It has become a herculean task, maintaining law and order in the country in view of the rising cases of criminality, banditry and drug abuse. Mr Abiodun Ashabi who recently assumed duty as the Commissioner of Police in Ondo State spoke on his vision and plans to stem this ugly tide in the State in this interview with our Line Editors. Excerpts:
What has been your experience since assuming office as Ondo State Commissioner of Police?
I assumed office as the Commissioner of Police barely two weeks ago. About my experience so far, I will say it has been encouraging. I am being encouraged by what I am seeing so far on ground and the fact that I have been able to express my vision to police officers in the state.
I could see that within these two weeks, I have been observing that they are ready to adjust to the vision I came up with. Basically, the vision is very much in line with the vision of the Inspector General of Police, and it is to the effect that Nigerians must be very much at peace in all their communities. The police, as the leading agency of government, should provide security services; we have to be on top of the game.
I have seen that we are ready to go. As I said in my first press interview when I came, we will do alot for the people. We are going to start with strategising. The strategies in place are not bad, but we will try to improve in the areas we need to improve. The DPOs, Area Commanders, Tactical /State Commanders must come to terms, and many of them are coming along.
We learnt you have worked in this state before and in other areas where you have worked before, what were you able to achieve?
I was in Akure as an Area Commander for about two years and five months. If I want to compare it with what I have seen in other states, Akure is not entirely different from many other states I have worked because it is the same in Nigeria. I have been able to work in some other terrains that are more turbulent. With the experience that I have had in Akure and the other states where I have worked before, I will ensure that I bring it to bear now as the Commissioner of Police in the state. There is nothing so much except when you look at the trajectory of this county in terms of crimes, you discover that crime has been very much dynamic, and when you go to the North East, you see something different a little bit, North West a little bit and South West a little bit. Still, we should thank God for South West, and we thank God for Ondo State.
It’s been fairly good, but if the people are not ready to collaborate with us, we may be unable to do it alone. It is not easy for an organisation to police this country alone. Even if you go outside this country, you discover that even America today and Europe are succeeding, but they still have their problems here and there.
We need to work together with the police and other security agencies to come out of the problem we are facing now. Like I used to say, If you don’t fight crime, crime will fight you. If you don’t defeat crime, crime will defeat you. That is the truth. We need to collaborate and work together.
Crime is different from place to place, but if we are not careful in Ondo like kidnapping has come here, we hear news that there are kidnappings in so-so-so places, but now, it has been localised. So, as I see in the state, cultism, drug abuse and all forms of touting, unwholesome behaviour are high . We can do something about it. Not only the police; it is not something the police will do alone. Even the mothers and fathers in the homes; that is where it starts from.
What is the quality of policing in Nigeria and the personnel?
The quality of policing in Nigeria is not bad; it is above average. That’s why when you see that Nigerian police officers are engaged in foreign mission services, they’re exceptional, why because that environment is suitable for them to excel, the average police officers in this country are putting extraordinary effort into policing. Some of them work more than 24 hours, and how many of us can do that?
Working more than 24 hours means you won’t sleep. Officers in Ijapo here and the DPO don’t sleep often.. We only see that we are still having problems with the Logistics, funding, but the government is trying. They can’t just put all the money into the police, so we shouldn’t criticise anyone. We all should just come together and solve the common problem.
How effective is the Nigerian police in terms of Intelligence gathering?
The new IGP is working on that area. We’re upgrading the intelligence department, a section of police that has become a department. We have been doing something before, and we’re going to do more now. Intelligence is key because it helps us to stem problems before they arise. We have an intelligence unit; some of them are posted to places I cannot mention, but it is the people who can make it work because they have information that should be given to the police and then the police to act on it.
With the look of things in the society , insecurity is going down. What is the impact of the police?
It is enormous. Police are leaders of security agencies. If you see things going down in terms of crime, know that the people doing the crime are not resting, unlike before when thieves only stole material things, but now human beings are being kidnapped. If we want good security in the state and the country, the people/ citizens must be ready to work with us. The IGs, the president, and the ex-presidents all are working towards the use of community police, and the communities testify that it is a very good idea because they believe they’re the ones who know how best to solve their security problems. It was very bad before in Akure. I was scared people at some point that people might be getting kidnapped in thier houses, but to God be the glory, now it has reduced drastically.
Looking at the efforts of the State Police and that of Amotekun, would you say if Nigeria had earlier gone on the part of the state security initiative, things would have been better than this?
Southwest Security Initiative is more or less like an intervention and is not quite different from what we call the state police. I will not say that the State police would have been better or not. But Amotekun is is like the vigilantes and some other organisations helping us in some places. So if we have an organisation collaborating with the police as security agencies and they are doing that very well, there would be results.
When we look at the rate of high rate of youths involvements in cybercrime, drug, and cultism, would you say Nigeria Police is at the top of the situation?
Nigeria Police have established a cybercrime unit, and with how things are going, it will develop further. The operatives are being skilled and trained to be at the top of the game so that we can outwit criminals . Cybercrime is getting high, but the police are getting there.
But the trend keeps rising?
Yes, there must be a reason why the trend keeps rising. We all know why the trend keeps rising the way it is going in this country now. I will say some of the reasons why cybercrime is rising is because of our poor value system. Some people are working with people who are into cybercrime, helping and shielding them. Many people associate with these criminals .
Sir, will you say it is a failure of parents or the security officers?
We don’t need to shift blame, but let us start from where it is supposed to start. If a child is born, they are not given to the police to nurture. Before a child becomes an adult, he has started from the family, the community, local government, and the state. Everybody has a role to play. If you play your role and the police play its role, then we will be able to stem the tide.
What do you think is wrong with various attacks on the police station?
Those who attack police stations are enemies of the people, and we get these things from other places, maybe mainly from southern states for now, but during END SARS, we had attacks in the southwest and other places. Still, anybody who wants to go and attack a police station is supposed to be a criminal. So, it is something that has to do with criminality.
You can not see a law-abiding citizen, an innocent man, who is doing his lawful duties and will go to a police station and start attacking it; there must be a reason because the police are the enemy of criminals. It’s just because the police have become enemies of the criminals. Still, law-abiding citizens should be looking at what is happening and be interested in it. That was why when they burned tyres in Akure three years ago, I told indigenes I said it is your state that is burning. It is Akure that is burning. After this crisis, you will discover that your road will become bad. Some of these students, they heard, some of them became sober, yes sober, so that’s the way you can tell them, because these youths many don’t have information, many are not well groom to understand that they have a future, you understand, they have a future, it not by destroying today that to get a future, so that is the problem, burning of a police station is not something that everybody should be happy about. Still, wherever it happens, those who are involved are criminals. That is it. That is my answer to that.
The last question so that we won’t take so much of your time. What would you love to be remembered for? What do you think you want to do differently as a legacy?
I want to be remembered as an officer who came, saw and conquered, somebody who succeeded where others, I may not even say fail, where others tried to succeed, but who did his best, and you know, at the end of the day, there must be statistics, maybe trends, ohh in Akure what is happening now, how many houses have been bulged, how many people have been robbed, I think like that, if the statistics are in my favour, so that means people will remember me for what God has done through me within the period that I have been here. So, thank you very much.