As a Commissioner of Police in charge of the Special Fraud Unit at Milverton Street, Ikoyi, Lagos State, Tunde Ogunsakin held sway with an unwavering candour and astuteness coupled with a tenacity of purpose, he has been riding the crest of success.
He resolutely cracked many fraud cases that exposed vicious syndicated gangs thus making it very difficult for fraudsters popularly known as 419ers to excel.
Then, he was posted to the volatile and highly politicized Rivers State command where his predecessor was involved in a ding-dung battle with Governor Chibuike Amechi. Expectations were high, so also were doubts. So far, he seems to be weathering the storm as exemplified by streaks of successes recorded in a short time. He spoke with Emma Nnadozie on this and other issues. Excerpts:
Posting to Rivers State
When the Inspector-General of Police called and told me that I will move to Rivers State, I saw it as another challenge, and in view of the character of MD Abubakar, in putting round pegs in round holes, he is a man you cannot take away his ability to determine officers, give them specific instructions and assign jobs appropriately to his satisfaction .
As a matter of fact, he is a core professional and an operational man who has transformed the police from lackluster, lackadaisical conduct to a viral and efficient force. I think in this country today, we have been particularly lucky to have him at the helm of affairs.
He is somebody who can manage men effectively and he knows where to put officers and get the best out of them. When he said I was coming here, I had no doubt in his ability to read effectively what I was coming here to do, and whether I actually fit the bill to be able to put Rivers State in order and ensure lives and properties are safe.
When I came here, the brief IG gave me was to go and do Police work and since I came here, what I did first was to meet the Governor during a courtesy call and I told him that I was going to meet all stake- holders irrespective of the parties they belong to or religious affiliations.
So after meeting the Governor, I met all traditional rulers, pressmen, all the political party executives in Rivers State, and my sermon has always been for all to fight crime and all forms of criminality, that everybody must join hands with me to ensure that the politics of hatred, of deceit and rancour are not allowed to have root here. What am doing essentially is to take Police out of political wranglings and make sure that the police do a very professional work here and since I came and met with the political parties, realised that we are doing a professional job too, they are happy, both parties have been cooperating to ensure there is peace and tranquility in the state.
In the administration we have now, we can do good policing and electioneering, since I came here, the command has been devoid of bickering and all those problems. All this credit I can give to my IGP in the sense that he has given good leadership and when you give good leadership, what you get is good followers. Some of us that are following him, that have worked with him, we know the stuff he is made of.
He is somebody that I know that what he has put together in the Nigeria police today, even when he stopped road blocks, if you know the kind of good name that singular act has given to the police, the kind of credibility he has given to the police, the kind of courage to be able to face the public that we are not as corrupt as people think.
Now, we can raise our heads and stand shoulder to shoulder with any force anywhere in the world because of encouragement he has given us, has given us the latitude to perform better and hold our heads high as members of the force. We can now stand and look at anybody and say that we have an IGP who is forward looking, who is IT compliant, he is all that you need as an IG.
Surmounting the misgivings
When I came in, it was apparent that both parties, I mean the two political parties in the divide were very conscious, what is this man coming to do. The government in place was very suspicious,and the PDP too; what is this man coming to do. I think my first message did the magic in the sense that I came in and told them what I was coming to do.
In my first speech, I said that the Governor is the Chief Security Officer of the state as enshrined in the constitution and I added that I am the Chief Law Enforcement Officer and that both of us must synergize to protect lives and properties in Rivers State, and I told the Governor then that I will meet all stakeholders irrespective of political parties, religious leaning or whatever.
Everybody has seen my openness, my ability to carry people along and be impartial, to be firm, resolute and desirous to carry the work which the IG has given me to do. This speaks volumes that since we came in, crime has reduced, the political tension has gone down and that is exactly what we are doing.
Assessment of crime in the state
Two weeks after resuming duties here, I found out that there are crimes that are very prevalent…. Then I look at the statistics of crime too, two, three months before and two months after I arrived and I just noticed there was no serious increase in crime,but I found out that the crime of kidnapping, cultism armed robbery etc are the ones that are very prominent here.
So, what I started doing was to look at the ones that are prevalent and devise strategies to curb them. I can tell you that for kidnapping, I was able to stem the tide by increasing and improving on our intelligence, operational aspect and made sure that I deployed armed guards along the water front. I deployed like a unit even though the water front is very large.
When I noticed that the kidnappers were picking victims, run straight to the water front, then take a boat and take their victims across to the creeks, that informed my deploring serious armed guards along the water fronts and it was apparent that I was able to stop their running to the water front and into the creeks because of the guards we put there.
Although there are still some of them that escape because of the size of the water front, we found out that atimes when they pick their victims, they find it difficult to take them out. There were instances in the local Government where they have to put their victims in an underground water tanks from where they will be taken out. We are happy with our strategies so far. The challenges we have is getting our gun boats repaired.
Hopefully, some of the stakeholders are trying to assist us. We are optimistic that we can man those water fronts effectively and kidnapping will go down and we are very happy with the reduction in kidnapping.We are also working with other security agencies.
In fact, we work as a family. About four days ago, we launched ‘Operation Spark’, which is borne out of the understanding we have with other security agencies like the Navy and Army. We are working assiduously to ensure that crime is gravely reduced. That is what we are doing and we are happy things are working out accordingly.
Containing excesses of politicians
I think we are succeeding, in the sense that, their excesses are being curbed and because I operate with them with openness,firmness and with full knowledge knowing that politicians can be very funny.Like when state government officials come here to request for armed guards, like commissioners, local government chairmen, that they want armed guards in their homes and as their escorts. We are following the rules and the law strictly.
What they are entitled to is one armed guard and because of this, I don’t need to hide anything if you request and I tell you this is what you are entitled. They know I am not going to cut corners. So, if you are not entitled to anything, I will tell you, I don’t care what political divide you belong to.
Even if you are not a government official, unless we have reports that someone’s life is being threatened, we will give you security coverage. It could be a non-Nigerian who possibly could be an object of kidnapping, we give them coverage. People now see the police in Rivers State to be very fair and that we really don’t have any issue as per the political party you belong to.
As far as I am concerned, everybody is equal before the law. What is my concern is whether you are entitled to security guard or not, and I think the politicians have realized that we are strict but open and very firm. They now know that everybody is equal before the law.
IGP’s transformation in the force
IGP’s transformation agenda essentially is to ensure that good governance translates to good policing and that is what we are doing. We all know that the IG has a zero tolerance to corruption, we know that he is a very diligent officer with high integrity.
He is an officer who believes in carrying his officers along. If you go around the headquarters or stations, you will see neatness which is in tandem with what you will see at the Force Headquarters, Abuja and you will know that every police man is proud to be associated with the IGP. When we came here, we tried to follow his footsteps and also replicate that at the various police stations. We give lectures to the officers that the neatness and security of lives and properties of the public is what the IG is harping on.
What we are doing is to carry on with his instructions and with the good examples he has laid down. So, we are following his transformation agenda and making sure that all officers adhere to them. People are bound to see the little success we have achieved here as the carryover of what IG has instructed us to do.
If we are succeeding, it means the IG is succeeding, what we are doing here is in consonance with the directives and order of the IG. So, we must thank the IG for giving us this kind of leadership and we are following in that process.
Continuity in Police hierarchy
As a commissioner of police, I am a junior officer to determine who handles police leadership or whatever. But personally and as a professional who has worked with IG and what he had done and you are asking me even though I don’t have the power but on a personal level, I would think that you don’t change a winning team. To me he is doing well and will do more if given the opportunity.
Expectation of Rivers State people
The people of Rivers state should continue to enjoy the protection of life and property as we are here carrying out the instruction of the IG and his transformation agenda. We are going to give them this leadership to ensure that peace reigns in the state and that the working relationship between the police and the society is cordial and that the people should be free to befriendthe police.
The police in Rivers state is a friend to the people, the people of the state should continue to give us information while we continue to do our bit without harassment from any body. People should be rest assured that armed robbery and other criminality are reduced to the barest minimum so that they can do their business without anybody harassing them.
Challenges in fighting crime
Our major problem is getting materials to work with. We have problems getting gun boats because of the topography, and the critical environments where you have big water front, where you have creeks where criminals hide. We need to reinforce our marine capability, we need to increase our man power, we need to increase our fighting prowess in terms of arms and ammunition.
There are some police stations that need to be upgraded in the use of material things to work with. These are the only challenges we have but we have the will and the leadership is ready to do what is desirable at all times. Since we are not lacking in that way, we should be able to use whatever materials we have to achieve the best so that the people of the state can live happily and sleep with their two eyes closed.
Patrolling the streets
I have been doing patrols and virtually visited the commands and all the Local Government commands and stations. There have been lectures and meetings even with the traditional rulers and we are trying to build a synergy with all other security agencies to ensure that lives and properties are safe.
Boosting moral of officers
We are doing all within our power to ensure that officers are happy. In terms of accommodations, welfare, you will realize that since IG came in, he has been improving the welfare of officers and men of the force. We have been using that to preach to the officers that to whom much is given, much is expected. So, what the IG is doing in terms of welfare is what we are carrying out and I can tell you even as we speak, the issue of back log of salary not being paid is now history.
Officers now get their salary as and when due, officers are happy. If you go around to sample their opinions, they will tell you they are very happy, and because of the performance of the welfare, corruption is eradicated as officers now live within their means.
When I arrived here, I emphasized that the DPO’s, on no account should give money to Area commanders, and no one must come to the Commissioner to give money because no one remits money to the IGP. We are taking a cue from IGP and you must as well take a cue so no one tells you he’s been asked to give any money to the Commissioner of police.
The IG has maintained zero tolerance to corruption and we must take cue from him. It has been my watchword since I came here. I told every officer that while I am here, we are all going to say no to corruption and this command has launched say-no-to-corruption, say-no-to- kidnapping. So far, I have no regrets, I am satisfied with the job I am doing.
Advice to policemen
My advice to men and officers of this command is that they should remain loyal and committed to their job and that the work we are doing is a job that the public appreciates, forget about the saying that police reward is in heaven,if you are satisfied with the job you are doing by saving people’s lives and properties, you should have satisfaction in doing that.
That today, as a police officer, you are saving people’s lives and properties, you should continue to be diligent and industrious and continue to serve the people, to ensure that lives and properties are safe.
Assessment of leadership of the force under MD Abubakar
MD Abubakar’s leadership has transformed the police to be more efficient and proactive in all spheres of combating crime and we are happy to have a leadership that has transformed the police so far, and has brought us courage and integrity, that people now respect a policeman on the road. Before he came in, it wasn’t like that and now you can raise up your head and stand shoulder to shoulder with anybody and then feel proud that you are a policeman because of what MD Abubakar has done to the police. He has transformed us.