Ifalade Ajasa, the general manager of the Lagos State Neighbourhood Safety Agency (LNSA), is currently enmeshed in allegations of abuse of office and financial misappropriation, THE WITNESS reports.
Stories have been told how LNSA, an agency established in 2016 by Akinwunmi Ambode and adequately funded by the state government to keep communities in the state safe, had often gone AWOL while street urchins and sundry criminal elements reigned supreme in the same neighbourhoods. This is, however, caused by the alleged bleating failure of the management of the agency to live up to its mandate.
LNSA was created to provide a second layer of policing in order to ensure that Lagos State and its communities are more secure.
In the LNSA’s official website, Prince Ajasa, the agency’s head honcho is profiled glowingly as a consummate professional with a track record of service excellence, but the tenure of the Lagos prince has now become controversial, with some staff and Lagosians raising highbrows querying his management of the agency.
The investigation revealed that Ajasa has allegedly turned the agency into a one-man show, with the general manager deliberately demobilizing key staff members, while practically running the agency with his personal staff and sundry aides, as a private entity.
Several staff members of the agency, who spoke on condition of anonymity, lamented that every process from operations to procurement is being compromised.
“He has since sidelined directors of departments in the agency, including the director of administration, and uses his personal staff to perform statutory roles of core staff members,” one senior staff member who craved anonymity in order not be victimized said.
But that’s just one in a series of allegations against a man who took over the reigns of affairs of the agency in 2020.
Since assuming office, Ajasa is said to have put an end to management meetings with other directors in the agency, against the Lagos State civil service rule, preferring to take decisions by himself which circumvents due process.
Ajasa, for instance, is said to have personalised the agency’s on-going recruitment exercise.
The advert publication for the recruitment, according to Lagos State Civil Service law, is supposed to be done by the public relations officer of the agency through the Ministry of Information or the Civil Service Commission, but he did the publication himself, in disregard for due process. Many of those who applied for the advertised roles confided that they never got email notifying them of the date for screening, which they alleged was a possible plot to sideline as many applicants to accommodate preferred candidates.
“I applied for the role, but no feedback till date,” said John Oloyede, “I’ve tried everything, gone to the agency’s Instagram page to complain, but nothing has changed.”
Indeed, the comment section of the agency’s Instagram page, is full of complaints by applicants who never got feedback after completing the application process.
Alleged Financial Misappropriation of the Agency’s Funds
Ajasa, who is said to be nursing a political ambition ahead of 2023 general elections, is also accused of misappropriating the bulk of the funds meant for running cost of departments of the agency.
For instance, the state government is said to provide about N3 million monthly as running cost for departments in the agency, but these departments are said to have been receiving paltry sums from this total.
“That’s not all,” one of the staff members who spoke to THE WITNESS said, “When a staff member writes a submission or request for funds and passes it through his office as required by law to the state government, against civil service rule, he removes the name of the staff who wrote the request and put his name as the one making the requests. And when the funds arrive, he diverts to other uses which the fund were not originally meant for.
For instance, N19.6 million was said to have been approved and released by the state government for the drilling of boreholes in the offices of the agency in the 57 local government areas and local council development areas (LCDAs), but no or few boreholes were drilled.
“He is also alleged to have misappropriated funds meant for servicing operational, staff vehicles and other equipment in the agency,” said.
Lagos Neighbourhood Safety Agency GM, Ifalade Ajasa, enmeshed in alleged financial misappropriation, abuse of office
Lagos Neighbourhood Safety Agency officers with some of the Agency’s utility vehicles/ Google
Scrapping of Functional Vehicles
On February 7, 2022, Mr Ajasa directed the disposal of 19 functional Toyota Hilux, two MG and one Ford Ranger worth millions of naira as scraps, documents seen by THE WITNESS revealed.
LNSA staffers aware of the sale said many of the vehicles were still serviceable at the time they were sold as scraps.
“He has sold many of the agency’s functional vehicles as scraps without replacing them, thereby immobilizing key members of staff.”
Samples of the vehicles that were sold as scraps
LNSA Vehicles In Bad States Despite Release of N80m By State Government
The agency, THE WITNESS learnt, before the sales of those vehicles, had about 198 utility vehicles, whose papers are to be renewed every year and they are to be maintained periodically. However, although Ajasa gets the funds for the renewal, these jobs are not done, and the monies allegedly embezzled.
For instance, a company, OTITOLOJU INTEGRATED SERVICES LIMITED, with office at 18, Abiodun Wright Avenue, Off Cole Street, Ikete, Surulere, Lagos was awarded a contract for the servicing and overhauling of 198 LNSA utility vehicles in June 2021 at a contract sum of N80 million. Despite the fact that this fund was released by the Lagos State government, it was alleged that these vehicles are not being maintained and they are in bad shape. Surprisingly, some of the vehicles sold as scraps are part of the 198 vehicles appropriated for maintenance. This, it was gathered, has led to some local governments and local council development areas offices of LNSA not having vehicles for operations.
“Each of the 57 LGAs was supposed to have three operational vehicles, but some don’t have while few have two each,” another source in the agency said.
“Also, in the five divisions of the agency, namely, Ikeja, Epe, Badagry, Ikorodu and Lagos, there are commanders. Each of the five commanders are supposed to have operational vehicles to supervise the commands, but the general manager took their vehicles from them, sold them and didn’t replace them. The commanders don’t have operational vehicles, which is hampering their work,” a staff said.
“One of his personal assistants who is not a civil servant or statutory staff is driving one of the branded vehicles of the agency, while senior staff members of the agency don’t have one,” a departmental head said.
Crime rate heightens in Lagos communities
Despite establishment of LNSA, and massive investment in security by Lagos State Government, to curb rising crimes in the metropolis, rampant criminality in the city is giving residents great concerns.
Hardly a day passes without tales of robbery attacks on residents.
They are robbed at Mushin, Cele and Oke Afa, near Ajao Estate, Apakun and Island.
Residents in Abaranje, Itire and Lawanson, have sorrowful tales of how they are robbed, some times, at gun-point by miscreants.
Some of the attacks happened in broad daylight and even few distances from police checkpoints or stations.
Speaking with The Guardian, a victim, Njideka Samuel, said her phones and bags were snatched by hoodlums at Canoe recently.
Samuel said she was returning from work about 7:00p.m., the urchins came out from nowhere, and threatened to shatter her car window if she didn’t wind down.
Out of fear, she obliged and they took her phone and bag in the full glare of other motorists, and dashed away.
Another victim, Collins Udoh, who was robbed at Cele Express, said he was attempting to descend the bridge when a group of boys swooped on him and collected his laptop and wallet.
“ I sighted Vehicle Inspection Officials, checking vehicle documents close to the scene.
“ It was a traumatic experience with the enormous investments in security by the Lagos State Government,” he added.
Udoh questioned the whereabouts of the LNSA. He noted that in 2019, officials of LNSC were present in neighbourhoods with their motorcycles or bicycles but they are not seen anymore.
Also, a resident in Ilupeju, Folasade Okunfolami, said: “I saw some of the LNSC officers around my area a week ago inspecting abandoned vehicles but people who go to work early face a lot in the hands of miscreants and I wish they can do more.
“Robbers can now rob for four hours and go freely, security agencies will not show up but only to harass innocent persons, instead of protecting people.”
Ajasa Keeps Mum
In line with THE WITNESS investigative journalism practice, for two weeks, our correspondent tried to get Mr Ajasa’s response to these allegations, but all efforts were rebuffed.
On April 6, 2022, this newspaper sent a questionnaire in a letter to Mr Ajasa’s office. He did not reply. Still desirous of getting his own side to the allegations, this newspaper, again sent a reminder on April 19, 2022, 13 days later, but still no response.
(C) THE WITNESS