Aside the chaos associated with Lagos State in both crime and social enviroment, Ogun State is, no doubt, a close ally. In fact, Ogun seems to be an off shoot of Lagos as it parades an uneviable array of what makes the State of Excellence, Lagos, tick. That accounts for the exceptional care police authorities in Abuja take in choosing who comes to Ogun.
Since assumption of duties, Ogun State Commissioner of Police, Valentine Ntomchukwu, has proved to be equal to the task of securing lives and property . He has introduced a seemingly scientific and tecknological scheme that is yielding dividends in fighting crime. In this interview with our Crime Editor, Emma Nnadozie, the CP bares his mind on his accomplishments and the challenges ahead.
What has it been like, policing Ogun State?
It has been challenging in the sense that new crimes occur, especially kidnapping and cult -related cases because Ogun has the highest number of higher institutions in the country. We have so many universities and polytechnics and the state is close to Lagos. So, it is bound to see a lot of issues involving kidnapping and cultism. It has been quite challenging and we are responding to it.
In specific terms, tell us how you are responding to some of these challenges.
We have in place scientific anti-crime control strategies in the sense that we rely on intelligence- based policing to gather information. We use the intelligence to identify leaders, kingpins in cultism and kidnapping. Those we can not identify, we raid flash points and black spots. When we arrest them, we subject them to serious profiling. We have been able to get some of them in the black spots. This is because we have been able to pin them to specific crimes and kidnapping we burst in the past. We also have a crime data of areas that we burst in the past.
I have a data bank where we store information that we got for the past six months. When we get these people, we work with what we have on ground and, in most cases, we have been able to link them and charge them for such offences. If we don’t, it will be difficult to prove in court and so, these measures have helped us to establish the link between the individuals and the offences that have been committed and the judiciary has been happy. The DPP knows how useful our investigations are. In Ogun, we ensure that evidence is meticulously gathered and investigations properly carried out to establish perpetrators of crimes before they are arraigned in court.
What are the impediments to carrying out these assignments?
We have manpower and logistic problems in terms of funding the operations because for you to gather information and carry out intelligence operation, you need money. To keep officers at these various locations over a period of time as undercover or decoy operatives requires funding. However, the Inspector -General of Police is providing vehicles for us. He even provided fuel for safer highways and other operations which we now undertake. So, we have some relief. But even at that, we still have manpower and funding contraints.
How were you able to boost the morale of your men to achieve all these?
I explained to them that this is the era of change, that if we can do better, it will enhance the ability of the Inspector- General of Police to intervene for us to have a holistic welfare package and that, if we can deliver positively, it will put him on the ground to bargain for the welfare of the force. So, the officers have decided to show the Inspector -General of Police that we can perform so that he can be proud of us and ask for better welfare for us. That is their motivation and they are hoping that there will be change and this change will impact on their welfare as promised by the Inspector -General of Police.
How were you able to streamline your strategies in fighting crime and what has been the effect ?
You must know the crime pattern.
Generally, Ogun, being a gateway state, has a crime pattern. It is mostly a form of crime we call ‘trans-national border banditry’ because we have international borders through so many path ways. You find a situation where you have bandits coming from Benin Republic, Niger Republic, Togo with the aim of infiltrating the country using the umbrella of ECOWAS. They now evade immigration processes because of ECOWAS protocol which covers them to come in without passing through serious visa screening. They come in from the border, and as they come in, most of them are artisans.
Where they cannot find jobs, they will be involved in armed robbery and some of them will team up with Nigerians, mostly from other states. Definitely they have an insider who is always their pointer, feeding them with information, in case of kidnapping, because, from our analysis, there is hardly any situation where somebody will come from a neighbouring state, if it is within Nigeria or from across the border, without somebody pointing at the person who must have value.
Because it is not all persons that are being kidnapped, it is somebody who has value, someone whose close relatives are well to do. And then, maybe the domestic staff who have been interacting with him will know that if that kind of person is taken away, they will readily pay ransom. So, they give out this information to these intinerant criminals who are looking for greener pastures and they will come in and operate and, while you are looking for them, they are long gone. That is the kind of criminals that you see here in Ogun.
And Ijebu-Ode area, in particular, is porous. It is centrally located, bound by Ondo, Oyo and part of Osun. These states have boundries with Ijebu-Ode. Even the old road that pass through Ijebu-Ode,Osun, Ondo and goes to the East is still motorable. That location makes it easier for robbers to look at Ijebu-Ode as an area where they can operate and escape. But we have in place proactive strategy to deal with such robbers. And that is why we are harvesting them now as you can see; over 30 arrests, and at least those caught in action are up to five who confessed and we rescued the victims. We arrested about 15 of them through careful evidence and intelligence gathering. They have confessed being kidnappers. We have also rescued their victims some of whom are Chinese and Pakistanis. Generally speaking, most of them are expatriates and only few others are Nigerians.
Because of the policy of indegenisation and foregn direct investment, you find a lot of Chinese. Like I said, Ogun has the highest number of tertiary institutions and the largest number of industries in Nigeria. We have what we call industrial free zone clusters in Agbara and Sagamu areas. The strategic location of the state attract foreigners and also those who want to take advantage to commit crime. We have been doing all these, and our strategy have been yelding results as you can see. The state is becoming friendlier, more conducive for industralization because the crime rate here has drastically reduced.
So how is the government recipocating these efforts?
The government bought so many APCs before my arrival. Most of the APCs we are using were hired because APCs are very costly. They are not items you can pick on the shelf. They are customised for police use. The state government is security concious. When I came, I had to consolidate, take it further and that is why, today, we are recieving accolades in terms of crime fighting.
Talking about synergy with other security agencies, how has it been?
It is not easy to police the border without synergy. As the gateway state, we now have the marine police. We also need help from the navy. Ogun has riverine areas and the mnavy has what you call the Foward Operation Base where their men are normaly deployed to perform internal security operations. We are in constant touch with their commanders. Apart from that, on my arrival, the first visit I did outside the state capital was to the Idiroko border. The Customs Area Commander organised other security agencies and we held a closed- door meeting where we reviewed strategies to stem crime. Since then, we have been in constant touch and they have been providing us with useful information about suspicious persons. Synorgy with other agency has helped to disseminate information and deal with criminals, pro-actively.
The elections are over. What are you doing to mop up arms in the hands of hoodlums?
We have this strategy of raiding suspected criminal hideouts. That is the easiest way to catch criminals either when they are planning or are about to strike. So, mopping up arms has always been in the front bunner of our strategy in this Command.
How have you been able to checkmate the excess of your men generally?
Like I said, we have an Inspector -General of Police who is from the intelligence background, and when you have an IG that operates from a point of information, you now know that he has a clear knowledge of what he wants. That is why you find today, that the police have a platform online www.stopthebribe.net. This particular platfrom is for dissemination of information and the information is digital and in real time. So, if an officer is misbehaving, the police have opened its doors to public scrutiny through this platform. All our misconduct and all the misconduct of our men, whether in the offices or on the field, we get the information on real time, and we react accordingly. So far, with this, we have been able to instill discipline in our people. They are aware that our shoulders are being watched and so we have been able to beat our people into line.
The impression one is getting is that you have been personally engaged in crime bursting. Can you give us a typical operation you have led, like robbery or kidnap?
There was a 97-year-old man that was kidnapped on June 12, 2015, and taken somewhere along Ijebu-Ode- Benin expressway. All our tracking devices and coordinates pointed towards that area and the area was not planned. So, what the tracker or the coordinates revealed was the entire forest but did not reveal the landmarks, street or houses. That made it more challenging. But because of the man’s age, I was particularly concerned and so, I combined physical and spirtual efforts. As a believer, we had to subject ourselves to prayers because you know the spirit controls the physical and we needed spiritual intervention. I led the prayer, I led the fasting, I led operations. Starting from 3am when we received information that the kidnappers were demanding ransom and wanted to collect it, we went into action. The relatives of the victim were willing to pay the ransom. That is why I am sending this message, because those who are always not trusting the police will end up helping this crime to flourish. So, after speaking with the victim’s family, I invited them to my office. I told that they needed to co-operate with us, that God was on our side and that if these young boys, because of money will kidnap an old man of 97, that this is a test case. I personally followed the matter, personally led it till the man was rescued.
By the time you leave Ogun State Police Command, what would you want to be remembered for?
On my arrival in the state, the entire east senatorial zone, banks were not working because of the fear of armed robbers. For five months, banks were closed. On my arrival on February 19, I left Abeokuta for Ijebu-Ode, held meetings with them and we were able to deploy APCs and vehicles. The banks opened and, up till today, they are working. I want to be remembered as somebody who came, saw people living in palpable fear, to the point that all banks were closed, starting from Babcock University community, down to ijebu-Ode, and I was able to engender confidence in the banks. When the banks were closed, it affected business as well as the workers who could not go to work. I want to be remembered as a man who came, saw it and brought sanity, restored law and order and, banks opened till today.