By Simon Ebegbulem, Benin-City
The Edo State Police Commissioner, Mr Folunso Adebanjo, has been a busy man, no doubt, since he assumed office due to the relentless activities of kidnappers in the state. He has lost many men during operations against kidnappers in Edo and neighboring states. Only last Tuesday, Balogun paraded 55 suspected kidnappers and armed robbers among them two alleged kidnap kingpins, Emmanuel Otono and David Osamu, who have been on police wanted list for some time. After the parade, Adebanjo jokingly told Sunday Vanguard in pidgin English, “As dem (kidnappers) no want make I rest, dem no go rest too”. He also paraded one Oyigbe whose house in Sabongida Ora was allegedly used by kidnappers to keep victims until they regain their freedom. Among the 55 were also alleged child defilers, cultists and car snatchers. A cache of ammunition was also recovered from them.
In this interview, the police boss vows to ensure that kidnapping is less lucrative in Edo just as he declares that the police, in collaboration with other security agencies, will apprehend more kidnap kingpins. Excerpts:
We observe that you have a harvest of kidnappers. How were you able to apprehend them?
Well, it is our job to Nigerians and we will continue to do it. We have arrested some of the kidnap kingpins. These ones here are the people involved in the kidnapping of some persons in Benin City. I can tell you that the war against kidnappers is on-going. We are doing everything to make sure that the state is safe, we have a lot of them that have been arrested, some are being investigated.
If you recall, I told you that these evil people like Kelvin (suspected kidnap kingpin arrested in Delta State) who have terrorized our people for so long will only run but they can never hide. Look at some of them today and I can tell you that more will be arrested. The police, the SSS and the army all working together to ensure that our state is safe. We are not relenting, the job of protecting our people is a tough one, but we are doing our best to ensure we work day and night.
It has been very challenging but I give God the glory for the enablement to cope. There’s no doubt, there was an upsurge for about a month but it has started to come down because of so many measures that were taken. I just finish organising a town hall meeting with the stakeholders in Edo State. This is just an interactive session for us to know how we’re faring and what other measures we can take to improve on our crime prevention strategies. The people are our paymasters, so we must hear from them to know how we’re doing in the battle against crime and criminality.
When you came to Edo, did you anticipate the challenges you face on kidnappers and even cultists?
Edo State, like most other states in the South-south, has its own security challenges.
I always remember what the Inspector General of Police told me when my posting came out. He said, ‘Ade go and fight crime and criminality in Edo State’ I had served as a Deputy Commissioner of Police at the Zonal Headquarters before I was posted to Edo. So I was aware of the challenges and I was prepared for them.
Apart from kidnapping, other forms of crime are said to have reduced in the state. What was the magic?
Let me first thank the Almighty God for crowning our efforts, for, without God, all we do is in vain. It involves a lot of hard work and dedication of officers and men under my leadership. We will continue to give our best to the good people of Edo State. Officers and men are working very hard to achieve a reduction in crime including kidnapping. Again, as you know, I am not an officer that sit in the office after giving orders. I move around to ensure that orders are implemented, I make sure that I take the lead because if, as CP, I am awake 24 hours, I don’t expect my DPOs to be sleeping. That is the secret.
You lost four officers who went to rescue Chief Mike Ozekhome when he was kidnapped. How do you feel each time you lose men in such operations?
As police officers, we are covered by insurance which takes care of the risks associated with policing. There are also entitlements for officers and men who die in the course of duty. But, to tell you the truth, I don’t eat each time I receive such news. It can be disgusting and devastating to lose a colleague because I go back to think that it could have been me.
That is why I feel sad each time people criticize the police ignorantly. We are doing our best for Nigerians and we will continue to do that to protect our people. But I can tell you I don’t like losing any of my officers on duty. That is a very terrible experience and feeling that you cannot imagine. Devastation should be the right description of how I feel. Unfortunately, that is the price we pay to keep Nigerians safe. One cannot get used to such untimely deaths.
How do you compare Edo and other states in terms of crime?
Like I said earlier, each state or the geographical area may share the same type of criminal tendencies. However, criminal tendencies may be different from one state to the other depending on so many variables. But you should also know that Edo is the gateway to the North, South and East; so criminals traverse here to commit crime.
That is why there is this meeting the Assistant Inspector General of Police usually calls to deliberate and share ideas and to exchange information. It may also interest you to note that I and my colleagues, especially CP Delta, share information and hold meetings on the kidnapping issue. They are just normal interaction between law enforcement/police agencies. Most criminals do operate from one state to the other, while some are transnational covering countries.
Have you ever regretted being a cop
I have no regrets being a cop. It is a very tasking profession. In fact, it is the most tasking profession in Nigeria. I had always wanted to be a cop as a young adult. I thought I could save the world from injustice. I was very idealistic then. It is a good job because one can actually make a difference by enforcing the law rightly. An average policeman works almost round the clock, not to talk of a commissioner of police.
What else would you have loved to be if you had not been a cop?
I would have been a businessman and I know that I would have been rich enough to set up an NGO. I still have a dream of setting up a place where I can feed hundreds of people every day and also set up a shelter for homeless people. My own essence of living is service to humanity.
The challenge as it concerns the security of the state is usually logistics. Security costs a lot of money, including buying of sophisticated gadgets. The Federal Government, the Inspector General of Police and the state government are doing a lot to improve on logistics. We will soon see the effect of such intervention. If we can achieve this much with the resources now, then giving us more logistics will make us perform better.
We are aware that sometimes you lead your men to operations, don’t you get scared of being killed?
If one is committed, you really don’t think too much about your own safety. Of course, I do take precaution. This is what some of us have learnt from the Inspector General of Police MD Abubakar. It is leadership by example. I don’t get scared because we’re doing God’s work, which says, “Thou shall not kill”; ours is to secure lives and property, of all Nigerians and residents alike.
We are approaching the Yuletide season. How prepared are the police to fight crime?
Everything is being done to reduce the incidents of crime and criminality. Ember months are known for increase in the rate of crime because people want to reap where they did not sow. We have drawn up a plan to checkmate them. Like we are winning the war on kidnappers, we will win other wars too. We are ready, any one found wanting will be dealt with. It is either you repent as a criminal or kidnapper or you don’t come to Edo State because if you do, you will face the music.