For a megacity like Lagos, crime fighting is not done with kid gloves. The only reason Lagosians can go to sleep with both eyes closed, is because there is tough cop in town, who despite all the societal and systemic challenges, is not undaunted. Mrs. Onikepo Braithwaite, Jude Igbanoi and Tobi Soniyi, last Wednesday paid the Lagos State Commissioner of Police, Mr. Fatai Owoseni a visit at the State Command Headquarters at Ikeja. His passion, enthusiasm, and love for Nigeria and the Police Force shone through refreshingly, as he spoke with candour about his vision of making Lagos State crime-free.
CP, it seems that crime is back on the rise in Lagos State. Even home invasions by armed robbers which seemed to have dwindled to an all time low, seems to be happening frequently again. What are the reasons for this?
I disagree with that assertion. Crime is not on the increase in Lagos, as you have asserted. I don’t know what data you have to back up that assertion, but I clearly disagree with you that crime is on the increase. We have not been having home invasions as you have put it, but the bottom line is that there is no society that is free from crime. What you hear people talking of when they talk of crimes, is that of one incident which may have happened and is continually discussed in the media for another 3 months, meanwhile people will think that it is just happening. But I can tell you that the Command has risen to meet its statutory responsibility to make sure that we manage crimes to a tolerable level in the Command.
The issue of kidnapping has become a serious problem not just in Lagos, but many parts of Nigeria. Why? Could it be that this heinous crime is becoming more attractive to criminals because the Police has not been effective in arresting kidnappers and bringing them to book, to make examples of them and discourage would-be criminals?
That is also a wrong assertion. For every kidnap case that has been recorded in this Command, criminals have been arrested, victims are being rescued or their releases are being facilitated. So it will be wrong to say that the Police is not effective and not been alive to its responsibility. Rather, we have risen to the occasion, and ensured that the ones that we are not able to prevent, when they occurred, that we have ensured that the criminals are brought to book and justice. For every one kidnap case that you have probably heard of, there must have been 50 to 80 that must have been prevented. We are not saying that they do not happen, but it is not as alarming as probably some people would want us to believe.
How challenging is the task of policing Lagos State? Is it more challenging than Oyo State, Akwa Ibom or other States?
Every State has its own peculiarities. The challenges that we face in Lagos with regards to policing may be special to us, but if you go to some other places, they will have their own challenges that are also special to them. We have talked of terrain, because of the pictorial nature of the state, the waterways, the swamp, the forest and everything. Policing challenges are almost the same everywhere. But most importantly, the one that we can really talk of which is not only peculiar to Lagos, is the tools available to discharge our responsibilities. The government is trying as much as possible, to make available these tools, the wherewithal, but policing and security do not come cheap. Very expensive. So the more we have improvement on those tools, the more effective the Police will be.
Another challenge in Lagos is the population. Research has shown that the more people that you have in a community, perhaps the higher the possibility of crimes that will be committed. In Lagos, we’ve tried as much as possible not to allow that theory to cloud whatever we are doing. We know that we are challenged with population increase, influx of people. The World Economic forum reported that an average of 85/86 persons enter Lagos per hour compared to what has been said of New York City, 9 persons per hour and the UK, 7 per hour. If you follow the research, you find that only 15 out of the 85 people per hour do not stay. So the remaining 70 stay put, and the big challenge facing the government is in terms of infrastructure, expansion of the infrastructure, and how to cater for them. The backlash of all this will come on to the Police. We have continuously looked at the pattern of crime and restrategised how we address the crimes as they emerge.
Back to the issue of kidnappers, there are certain areas, like Ikorodu, Epe that seem to be more prone to kidnapping. Obviously, your border States like Ogun, even seem worse hit with kidnapping. Are you cooperating with each other?
We have a strong synergy with Ogun State. The waterway stretches from Lagos to Ogun to Ondo, and the Police is the same one Police. So, we have been collaborating effectively with the neighbouring states to ensure that we handle this holistically. Plus the synergy we have with sister agencies.
One thing you should know is that criminals themselves, as tough as they may appear, they also look for places where it will be easier for them. That is to say the vulnerability of the area also matters. So, those areas you mentioned might have been considered by them to be vulnerable in terms of the terrain, vulnerable in terms of the practices and the level to which citizens in the area are alive to their civic obligations.
Added to that, is that if you look at the kidnapping thing that takes place in that area, it is tied to the terrain of that area. Most of these fellows that engage in this criminal act of kidnapping, are people that were hitherto pipeline vandals and bunkerers, and we have a pipeline taking oil from Atlas Cove to Mosimi. Ikorodu/Epe axis which are gateways to Mosimi, and of course, having found it difficult to earn a living criminally through pipeline vandalisation and bunkering, they now tend to look at other things that they can do. And that is where you have some of these pockets of kidnapping cases happening around these areas, which were the centre of activity for pipeline vandalism and bunkering due to their proximity to Arepo and so on, which used to be the landmark for such activities. Of course, it is also a gateway to enter Ogun State and Ondo State; even move further than that, and when you look at the nature of the water as well, shallow covered with forest, swampy, where they can easily use the creeks to hide and escape.
Notwithstanding, all these challenges have been put together and have been addressed holistically, visibility has increased to Police and other security agencies, enlightenment and advocacy with members of the public on the need for them to be vigilant. Some of the cases, you find greedy young people in the area serve as informants to some of these criminal elements.
I want to say with emphasis that we now have a reduction in these crimes. With the support of government, the Police jointly with other security agencies, have addressed these crimes with vigour. Where we are not able to prevent the crime, whenever it happens, our reaction has been swift, arrests have been quickly made and there is a good number of them awaiting trial, that are being kept in prison. So, that is working and we are not resting on our oars. Government is also trying to improve infrastructure, especially with regard to access to some of these areas, which plays a key role. We are also getting the people in these areas to be a part of our security architecture.
Is the Police adequately funded by Government? What effect does lack of adequate funding have on the Police Force in terms of carrying out its duties effectively and efficiently? What would be the ideal amount to be budgeted for the Police in a megacity like Lagos which is so densely populated, as opposed to one of the smaller states, to ensure better security in the State?
Hardly can you say that an institution is adequately funded. There will always be something that is left out. Of course, the government is the father of many children that have to be catered for. We are looking at security which is paramount, and also education, health, roads, catering for the old and the young people. So, in the midst of that, the government should also prioritise. Adequate funding of a government institution is a tall order. That should be an utopian thing. But government must cater for every institution to the extent to which its lean purse can support.
It is important for us to know that security, which is paramount, is the most expensive part of government expenditure. And that is why the government has also been saying that in addition to government funding, all hands must be on deck, together, in raising our Police to the standard that will make it perform effectively well.
The Nigerian Police Force seems to have a lot of catching up to do in terms of technology especially for crime detection. There is absolutely no comparison with crime detection techniques in Nigeria and that of foreign countries like the UK and USA. What are you doing to step up your game in terms of acquiring this modern technology and equipment, which would certainly make crime detection easier? Does the Police even have a finger print data base for criminals?
That is why it is good to have this kind of interaction. I think that the narrative has since changed. The Police that we have today in Nigeria will compare in terms of application of technology to investigation. You know that intelligence matters and that is why we have been doing a lot of intelligence led policing and getting to the grassroots to interact with people. We have this Police Community Relations Committee.The Inspector-General of Police also introduced the Eminent Persons Forum. It is in order to spread ourselves to the grassroots, to be able to get information from members of the public. Its starts from there. Even where you have the most advanced technology, you still need the people. The best CCTV you can think of is human beings. It is not the camera itself as people say.
We talk of finger prints, except you are not following, that is part of what we are doing with the tinted glass permit, which is being biometrically captured. There is a Central Criminal Registry where we keep data. That is why we have been telling members of the public that, if you want to employ domestic servants, come to us. We’ll take the finger prints, we’d be populating the data.
Beyond that do you think it is a herbalist we consult when kidnappers are arrested? We have done real rescue operations in the Command. We did it here when a medical doctor was kidnapped. Tracing where the doctor was kept, and liberating him. It was not by consulting a herbalist, that we knew where the victim was kept.
Take the ones that have made the headlines, like the Turkish International School, the kidnapping of the Oni Iba of Iba, we secured the release of these persons. Immediately thereafter, the suspects were being arrested, even with the share of whatever bait they must have collected. Its not through consulting an “Opele”. It is technology!
When you talk about technology, as per the hour, there is improvement. Even in those advanced countries, they still commit crimes and it takes time to solve. You talk of detection and investigation, we are just people that are always impatient. Here, we hardly recognise and follow processes. We just want to jump from one to ten. In some other places, they are painstaking, even with the advanced technology, investigation and detection may take years. But here, its cut and nail! You just want that, someone is killed now, in another one week the criminals must be got. In the course of rushing things, we make mistakes.
If you are talking of the challenges and what probably affects our detective abilities and investigations, it’s more of the people. You will hear the shout of “thief thief, ole ole”. You get there and they are about maltreating the suspect. By the time you pick the suspect up, sleep in that area for 24 hours, not a single person will come out to say that ‘this is what I saw the person doing’.
In those other places, you will see evidence of what crime that person has committed. You will also get witnesses who will come and say ‘I am the victim.’ So that affects our investigations a lot. People will come and tell you that they don’t have confidence in the police. How will you have confidence in the Police that have to also work within the ambit of the law?
If you have reported a case of theft or 419, the only thing they want to hear is, ‘I gave Mr. X the sum of N5m to do business. Or we agreed to do this business, and when the proceeds came out he cheated me. Or the N5m I borrowed him, he refused to pay me.’ The first thing you are asking the Police is, ‘help me to collect my money.’ The law doesn’t make provision for that.
The same thing in accident cases. Two people are involved in an accident on the road, in some other countries, you only exchange insurance papers. You won’t even need to go to the police station, maybe only for the records. But the person who feels that he is a victim of an accident is telling you ‘oga, tell him to repair my car!’ the law does not make provision for that. The law only says, ‘charge them to court,’ and the guy who wins the case can then file for damages. So, where you don’t do that, the police is a bad person, the institution is bad. But some of these types of duties are not the duties of Police.
In our own case as the Police, we are the losers. We carry the burden of the society. Once you are not able to satisfy the whims and caprices of one party, you are a bad person, even when you are acting within the ambit of the law. So, that explains what you are saying, its not that we are lacking in finger print technology.
Do you have a DNA facility for criminals?
How many countries have that as well? In the UK they have. Everybody talks about America. But you need to first talk about the basic things. If those basic things are not available you don’t jump from one place to another. Of course, you know the Lagos Sate Government is building a DNA laboratory. To some extent, we used to have a forensic lab at Oshodi. There are cases that have been done there, especially when that air crash took place. Some of our experts use them, but it’s the spread. You can say its not widespread.
Even in those advanced countries, they also still send samples to other places. So, its not as if one country or one state in the US or UK is all sufficient. Its what you have that you use. But I want to tell you that the Police that we have today can match any police anywhere. Its just the way we look at our police. Just like you see a constable or a corporal on the road, and you think he is nobody, No! some of these corporals and sergeants you see on the road, have a second degree. But unfortunately, members of the public always think that the policemen are from the dregs of the society, no, that narrative has changed.
The Police slogan is “Police is your Friend”. However, most people actually believe the opposite, that is, Police is your Enemy. Why do you think Nigerians have such a negative view of the Police? Some people even say that for example, if you see an accident victim on the road and try to rescue them, the Police can turn around, arrest you and say that you caused it. Why is there this distrust? What is the Lagos State Police doing about it?
Maybe I should ask you. Its not about doing anything. If people in this country don’t see police as friends and see police as enemy, it’s a reflection of who they are. If the police is bad, the society is bad. The Police is a mirror of the society. You can’t take that out.
We that are in uniform, are we recruited from Ghana? Or did we fall from heaven? We keep on challenging the senior citizens in this country, traditional institutions and religious leaders. If the police or any security institution is recruiting now, they will ask them to make an attestation. They will take the form to clerics, traditional rulers and political leaders. I wonder if there is anyone who has disrecommended any candidate to say ‘oh, this person is always making trouble.’ As we sit down here now, even if you have one stubborn boy in your family who brings his form to you, you will say he is the best boy we have in this family.
Look at the society, for every law that is made, the first thing that comes to people’s mind is not how to break that law, but how to circumvent it. For instance, the traffic lights, some people will want to drive past on red. Now someone is standing there to make you account for that omission and you’d probably give an excuse and say ‘oh, I am sorry. I am late for a meeting.’ Crime is such that even something as little as that.
Go to banks or places of business, and you have ordinary water dispenser, people as high ranking as managers and supervisors will bring empty bottles from their houses and put water there! That is stealing!
But if a security guard in the bank says ‘oga you cant go with this water o’, because the water dispenser is meant to be used with disposable cups there. Where we copied this water dispenser thing from, you can’t take the water home. You drink it there and throw the cup away. But here, after using the disposable cup, you will even put it in your bag. If the security guard challenges you, then you hate him.
Some of us when we were young the friction we had with our parents was if we sneak out and by the time you want to enter the house and your dad catches you, he will beat you. At that moment you’ll hate him. But when he is buying you things and giving you money for your wants, you’ll love him. That is how you can see the police too.
But the police remains that institution, whether you like it or not is not just a friend, but a helper. It starts from putting the police on the road to take children across the road, and it is only the police you can call at any time of the day that will respond. Most of the other public services, once it is closing time, they can even stitch off their phones. The Inspector-General of Police will never switch off his phone. I don’t switch off my phone either. Its only the police that you’ll go to anywhere they are, in the middle of the night, and even then you may find three men on duty even if one is dosing. Its only the police station that once you open, you throw the key away. So, you now think that we are enemies.
Its only the police that you’ll see on the Third Mainland Bridge and will ask you ‘Madam you have a flat tyre.’ You have been reading reports of police men helping people to change their flat tyres.
Its just that expectations of the people are more, not only on the police, but the government and on other agencies. That has been there. Its just like in the US, the taxman is never liked. Anything that will check and balance you, you’ll never like. But the police remain your helper and your friend.
You have institutions created, if anything happens, whether its LASTMA, FRSC its Police, Police, Police everybody will call. The Police is just a brand like Coca Cola. When people get thirsty and they want to drink Fanta of Sprite, they will still say ‘Give me Coke.’ What Police actually requires is more of sympathy and not condemnation.
Why are the Police Stations and Prisons in Lagos State in such a deplorable condition? Most Police Stations are so filthy that you can smell them a mile off, well before actually entering the facility. Why are they in such a bad condition? Is it a case of lack of funding or corruption? What advice can you give to Government to improve conditions?
By the time you entered this office did you smell anything? No! its in the minority.
This is not a police station and it is not a prison. Its the Commissioner of Police’s office. It is different.
You have touched a very good point. First, what is available for you to do a very good job is not there. Then two, the turnaround of the usage, is quite high. People will come out to say carelessly, that we are not good managers of resources. A vehicle that you will give to the police, if the police is working, the maximum lifespan shouldn’t be more that one year. Because that vehicle will be on the road 24 hours, 7 days a week and 365 days a year. In the process as well, the driving changes hands, because you have different people on shift duty. Also the terrain on which we drive our vehicles, is different from the ones they drive in the US or UK, as people would always like to compare.
The police station is like a market, I must tell you. The same as if you go to a hospital. If the hospital is not properly kept, bad odour will come out of there. The police station is the reception area for everything, all kinds of people. Even people picked from the gutter, or accident victims who are dead. You are waiting for an ambulance you don’t see, so you put that corpse in the police van. You probably take the dead body to the hospital, and they tell you the mortuary is full, even government hospital. The police doesn’t operate a mortuary. You are left with the discretion and compelled to take that dead body to the police station, even if its already stinking.
So, all sorts of stench assemble at the police station and when you have such a situation, you could have that kind of problem. But that is not to say that we have not averted our minds to it, its individual efforts that will keep the place neat as much as possible. Don’t forget that its in that same police station that you’ll see all sorts of exhibits, some blood stained. Sometimes awaiting trail suspects are asked to be kept in the police cell and that cell may be next to the Charge Room, which is a confined area which also has facilities that are used as convenience.
If you go round, you’ll find that we are trying as much as possible to ensure that those things of the past are not there again. There have been expansions and there have been redesigning of police stations, so most of these things are being taken care of.
But we have the situation like Ikoyi Prisons for example, which was designed to accommodate about 800 persons, but it now has over 2,200 inmates. Most of them are said to be awaiting trial and they all practically lie on top of each other. What are you doing to decongest prisons?
I don’t work for the prisons service. They should be able answer that. But in terms of the administration of criminal justice, that you have facilities being overstretched and overcrowded, all of us involved in the administration of criminal justice are guilty of it. Look at the judiciary, the courts, what are the facilities available to dispense justice quickly? How sincere are people in your profession, legal practitioners? A case that is supposed to take maybe one year, they keep dragging it with all sorts of delays.
But the police arrest people for the flimsiest excuses, like wandering. They pick people up and keep them in detention for years, and they keep on languishing in detention.
Wandering is no longer a law. I can give you examples. When we raid, like over the weekend, a raid was carried over in search of criminal elements. One of the methods you can use to rid the society of criminals is to do constant raids.
There are places here in Lagos where you have all sorts of miscreants, street fights and others. When we raid, the first thing we do, is to do some kind of screening, in order to be able to identify some of them who may have a credible means of livelihood.
You said flimsy, but what you call flimsy may not be flimsy to the police. You can say people are out there, you round them up and you may find a wrap of Indian hemp. You may find an object that can be used to commit crime. I wonder if people know in this country that if you carry a dagger in your pocket, it is an offence. These are some of what people call flimsy excuses.
There are places in Lagos where the order of the day, is for cult groups to fight for supremacy as to who controls a street. You want to park your car, some boys will surface and say ‘this particular place belongs to our grandfather.’ As we are dealing with that, another group surfaces. As soon as the police gets there and makes arrests, people will ‘you just packed them because they are quarrelling over this?’ They call it flimsy. But in the process people can be injured.
Go around Lagos, and you will find instances when your car breaks down, some boys will emerge and they will demand that before you change your tyre, you must pay the some money. Its not as if they are going to help you change that tyre. When they are arrested, they will tell their parents that ‘aaah we didn’t do anything, we only asked for money.’ That is demanding with menace.
These are what some people term as flimsy.
I as a lawyer was called recently by someone, as if in an emergency, that he was arrested on his way to work. In fact I had to go and bail him from the police station. What was the reason for the arrest? That he had dada hair (dreadlocks) and the police said he must be gay! His Manager also narrated her own ordeal that ‘I was outside my house, escorting my visitor in a pair of shorts and a t-shirt, and the police wanted to arrest me for prostitution!’ These are flimsy excuses and there is a lot of that.
To be sincere with you, that maybe one out of about 200 cases, like that. What we have now is responsible policing. People do call senior officers. People call me on a daily basis.
For instance I have had people call me to say ‘there was go slow and took one-way.’ But what the person has told me is not what he will tell you. I am not saying there are not instances where you’ll have that. But when it gets to the attention of a senior officer, we quickly address such. All over the world such things happen.
You are a senior lawyer and you know that in the course of detection of a crime, the police can pick as many people as possible.
That is why the places you like to compare us with, like USA, ordinary car plate numbers are very important. The back plate number is more important. Mere riding behind a car, a police man will put the number on his computer and the driver of the car’s social security number will appear, and if they give a ticket, there is no way that person can escape.
But here the situation is different. You stop someone and ask him where he is coming from, he will tell you ‘I am coming from work. This is where I work’ and he will show you his identity card and give you his boss’s number. But if you call that number, I can bet you won’t get the person. It would then be a matter of discretion, and we are not a country that lives by the truth. When a crime is committed and you go with the suspect to his residence, you will discover a lot of different things. But most importantly, when it comes to signing sureties, you will see No.10 Ojuelegba and when you get there, it has turned to 20 Ijanikin Street.
That explains why you probably have such a situation. You’ll find out that most of these problems will still go back the level of development of our infrastructure. That is why it appears that for everything, even the lapses of every institution in this country, be in judiciary, legal profession and other minor security agencies, whatever they do wrong, it is the police that carries the brunt.
You have institutions created, if anything happens, whether its LASTMA, FRSC its police, police, police everybody will call. The police is just a brand like Coca Cola. When people get thirsty and they want to drink Fanta of Sprite, they will still say ‘Give me Coke.’ What police actually requires is more of sympathy and not condemnation
Would you agree that every State in Nigeria should have State Police?
I would not be in a position to answer that. It is for the people to decide. It may be necessary to mention also that the elders who worked on the Constitution, especially with regards to the police, a lot of things had been taken into consideration. I wonder how many Nigerians have read the Willink Commission Minorities Commission Report of 1958, which provided for how the police should be run.
It’s a classic one and we are not taking advantage of its provisions. Of course, you look at the Nigerian Federation, its not a loose federation like other countries. You can’t put something on nothing and expect it to stand. If you don’t have loose federation, you cant say you want to create state police. That is one aspect of it.
That is why when a Commissioner of Police is posted to a state, it has to be on the recommendation of the Police Service Commission. That is also why you have the Police Council. Every State Governor in this country is a member of the Police Council. What is envisaged is that you cannot have a situation where all the Governors would be from the same party. It is to balance all those things. But beyond all that, it is not who has the ring that controls the police effectively. Even if you break the police to state police, local government police and so on, that will still not affect the performance of the police.
Even in countries where you say they have state police, it is only some duties that are assigned out. We already have that in Lagos. We have LASTMA controlling traffic. You may create all these agencies, but you’ll still come back to the police. Many people don’t know this; the Nigeria Police is one institution that has really unified this country. But most importantly, it is the tools available to do the job that matters. Its not who has the ring or who exercises control.
There has been complaint that the number of police escorts assigned to VIPs and Politicians is astronomically high, especially in Lagos. To what extent does this impact on manpower needs?
I will also say that that perception is wrong, when you say “especially in Lagos”, I sit here and I want to tell you that its not true. The issue is that even in some other countries, they do have body guards. You may not see them in uniforms.
But here, the Inspector General of Police has come out strongly to say that he does not want to see our policemen being used for such demeaning jobs.
You see that any person that is elected into any office in this country, the first thing they ask for is ‘give me police orderly to carry my bag, or carry my wife’s bag, or escort my children to school.’ Its not as if the country is so insecure, its just that they want to show that they control power.
But there are people who, because of the nature of their work and under the existing rule, are entitled to police escorts or orderlies, like the members of the judiciary. You cant deny them of that. Apart from that, there are instances and exemptions. Like if you take on the case of a kidnapper for instance, you may write to us to say that your life is in danger. That you need police escorts.
The Nigerian elite are the ones who complain about this the most, yet they are the worst offenders. Somebody will go and contest for Senate in his village and his people find him worthy and elect him. Immediately he is elected, he will ask for police escort and will carry mobile policemen to his village to go and scare the same people, who found him worthy to vote for him. But the police has been careful to ensure that its only those who are entitled that are so provided with escorts.
Apart from Governors and Judges, who are those entitled to police escorts?
Apart from those ones that I mentioned, there may be some people that are considered vulnerable. You may be a victim of crime and you may need police security on a short term basis. To give you confidence for some time, security can be built around you; it’s not for a long term. It may just be for a short period to enable you overcome the trauma. But these are reviewed from to time.
Does Lagos have enough manpower?
When you talk of manpower, can you say you are self sufficient. I don’t think so.
Everybody talks about the United Nations Policy of ratio 1-400. That might be enough. But in some places you can do 1-1,000. It depends of the infrastructure you have in place. If you have the appropriate tools and technology, one person can sit down here and police as far as Maryland. Inasmuch as Nigerians are clamouring for increase in manpower, what is needed most is technology backup and the willingness of members of the public to live up to their civic responsibility. Its about getting information to the police on time.
Policemen are becoming quite legendary for maltreating members of the public, extra-judicial killings and going scot-free. What are you doing to curtail these trigger-happy policemen? Do they undergo any psychological evaluation or assessments, anger management? There was the case of the Ekpo family in a Keke Napep which is open for all to see the occupants. The police opened fire and killed the wife with her husband four children present in the Keke Napep.
If I may ask you, throughout 2016, give me the number of extra-judicial killings that were recorded compared to the previous years. Everything has changed.
Now in the case of Godwin Ekpo, that happened in 2015. The following morning, the policeman who was involved in the incident, was charged to court. That is the provision of the law and the case is still ongoing. Its not the police that is dragging it or delaying it. Apart from that, in addition to doing what the law asked us to do, the police also gave scholarship to the children of Godwin Ekpo. The Lagos State Command took up the medical bills of Ekpo which ran up to more than a Million Naira. Being compassionate, the Command also looked at Godwin Ekpo, who prior to that time, was earning his living from a tricycle, and the Command bought him a commercial bus. We are not saying money is enough to compensate for a lost life.
We also paid for him to relocate from where he was living, to a more comfortable place, and paid two years rent for him, and many other things. That is how compassionate and responsible the police has been.
Its only the police that will quickly parade its personnel to say ‘these fellows were caught in extra-judicial killings.’ As far as Lagos is concerned, there was no extra-judicial killings throughout 2016.
Talking about psychological evaluation, every Nigerian must go through psychological evaluation. Let’s use Lagos as an example. In some other climes, you won’t see people yell at each other. You won’t see people removing their shirts to fight in public. The tension which is associated with megacity life, can cause that. We are all human beings. Within five minutes, everything can change.
But a higher standard of self-control is expected of a man who is armed with a weapon than a person who is unarmed.
No! it’s the same thing. but in this Command, we have done weapon handling trainings. Recently about 3,500 of our men were made to go through a one-week re-orientation programme. What we do in that programme, is to let them know what the rule of law is, how to relate with members of the public, how to relate with the press, what is ethical and unethical behaviour, and we get psychologists to talk to them.
Also, we have the X-Squad. That is like the ICPC of the police. The X-Squad goes round to check on policemen. The Inspector-General has strengthened it, and we now have the Complaint Response Unit. That if you see any act of misconduct by any policeman, you can quickly log in and you can call a number to say ‘this is what I have observed in this area by a policeman.’ That is how much we have made ourselves accountable.
The IG recently issued a directive to all Commands, that policemen should no longer stop people on the road to check vehicle particulars. To what extent has this Command complied with that? His predecessor in office also issued an order dismantling road blocks.
Let me quickly correct that. The IG did not issue a directive to stop checking for vehicle particulars. It was a statement made by a senior officer, which went viral. Then the issue of road blocks is something that has stopped. Every command is complying with that order of the IG. You cannot see road blocks anywhere in Lagos State again. But we have what we call ‘tactical operation point’ or Stop and Search.
If a car is snatched, one of the means of recovering that car could be stop and search. For instance, if a vehicle is searched, you the owner may know that you kept your particulars in the pigeon-hole, but the thief may not know. When they stop him and ask for his particulars, he may fidget and that is where the training of the police officer would come into play.
Remember the discovery made by Customs. If they had not done stop and search, that wouldn’t have been possible. Goods were cleared from the Port, the 612 pump action riffles that we recovered, was through stop and search by the vigilance of the Customs.
Where operational expediency comes, we’ll do stop and search. They are helpful.
Corruption, bribe taking, extortion, debt collection by Police officers, what are you doing to curb all that?
It is unfortunate that members of the public will still say this. As if we are not members of the same society. As if we are not seeing what is happening in the society. Its very unfortunate.
Nooo! The truth is that the police has the widest spread. That is number one. That is why it seems as if the police is a carrier for everyone. When you talk of corruption, the size of the police with the size of some other organisations, you will know that the police is not corrupt. It is wrong to make that general statement. Nigerians are seeing that now.
If very senior members of the judiciary are facing such a thing, will it right for anyone to come and say the police is corrupt? I may be selfish in what I am saying, but no organisation has the level of accountability like the police has today. The feedback has been quite encouraging.
When the Minister of Information launched the ‘Change Begins With Me’ slogan, its only the police which has keyed into that. Today, every state police command has launched it and abides with it. Tell me any other organisation which has done this.
There have been situations where people will come to you for one assistance or the other in a matter. They feel that thank you may not be enough and they want to drop something.
When you refuse, they will go and gossip and say ‘the man must be wicked. Its because it didn’t touch his mind.’
I saw on the ‘Change begins with Me’ notice board when I was entering your office something like ‘The Police is not a debt collector’.
I should probably hold you as the number one culprit. Lawyers always follow parties to the police station. Your client has reported or you have written a petition to the police on who is owing your client. Most of such petitions are often laced with lies. You will hear ‘I borrowed him some money and when I went there to demand it, he threatened my life’, to make it look criminal.
When we now call the parties and find out the truth, we try to apply alternative dispute resolution. You will hear ‘oga, let him enter into an undertaking.’ The police station is not a place you enter into undertakings. Such undertakings don’t hold water anywhere. When they don’t get what they want, they take the case to another police station. Its like those land cases, the police will tell you to go to court. The police as much as possible doesn’t want to get involved with land cases.
That is the essence of alternate dispute resolution, to see if parties can resolve disputes amicably. There are things I have seen in the course of this police work, I have been in investigation. I don’t know if most of our lawyers know that our criminal laws don’t have provision for restitution.
If you are given a free hand to make revolutionary changes or improvements in the police force what would be your top five changes?
I wonder what you mean by revolutionary changes. There is nothing revolutionary anywhere. We can have that police that is quintessential, if we all join hands to work together. We need to understand what the police is doing. We need to understand that the policeman is an endangered specie. We fight wars on a daily basis. We fight an asymmetrical war. That criminal that you have prosecuted won’t see you as a friend. He will find a way to harm you.
But we can help to win that war, not by pointing accusing fingers at the police. Because if you point accusing fingers at the police, you are pointing the fingers at yourself. The society dictates what the police is. Police work is the noblest job anybody can do and the Nigeria Police is one of the best in the world. I have seen police in many other countries and I can say this with confidence, the police are like angels of God, anywhere you turn, in hours of distress, it’s the police that you will see there, whether for bad or for good.
Are you saying there is no room for improvement?
In everyone’s life there is always room for improvement. Whatever happens today, there is always a lesson learned. Its not just about institutions. So, I would say the policeman is chosen by God to render help to humanity. Anyone who renders help to humanity is the best of humanity. Forget about some of the few negative things you hear.
You see policemen on the streets taking risks to provide safety to the members of the public. You see them go out there bare-chested to face criminals carrying superior weapons.
They lay down their lives on a daily basis, not just when there is a formal war. The police should be appreciated. You can’t change the police if the society is not changed. The public must change, and be prepared to live the truth. We are forging a new partnership with members of the public.
What kind of impact has the Lagos State Security Trust Fund had on policing in Lagos?
Not only in policing, but security generally. It has been taken as the best practice, which other states and even other countries, are trying to emulate now. That is a good example of how partnership between government and the society works. Yes, it’s the face of the government. It’s the face of the board members you’ll see, but its is more of everyone in Lagos. You will find out that children have contributed, school children contribute as little as N100 and N200.
When people see the money work and the way it is applied, it increases their confidence. Its like value added to the security of Lagos State, and for the past 10 years that the fund has been operated, it has been commendations and accolades throughout. Even the way the money is accounted for, it should be recommended to other states. We should thank the Lagos State Government and the people who came up with that initiative. For the past 10 years it has run, no one has faulted it.