.
  • Reducing the crime rate and ensuring that offenders are identified and made to account for their misdeeds.
  • Following up on arrest of offenders to the court and ensuring justice.
  • Timely reporting of suspicious activities and crimes in progress to the police or other security agencies and improving relationship between the police and the community as it concerns law enforcement.
  • Contributing to maintaining community peace.

It is observable from the structure described above that the attainment of the objectives of the LNSC are heavily dependent on the appropriation of all of the cultural values earlier highlighted. Without members of the Lagos State society and the officers of the LNSC prioritizing and exhibiting the values of truth, justice, hard work and character, we can never hope to realise the benefits of the vision behind the establishment of the LNSC.

The other Lagos State initiative that I want to share with you is the Lagos State Security Trust Fund (“LSSTF”). The LSSTF was established by a Law of the Lagos State House of Assembly in September 2007 as a direct response to the security challenges in the State. The establishment of the LSSTF became imperative after the State Government received and reviewed the report of a high-powered Security Committee which it established under the chairmanship of the former Inspector General of Police to look into the ways and means of combating the growing menace of violent crimes in the state and the seeming inability of the police and other security agencies to confront this challenge in spite of their best endeavours.

The report made it crystal clear that the problem was essentially related to logistics, mobility, communications, kitting and so on especially when considering the peculiar security challenges in the state. It was the finding of the Security committee that a minimum of N3.7B was required to provide standard security cover for Lagos State including the waterways. This deficit was due to the several years of underfunding of the police especially during the military regime by the Federal Government. It must be pointed out that security is the exclusive responsibility of the Federal Government, but Lagos State has gone ahead to support these agencies to ensure security of its citizens.

The question then is, why a Trust Fund? The idea of creating a Trust Fund was to source for funds from government, private organizations and individuals in order to meet the operational capacity needs of security agencies particularly in the areas of logistics and provision of crime fighting equipment in the effective discharge of their duties. This is because security agencies have suffered long years of neglect by the Federal Government whose primary responsibility it is to fund them.

It is important to note that the Fund does not receive any subvention from government; rather government makes donations in kind to the Fund. The Fund also ensures that all donations are properly accounted for and that its operations are transparent. In addition, the account of the Trust Fund is audited by International Auditing Firms (currently Ernst & Young) and published annually for public information at the yearly Town Hall Meetings on Security with the Governor where the LSSTF renders its account of stewardship.

The State Government adopted a Public Private Partnership (PPP) business model for the governance and financial operations of the Trust Fund due to the energy and expertise that exists in the private sector and for timely security interventions devoid of bureaucratic bottlenecks. The objectives of the Fund, as contained by the Law establishing it, are to raise money through voluntary donations from government Ministries/Departments/Agencies, private organizations and individuals. In other words, the Fund is strictly donor-funded, and monies raised are used for the acquisition and deployment of security equipment and such human, material, and financial resources as shall be found necessary for the effective functioning of all security agencies operating in Lagos State.

The LSSTF law provides that some of the funds shall be reserved for the training and retraining of security personnel. One of the primary responsibilities of the Fund is the provision of operational and logistic support for the Rapid Response Squad (RRS). The Board of Trustees of the Fund, though appointed by the Governor, are mainly (80%) from the private sector and operate independently of government. They are notable members of the business community in the state that use their goodwill to attract donations to the Fund. As such the Board accepts their appointment as an opportunity to give back to the state.

You will all agree with me that, while not immediately apparent, the real foundational structure of the LSSTF is rooted in some of the cultural values discussed above. It takes respect for the cultural value of Justice for all stakeholders to pursue the objectives of the Fund. It takes respect for the cultural value of Character for the trustees and managers of the fund to honestly manage the Fund. And, of course, notwithstanding the availability of equipment and supporting apparatus, it takes the respect for the cultural value of hard work for the men of the Police Force to fulfil their obligations to the government and people of Lagos State.

Concluding Thoughts

I have severally stated and hereby repeat the need for leaders at all levels of government to revive the cultural values and norms in the society. While this is a challenging thing to do, we all can take the first step. At the recent launch of a book titled, The Last Flight, a reviewer of the book, Mr. Yinka Olatunbosun noted that, “to start with, our contemporary society presents us with unique challenges of educating the younger generation on the benefits of values. In a corruption-filled society, the emphasis shifts from the pursuit of values to materialistic drive.”[5]

Indeed, the commentary above is a fair attempt at summarising the issue. While the task of ensuring that our cultural core values are not diluted or lost is daunting, everyone must start from where he or she is. As already noted, “the human mind is the seat of wisdom and decision-making or otherwise, depending largely on how the mind is trained.”[6] Therefore, one of the first steps we have taken in Lagos State is our advocacy for the placement of paramount importance on the continuous learning of indigenous languages in our schools.

Many parents are not training their kids to know and understand the realities of life and cultural values. Parents should go back to the teaching and promotion of our core cultural values. The abandonment of these cultural values has led many children to take to drugs and bad vices with the attendant challenges to national security.

Beyond the efforts to sustain and, as the case may be, to resuscitate cultural values as a veritable means for ensuring cohesiveness in the society and promoting security, I also advocate a collective vigilance mentality whereby all stakeholders in security management have properly defined roles and relationships to stay ahead of all forms of violent crimes such as terrorism, cyber and transnational organised crimes while utilizing processed intelligence made possible as a result of our cultural values.

The concept of community policing anchored on collective vigilance which, in turn, is sustained by our core cultural values, has become imperative in view of the vulnerability of Lagos State to various security threats due to continuous influx of foreigners and people from other parts of the country into Lagos on a daily basis. This influx increases our vulnerabilities to threats of terrorism, transnational organised crimes, and cyber and violent crimes of wider security dimensions and ramifications.

In Lagos State, we are resolved to continue to review and revise our policies with the aim of maintaining, at every point in time, a sustainable security framework that will stand the test of time and enable every stakeholder in Lagos to participate. So far, we have been encouraged by the massive contributions of many corporate organizations to the Security Trust Fund and by the participation of our communities in the work of the Lagos Neighbourhood Safety Corps. Yet, there is more to be done and we will not rest on our oars as we continue to prioritise the security of the good people of Lagos State.

  1. Finally, I wish, once again, to commend the great work of the State Security Service and the Institute of Security Studies. I hope that my contributions have enriched discourse and will serve you well in the efforts to keep our great nation safe.

  1. Thank you for the opportunity to make this presentation and thanks for your kind attention. God bless you.