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Friday, 19 October 2012 ,

Policing Edo requires knowledge of interior communities – Balogun, Edo

Mr. Olayinka Balogun is the Edo State Commissioner of Police. In this interview with Vanguard Crime Editor, Emma Nnadozie and Gabriel Enogholase, he spoke of the challenges facing the State Police Command and what he has done so far to achieve some measure of success in policing the state. Excerpts:

How have you been enjoying your stay in Edo State so far?
I have enjoyed every minute of it. It has been very challenging and I love challenges. I love to do my job, and I have seen that the picture they painted about Edo people, about crime and crime waves and so on is not actually so. Crimes are committed everywhere all over the country, so there is no need putting a topology on a particular state. But I have found out that Edo people are ready to co-operate with the police to fight crime and that is what we have been doing,and I have enjoyed every bit of it.

How have you been able to curb criminal activities in the state?
Actually, we have been able to find out that there are two common crimes on ground in the state, that is, robbery and kidnapping. In the case of armed robbery, it is a familiar terrain for the police; so I discovered that the problem was coming mostly from Edo North, that is, the Igarra-Ibillo-Auchi axis. All I did is to raise a special group that is faceless to go and man the area and since they went there, there has been no single bank robbery in that area.

The last time robbers went to that axis, we gave them a bloody dose, arrested quite a number of them, frustrated their efforts, recovered arms and ammunition from them, and since that time we have had some peace in the area. On the issue of kidnapping, when we came initially, it was a bit bad but we fought them to a stand still. As I am talking to you, we have arrested more than 50 suspects in various operations; we have recovered arms and ammunition from them and rescued a lot of victims from them.

And we have been able to talk to members of the public so that they can get themselves prepared with some security tips. Some people carelessly walk into their hands either through telephone conversation or somebody you have never met before, inviting you to a particular place, like the unfortunate case in Lagos; so we have been able to educate our people so much in that area. We also discovered that some of them are stage-managed either a boy friend kidnapping his girlfriend so that they can make more money from their father; a brother kidnapping a brother so that they can make money from their father.

We have quite a number of such cases. Recently the Inspector General of Police provided us with a lot of instruments like the new G.Department just created. It is mainly for info- tech and so we have this tracking system they sent us and any time we get calls on the activities of criminals in certain locations, we will locate that area within 24 hours.

The Assistant Inspector-General of Police (AIG) Intelligence Department has been of tremendous help, so once they call, we track down the area and go there immediately, and some times, we bait them with ransom. We encourage their relations to go and when they come out for the money, we grabbed them. In most cases, if there is the need to confront them with arms and if they are armed, we also respond with arms, and some of them are wounded in the process and a lot of them also have been arraigned in the court.

We have also received a lot of cooperation from our sister states, Delta in particular. There was a time it was quite a big battle between the hoodlums and men in our borders because when they kidnapped a victim in delta they bring him of her to Benin and when they kidnap in Benin, they take such victim it to Delta. Recently, they said they prefer to go and collect ransoms in Delta State; that it is very hot collecting ransom in Benin; some of them were wounded in the process and we arrested two or three of them who have collected ransom in Benin.

So we have got a lot of support from Delta State and I will say the whole thing has tremendously died down. Kidnapping is exceptional; these criminals have discovered that kidnapping is easier. It is not as risky as robbery; if they go for robbery, police will be obliged to trace them with arms, fire for fire but when they go for kidnapping, we want to rescue the victims and would not shoot them until we rescue the victims and it is unlike robbery where it is a kind
of confrontation.

We have more challenges in the area of kidnapping because we want to be more careful so that the victim is not hurt. We also generate news especially if the person involved is a notable person; so that gives us challenges, but we have reduced the tension very considerably.

In essence you are saying that the so-called crime record in Edo State is unfounded?
It’s very unfounded. People from a part of the country are like this and people just believe so. We have had some youth corp members, and they go to those areas. They will come back with different stories. The hyper news I heard about Edo State is not true. Edo like every other place has crimes, but the crime percentage or the way people put it is not so.

For example, in Edo State since April 2012, we have not heard a single bank robbery in the State. The last one was in that April and we caught them and gave them bloody nose and arrested many of them. This kidnapping thing that they are talking about is being done away with gradually and successfully. In most cases, because we need to rescue a victim, confronting them is careless.

If a man seizes a car and police confronts the person, there will be a shoot out and we will take the car from him, but if somebody is in that car that we want to get alive, we will not be able to shoot. That is the canopy under which kidnappers are hiding. They know that we will not storm a place when the victim is there but I will tell you what has been happening now. People in Edo State, we have struck a serious relationship.

You know we have been doing this community policing, I have been going round the nooks and crannies of communities, I have been talking to them. Right inside the villages, I have been talking to them and they have become so embolden enough that with their vigilante groups, once they notice any movement; criminals hiding in the bush anywhere; they will call us and on two or three occasions, we have succeeded in rescuing a victim.

In most cases, somebody will call Oga and say, we notice some movement around a particular place in one village and we will send the anti-kidnapping officers there. They will go to the place and do their surveillance and will discover that there is a victim somewhere with someone keeping watch. So, on about two occasions, we have arrested some suspects and rescued the victims. We get this information so regularly. The thing has become a less issue.

Yes, it happened occasionally and the reason is because we had an initial problem after we removed roadblocks with people seizing the opportunity of that little freedom, but we have since reduced it. We have got some vehicles to go on patrol, we have got some federal highway patrols armed cars sent to us by the IG, but like most necessities of life, they are not enough.

For example, if I have ten vehicles on patrol, I will wish I had 20 on patrol. If I have a vehicle per five kilometre, I will prefer a vehicle per two kilometre. The more the persons is felt, the more the challenge but another problem is that with due respect to some of this cattle rearers, we have had information that some of this surprise attacks are carried out by these herds men.

One or two victims have confirmed that the Fulani cattle herds men are familiar with the area. Some times they watch our men. They know when they come to the fields; they know when they move from a particular spot. So at times they come out and strike and run back into the bush, but I have reported the matter to the state government and we are making efforts to meet with Sarkis around and also meet some of the Hausa/Fulani leaders so that they can talk to them.

That is on now; so that we can register some of them, then we can know what is going on. Then our vigilante groups in some communities are assisting tremendously, except that we have told them that they do not have the power to detain or brutalize anybody. Once they make any arrest, they should handover such person or persons to the police and they have been doing that. We have intensified our effort and the IG has promised us more vehicles because that is the only way to stop this highway problem.

There is visibility of policemen on the road but then we have a lot of problem confronting security in the country. Some of the roads are so bad that these criminals know where a vehicle will be forced to slow down; that is where they will go and wait. If vehicles are moving and the express way is free, of course, it will be so difficult. You don’t have such highways robbery in the developed world where the roads are good and people are moving in four, five or six lanes but here, we have only one or two lanes and those lanes are some times bad spots that criminals will go and wait to do some of these things.

Because I have gone into some of the villages during the community policing, I have found out that there are some places you have a distress call that have about five or six houses away, but you can’t get there because there is either a big crater somewhere full of water or you have to manoeuvre between the funning-arranged buildings before you get to the place. It is like a fire brigade man looking at the fire, he has vehicle, he has the water but he can’t get there.

I think those are some of the things that government should help us, especially local government areas where they can do grading of some of these roads. We have a lot of such places where we cannot reach because the roads are not good not to talk of electricity problem. You go to an area, everywhere is dark, and you do not know the victim from the suspect. Those things are part of security challenges the local, state and Federal Government must work on, so that together we can solve the problem.

How do you see the collection of revenue along major highways in the state?
Some of these people are the creation of the society, some of them are actually collectors for local governments or for some banks and agencies but what we have told them is that instead of staying in the main road to collect this, money, they should have offices where these people will get to the offices and collect the tolls. But where we have noticed a forceful collection of such tolls we have dismantled it.

And I have made some arrest in some of those areas in Benin around Oloku junction and so on; I have called some of them to my office and asked why is this. And of course, they will bring some papers and I told them you cannot collect tolls on the highway, go and collect them in your offices and I have instructed the DPOs that anywhere they find this thing being forcefully collected, the people involved should be arrested and we have been doing so.

Recently the revenue people came here and said that some people have been collecting such tolls and I gave them policemen to go and raid them. They raided a lot of them and we have charged some of them to court while some are in detention. So the government should collect all these things through their offices; anybody who attempts to do it on the main road, we will stop the person because there is no more roadblock.

Anywhere you have served you have made your marks especially in the area of beautifications, erection of some permanent structures among others. What could have informed you to do this?

A man is what he is, he is what he wears and he is where he lives. If you remove all those things from the man, then there is no man again. If a policeman cannot work in a good office; if he cannot wear good uniform, if he is not properly trained, if he is not proud of his environment, then you cannot get the best out of him. To get the best out of workers, you must provide essential tools and one of the tools you provide for people to work in, is conducive atmosphere, good surroundings.

I came here and saw louvres in the office of CP in the year 2012, I removed all of them and replaced them with sliding doors, so when people come here, they will meet me in a good office, so that we can talk man to man. If you put policemen inside a guard house where they work, I must make sure that there is a toilet; there is an anti-room there where they can feel very much at home. If I send for person in the gate house, you cannot say the person went out to toilet, I will disturb everybody there because there is a toilet there running with water.”

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