Wednesday 30 March 2011

Nigeria: A Robbery ReTweeted and Reported

A robbery ReTweeted

I was engaged on one of my usual late night Twitter conversations when a ReTweet appeared announcing a robbery taking place at a Lagos suburb address, it appeared desperate – in fact, any robbery in Lagos is desperately a matter of life and death.

As I experienced some 23 years ago, we were at the mercy of callous and ruthless armed men who went about in groups of 10 or more and had no compunction about shooting any of their victims, if it so caught their fancy.

One could well imagine either the victim sending the Tweet or someone witnessing the event from somewhere else; in either case, it would appear the person could not call the police.

We conversed about getting the phone numbers to the police stations and opined about the non-availability of toll-free easy-to-remember numbers; in the end we obtained a number of 11-digit phone numbers shared on Twitter and eventually some easy-to-remember toll-free numbers 767 & 999 that could be called within Lagos that were found to be working.

Call from anywhere

Meanwhile, one of my Twitter conversants called the police and reported the incident, they at first did not know the address but after a clearer description of the location they said they will “detail” (Nigerianese for instruct) to attend to the situation.

This was thanks to a Google search for the address and the indication of some landmarks. It goes without saying that our Nigerian cities need to have postcode identification amongst other signifiers to help agencies locate places easily.

Living in the Netherlands, I first felt I would not be taken seriously if I called but I eventually did call the Lagos Police Emergency Number which was 002347055462708.

Acting on it already

Someone at the station picked up the phone and I introduced myself as a caller from Holland, which surprised them as I gave them the information that there was a robbery reported on the Internet that needed attending to.

I was passed on to another officer who first asked if I had called earlier, I hadn’t; but I was informed, it transpired they had already been called (this, I think would be the call they received earlier), they now knew where the problem was and he told me the police official in charge of that location had been detailed to visit the address with a troop of police officers.

They seemed to be confident of what they were doing and I thanked them for seeing to the situation.

One can only hope that despite the trauma of the victims of the robbery the robbers do get caught and the victims are OK after their ordeal.

Usefulness of social media

For those who have pooh-poohed the usefulness of Twitter for anything especially in Nigeria, I would hope that this inspires people of the possibilities; starting with the presence of mind to Tweet an event through to the interest of others to act on the information received with the hope that something can be done.

In this case, I believe the police received at least two phone calls about an event and if anything, they would have been geared up to deal with the situation, promptly and with dispatch.

With the elections coming up in April 2011, every social media tool along with mobile phones should be employed in ensuring we have free, fair, transparent and honest elections – it will only happen if we all get involved, the people on the ground reporting and others disseminating and sharing the detail with others who can act on the situation or crisis.

With regards to the elections you need to go to ReVoDa | How it works we have the tools, it is time to use them to our best advantage especially in sticky situations.

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