Following the terrorist attacks on the Westgate Shopping Mall in Nairobi, Kenya that left scores of Kenyans and foreigners dead, shopping mall patrons in the country are apprehensive that a similar incident may happen in Nigeria because most of the plazas are not adequately secured.
Though activities at most of the malls in Lagos were not significantly affected by the events in the East African country, many of the customers who spoke with our correspondents were apprehensive of similar attacks, especially because of the high level of insecurity in some parts of the country.
A customer at the Ikeja Shopping Mall, who identified himself as Mr. John Akeigbe, decried the inadequate security in most Nigerian shopping malls and advised that something urgent must be done to protect shoppers from attacks.
“This is terrible. The state of security in shopping malls in the country is appalling. Are we not supposed to learn from what happened in Kenya? All everybody is after in Nigeria is making profit. They just believe that when they put air conditioners in their shops, people will patronise them,” he said.
Another customer, Mary Chinazor, said, “This is a wake-up call for us. I hope very soon we will not begin to be threatened by Boko Haram. Funny enough, most malls in Nigeria are not well secured.”
At The Palms in Lekki, one of our correspondents observed that customers and vehicles were moving in and out of the mall freely without security checks.
A banker, Mr. Odinaka Ejiofor, who said he was taken aback by the situation, decried the inadequate security at shopping malls in the country and urged the government to address the problem.
He said though shopping malls all over the world were usually not heavily guarded by security personnel, he cautioned that the recent development in Kenya called for a re-think.
Some of the customers told us that though the Kenyan incident was tragic, it had not affected their shopping habits.
One of them, Mr. Tunde Ige, said, “It doesn’t change anything for me. There is nothing different.”
Asked if he felt such an incident could happen in Nigeria, he said, “This is Africa, anything can happen.”
A manager at the Sony Centre in the mall, who gave his name simply as Wale, said since the news of the incident broke, there had been no noticeable change in the security setup there.
In terms of patronage, he said, “I have not heard customers talking about it (the attack), but from what I observed personally, there have been less people in the mall; you can see for yourself.”
However, Ms. Marvel Echigeme, who operates a Silverline Life-Style Stores, said she had not noticed any change in activities at the mall.
She added that she was not afraid of going to work at the mall everyday.
This, she explained, was because there was a good security structure at the mall already and staying at home or being afraid would not stop bad things from happening.
A manager at Twice As Nice, a boutique, Bola Oyegbola, shared a similar sentiment.
Oyegbola, who said there was no change in activities, explained that security was already efficient at the mall.
When our correspondent tried to reach the management of the mall for comment, he was asked to write a letter to that effect
Many of the customers, who spoke with us , urged the government as well as operators of the shopping malls across the country to improve on security ahead of the October 1 Independence Day celebrations.
They noted that shopping malls were usually crowded on public holidays and warned the government to ensure that adequate security was provided to forestall the repeat of the Kenya mall attack in Nigeria.
While some shoppers at the E-Centre Shopping Mall, popularly known as the Ozone Cinema, Sabo, Yaba, called on the federal and state governments to beef up security at the boarders, others said it was impossible to experience what happened in Kenya in Lagos.
A shopper, who identified himself as Toun Adeleke, said there was the need to scrutinise vehicles coming into Lagos State to avoid such an occurrence.
She said, “What happened in Kenya is not impossible in Nigeria. I’m sure the Kenyans were not expecting it, either. With the way terrorism is growing in Nigeria, such occurrence should not be ruled out.”
A student of University of Lagos, Kayode Adedayo, said the government should strengthen security at the boarders.
Speaking differently, one of the shop owners in the mall, Mr. Kingsley Anah, said, “I don’t see the Kenyan scenario playing out in Nigeria. It will be difficult for Boko Haram or any terrorist group to move around with such heavy weapons and resources in this city.”
Our correspondents’ checks, however, revealed that shopping malls in Lagos had already alerted their security arrangements as a result of the Kenyan attack.
One of our correspondents, who spoke with senior security officials at the Ikeja Shopping Mall, was told that security personnel had been put on the alert for any unforeseen development.
The shopping complex, according to a security supervisor who asked not to be named, will also leverage technology solutions such as CCTV to ensure that shoppers are safe while at the mall. -Punch