By Emma Nnadozie, Crime Editor
Commissioner of Police, Ogun state, Bashir Makama was, recently, on the firing line for performing his official duties. In fact, the astute officer who had served creditably in different volatile parts of the country as Police Commissioner had a bitter taste of Nigeria’s ‘dirty politics’ following claims and counter-claims over the amount of ammunition submitted to police authorities in the state by the former Governor, Adekunle Amosu.
Luckily, he stood his grounds and was able to untie the cryptic nuts weaved by political elements to discredit him. He spoke about the ugly incident and other issues relating to fighting crime in the state’.
Tell us how you have been policing Ogun state so far?
We have been trying to be pro-active and to carry the community along, trying to identify security challenges and doing the needful, committing ourselves to advocacy, where dialogue is required to solve issues by way of alternative dispute resolution and to ensure safety in the whole community at large.
What are the major challenges in policing the state?
I wouldn’t call them challenges but I will call them security issues. Here we found out that the young men are on their way taking drugs, and doing the wrong things, getting involved in cultism, getting involved in criminal act, sometimes cases of kidnap, robbery, mostly the bottom line is cultism and administration of illicit drugs. If we can curb drugs, then we can curb cult activities and most of the criminal actions must have been checkmated.
How are you able to check criminal acts in the state?
Youths are involved indrugs. Before the election, there was political thuggery. After the election, we are now looking at stabilization of the polity. Here in Ogun state, honestly, the challenges we have are mostly cult related activities because it is there you will find killings, people being hanged and maltreated. The fact that there is freedom of movement, freedom of association, these young men you will never know when they will go and meet and the next thing you will hear is a fight has broken out, somebody has been macheted. So, we will go out, identify these areas , identify the culprits and make sure that the innocent ones do not suffer and once they are identified like that, especially with the introduction of Operation Puff Ader.
How are you synergizing with other security agencies in fighting crime in the state?
We have periodic meetings. As I talk to you now, I have a meeting with the director of state security where we are going to address the transporters and issues this afternoon. The military will also have joint activities which we do to build safety. As I talk to you, there is an operation we are planning because of lawlessness of some drivers and commuters. You will see vehicles with no registration numbers, no link, no identification marks for auto cycles, tricycle and for all, so we are working towards ensuring that the state internal revenue service makes available licenses for both vehicles , motorcycles, and tricycles so that when the operation commences, there will be enough to go round and to serve the populace.
On the issue of arms proliferation, what are your experiences and how far have you gone in the state?
The first aspect of this operation Puff Arder is to mop up what we call, left over arms” from those that were recovered during and after the election. Like in this state, the governor that has been newly inaugurated has also issued directives on how to mop up by giving amnesty to those that have weapons to turn them in and after the amnesty period you know that it is no longer business as usual. We are facing cultism. Sometimes we arrest and recover weapons from them. We recover their arms, mostly locally -made weapons. We get information, intelligence, we go in and conduct searches. That’s how we recover and mop up these weapons. We are still on it and in the next few days, we will be 100 days in this office and we shall display our score cards so that we can take feedback of our activities because we cannot judge ourselves.
Let’s talk about the issue of weapons surrendered by the former governor of the state. Can we have the details?
I don’t really want to go into matters that affect the state but for clarity and for the sake of public consumption, I will say categorically that the state has the responsibility to assist security agencies in the provision of logistics to do their work . But they have procedure. Procedures are followed if you want to acquire them and it is not a recovery. When the Governor was preparing his handing over, he said that he had some items to hand over to the police and they included; Apc’s Armoured Personal Carrier, Ballistic jackets for bullet proof, and Ballistic helmet which were purchased for the state command. These weapons, Ak47 were given in 2012 to the command to boost our crime fighting activity and when he was going, he said part of these things we bought at that time, some certain things are remaining so, come and take them over for use. That is just what we did and as soon as that happened, headquarter was informed. We cannot collect items of such magnitude and keep them to ourselves and I don’t know where the issues are coming out from. The clarification is part of my responsibility. If there is a misconception, it is my responsibility also to clear it.
Do you suspect the handiwork of politicians in this scenario?
I wouldn’t say that, we are all political animals so, whoever plays politics can only be seen by those who act with him. So, I don’t see any issue of politic here since it has to do more with security than politics. I consider the security aspect of it more than seeing it as politically motivated.
What can you tell Ogun state people who felt alarmed over this incident?
The very day these things were given, a journalist asked that question and I said the good people of Ogun state have no cause for alarm and no cause to fear, no cause to think anything bizarre is happening. We will always ensure that the right thing was done. Whoever that does the right thing, will have rest of mind but, definitely, if you have criminal intention and you want to perpetrate crime, then you will be doing it with second thoughts; what if am caught? That is the situation.
What really happened?
Experience matters a lot, my main target is that explanation. I was happy when it was dispelled. I think I read it online, somebody said this noise that you are making; that it is the state that used their money to buy weapon and when the governor is going, he will hand over to Commissioner of Police but, when politics come into it, I felt it was not worth the noise.
But they said the former Governor had a secret meeting with you before handing over the weapons?
Yes, somebody said that the former Governor had a secret meeting with me and then he confessed to me. It is not true. The ceremony was done in an open place. I did not receive 1,000 AK47 rifles and four million ammunition from the former Governor. When the ammunition was physically counted, there were one million, four hundred thousand and some fractions and checks into police records revealed that the said weapons were handed over to the force in 2012. I didn’t hold any meetings with the Governor. What is the secret about giving what belongs to the state to the state? He called and said he was going to hand over some equipment. I didn’t do it in his office neither did he do it in his house. It was an open air presentation; he did it in front of governor’s house. I came out and went and collected these things in trucks. So, he couldn’t have been under the bed that he handed over a million rounds of ammunition to me with APC armour carrier in my house. It was an open thing. Whoever said it was done in secret is just being mischievous. The wrong impression is what we have corrected.