ADULRAHMAN Olajide Akao is the Commissioner of Police, Plateau State. When this reporter met him recently and sought is views on how the crisis in Jos can be resolved, he was very optimistic but was quick to say:”Anybody saying we have religious crisis on the Plateau is not helping matters. Who owns Jos North, that’s is the issue.”
Jos I will say is vulnerable to crisis. Do you agree?
Since I came in here in December, what I’ve found, and I’m being very sincere with you, is that more of exaggeration is the problem here. Most of the problems you have since I came, aside from the December bombing, which I’ve told the world that politicians should explain that; the way Boko Haram would do their thing, is not what we found here.
The Boko Haram would go after the elites, security men in uniform and those, who do not belong to their group. So, when it comes to this, most of what you would find were retaliatory conducts or initiation of cattle rustling. Either somebody would say, ‘they had rustled my cows some moths earlier and I would retaliate,’ then they go to villages and attack people. Or somebody would just initiate cattle rustling and cause blood shed in villages.
The last one for instance was a situation where ritualists wanted a human head; they went to the house of this old man and killed his 7 to 9 years old child and a 30 year old one. In my view, this ritualist knows this family and that these children could even say who he was, and they chose to kill. The one that they went to the Institute of Land Resources, again, as I told the authorities there, there was the issue of cattle of rustling of Mr. Haruna’s cows, but neigbours were also attacked. So, those two, I’ve ordered an investigation as a crime case and not one of our problems on the Plateau. What I’ve been telling people these days is, ‘please, let’s stop this cattle rustling thing.’
A policeman n the State was attacked in the market on Valentine’s Day, which led to a crisis in the city, what was responsible for that?
This boy allegedly went to the market to buy chicken. However, there were two sides to the story. One side claims he was the one, who had the argument with the chicken seller. the others said no, others had their argument, he went there to intervene.’ Either way, there was an argument and the rascally guy decided to pierce a knife through him.
Of course, on the Plateau, even if the motor tyre blows and makes a loud sound, there’s a tendency for somebody to say, ‘they’ve started.’ Then young boys will come out; they have this solution they inhale, Indian hemp with their long knife and some of them with charm. These are area boys, who would feed on any situation that would create mayhem.
So, since December, minus the bombing incident, it has always been people going to the villages saying that they had rustled their cattle. Like the last one for instance, a report came to me that about 102 cows were rustled and that they have discovered them somewhere. In consultation with the Chairman of the council, they were to go there the following day to identify the cattle when mayhem erupted at night.
To me here, we are not fighting a religious war; it’s about the so-called indigenes and so called settlers. We have no religious crisis in Plateau. It will be religious if John had been on his way to the Church and somebody had said, ‘don’t go.’ Or that Mr. Abel had converted an Abdulrahman… but what we have on the Plateau is who owns Jos North. Is it the so-called settler or the so-called sons of the soil? So, anybody saying we have religious crisis on the Plateau, in my view, is not helping matters. Who owns Jos North, that’s the issue.
What about the University of Jos issue?
The issue of University of Jos for instance, students said one of them had an argument with a motorcycle rider; he too had a dagger pierced through him, then they came out to the street to demonstrate. While that was going on, soldiers came and commenced firing.
An additional ten were fired at, in all, there was a non-academic staff of the university and the first guy that was stabbed and the others had bullet wounds; nobody again died in that exercise; no student of University of Jos died. I instructed my men to go into the hospital and speak to me while there, which they did; of course, the university had said that no student died. So, it was while the students were doing their thing that the area boys took over and began to burn stalls, in the market. and of course, once a group begins, the other party wants to retaliate. So, the thing went on into shops, garages, the whole of Zaria Road.
At a point, I had to go out myself because a group in the matter said the policemen had joined in killing them; as they alleged the military did. I now said, JNI, give me a representative, so, they gave me a representative and we drove down. At Cocain Church on Zaria Road, it’s not fenced; part of what they told them was that police went there in two Hilux trucks and that they had packed them in a Church; an open Church by the road side. So, went with them.
Luckily, I saw some people at a place that looked like a construction site and I asked them to tell me what they saw. They said, ‘police came and each time they pursued one side, the other one will follow them. If they turned to pursue this side, the other side too will follow them.’ Then the other guy, who allegedly said the police were part of the problem said, ‘no, they didn’t say so, but that those who burnt their houses, were following the police.’ So, I gave order thereafter, ‘when you get to any scene, share your men into two; a group to face this, a group to face that, but to the limit of your ability to pursue. If pursuing will put you in danger, stay at where you can hold them, then come for reinforcement.’ So, that was what happened on that night.
There is this perception that the Police is taking sides. How true is that?
Well, we inherited this– the commander of the taskforce and I inherited this. The Housa Fulani will tell you that the police killed them in 2008. The locals will tell you that the military was killing them and that was the whole noise that General (Minner, the GOC 3 division) was collaborating and killing them. So, what we inherited is still what is going along with us.
That’s why you find me getting angry when people come in here and make up stories…look, don’t judge me by even the standards of the man who just left here, judge me by my own standards. You cannot say because you were killed in 2008, therefore, I’ve become a killer. During the demonstration after that bombing thing, I told the youths, who said they wanted the police, ‘yes, you may want the police, but the marriage would not last.’
There’s no security operative, who would standby while you drag people out of the vehicle, burnt the vehicle, kill the occupants, and you want me to sing lullaby with you, it’s not done. I would shoot at you too. So, if you want the police, then keep the law. If you interview them, they will tell you they want justice, but justice should not be to one and not to the other. All of you who are burning cars here and making troubles must be arrested because the owners also demand justice. So, all those who also kill on this side must be arrested because the other side also demands justice.
What of the allegation that some foreigners were used to cause mayhem here?
Let me tell you categorically that since I came into this state as the commissioner of police, I’ve never arrested a foreigner. I’ve heard it said that some 60 foreigners were arrested and were taken to Abuja, they never came back; that’s what you hear them say at this end. That when they brought some there, they gave them terrorist charges which could not be defended and the court were discharging them. What I’m saying in essence is that since I came here in December, I’ve never arrested any foreigner. All those I’ve arrested are songs of the soil; either the Hausa Fulani or the so-called locals.
There were allegations that some of the people arrested were not taken to court?
I have charged those whom I should charge; they are in the court; go to the Attorney General and speak to him on this. I told them at the beginning that I’m on the Plateau in peace and for peace and if I must pursue that, I must be just. If I have a case against you, I charge you. If I don’t have a case against you, I throw the case out and tell whoever cares what the facts are; that’s why whenever I render account to my boss, (the Inspector General of Police), I also let the state know.
But the original issue was that, ‘ah, he’s a Muslim o, bla, bla, bla!’ but for God’s sake, my type of Islam does not say I should kill people or be unjust to people; what the holy Koran taught me is to be just. And here am I with the destinies of well over 100 and what Nigerians in my hands, particularly on the Plateau and I have to account for them, then I won’t be a party to such. So, who ever I arrest, goes to court if I have a case against him. Like the crisis we had in January, when the CPC people decided to change the venue of their primaries without reference to us, they went elsewhere, thugs attacked them, burning started, I picked the entire executive and charged them. So, there are many cases in court, which the Attorney General will confirm to you when you get to him.
What is the best way to have a lasting solution in Plateau?
The parties on the Plateau are tired of this problem. People are hungry; there’s no work and no business. Both the youths and the elders are tired, but the problem is that people are arrogant on both sides. They have ‘over reached’ themselves in the past; it’s now a matter of ‘I don’t want to be shamed. Now, we need honest brokers. Like I said jocularly elsewhere, it’s not a case of looking for senior advocates, junior advocates and all that; let’s get honest peace brokers, who would like the termites, dwell on the ground in negotiation.
For government to let the world know that they are doing something, let them give us the names and then allow them to talk to the parties quietly and the world should not know again until when they’ve signed valid papers and that could be done only by the federal and state governments combined. We have spoken to more than 60 groups; we’ve invited the youths, we’ve invited elders. We’ve spoken to religious groups. We know what they are all saying. But, other influences must also be looked into.
From within or outside the state?
Both, because since they began to dress this thing in religious garbs, many people take side, people who do not know exactly is happening. Once they hear that Muslims are killing Christians or Christians killing Muslims, they go out and just take side without a thought to what is wrong.