Monday, June 16, 2014 12:18 pm
Mr. Johnson Tunde Ogunshakin, who assumed office as Commissioner of Police, Rivers State, in February, speaks to OKAFOR OFIEBOR about his stay in office so far.
You are about 100 days in office as Commissioner of Police in Rivers and the inherited volatile political atmosphere seems to have died down. What is the magic?
I don’t know of any magic. All I know is that when I was posted here I inherited political crisis. We immediately put certain measures in motion and the structures put in place started working. We are very focused, very direct and blunt in our approach. We took the welfare of the police as a priority. As professional police officers, we tried as much as possible to execute our mandate to protect life and property and everybody has been cooperating with us. The other sister security organisations have been co-operating with us. We have been working together. The state government and people of the state are very receptive to measures put in place to curb crime and because of that crime rate has gone down considerably and everybody is going about his normal business.
Which area of policing has been challenging?When I came, I looked at the prevailing crimes in the state. I found out that kidnapping, cultism, robbery and car snatching were predominant. I had to look at how I can combat them. In the area of kidnapping, I found out that the kidnappers pick their victims from the town (metropolis) and escape through the waterfronts to the creeks where they demand ransom. What I did to counter that was to block the waterfronts by posting more numbers of anti-kidnapping units to the waterfronts. The Waterfronts are large in the state. But that was the best I could do at that stage.
We also put more Policemen in streets for rigorous stop and search every day. Some kidnap victims were rescued in the process. The measures became so effective that they could not take them to waterfronts. To the extent that a couple who was kidnapped were hidden in an underground tank because they couldn’t reach the waterfronts which we had already blocked. There pockets of kidnappings that go on still escape our eagle eyes through the waterfronts to the creeks because the waterfronts are very large.
So far, with effective intelligence gathering we are able to narrow down on a lot of their sponsors. Members of such groups regularly arrested and prosecuted. I think we have succeeded to a great extent on the issue of kidnapping. On the issue of cultism, we have banned youths Associations or groups based on our findings that they are behind cultism and cult related activities in the state. Since we banned them, cult related activities have died down despite pockets of resistance. We are now working with the traditional rulers; the local population to make sure that crime is reduced to the barest minimum.
Is the refusal of families of kidnapped victims to confide in the police on the type of discussions between them and the kidnappers a common trend?
It is not a general problem in all cases. When Akas Baba, of WAZOBIA FM Port Harcourt, was abducted, the members of the family worked with us and that was why it was easier for us to work and ensure that he was released without ransom. Some families work with the police, put us into confidence, that is why we achieve quick result. There was a case where a local government chairman, wife and daughter were kidnapped in Ogu Bolo. The family worked with us and because there was correct information, we mounted pressure on the kidnappers and the second day, the kidnappers were forced to release the victims. There are cases when the families work with us the victims are released on time.
How did you resolve the illegal barricade of the entrance of Ogba/Egbema/Ndoni Local Government secretariat at Omoku by a group of youths protest alleged disrespect to Oba Monarch?
We have resolved that problem. But the chairman of the council, from our own understanding, is not doing well and we have told him so. The Oba is the traditional ruler in that place. He was actually working with the police to ensure that there was peace in the area. There is a problem between two cult groups. Also, there were problems between youth groups. The Oba mediated to see how the two groups could be united so that peace will return to the community. But in the midst of that the chairman banned one of the factions. That was when the trouble started. But the matter has been resolved. It also noticed that there is an increase in cult activities in some parts of the state, with youth association as conveyor belts for cultism. We had to ban all youth associations. Since the ban came in force the cult-related activities have nose-dived.
Police road blocks previously dotted the major roads and streets in the state until they were banned by Muhammed Abubakar, the Inspector-General of Police. How has the state command curbed crime without road blocks?
One of the greatest visionary policies of the Inspector-General of Police was the ban of roadblocks. What we do now is stop-and-search and we have been able to recover a lot cache of arms. This is based on intelligence gathering that arms are being moved from one place to the other. We have even rescued kidnap victims through that operational means. For now we don’t have road blocks.
On the issue of kidnapping, what has been the recent trend? Have there been insider informants to kidnappers before they abduct their victims?
Some of the kidnappers we have arrested we have found out that there is always an insider who feeds the kidnappers about the movements of their target victims. If there is no insider information kidnappers will not know the details of the victims’ movements. The insider informants tell their co-conspirators when to strike at their target victims.
Now that normalcy has returned in the state, just as it is expected that hospitality business will record boom period with night life, so will crime. How ready is the command under you to curb criminality?
I have met with the management of those in the hospitality business in the state twice since I assumed office. We have asked them to take proper records of their guests. This is because when criminals come into town or a new place, they first lodge in a hotel. That is why we are appealing to the Management to take proper records of their guests. We want them to take proper records of where they come from and where they are going. We are taking precautionary measures to ensure that while there is a boom in nightlife; criminals would not take advantage of the situation. Just as we ensure that hospitality business thrives we would not want security of life and property to be jeopardised by criminal elements. We are putting adequate structures in place to checkmate attendant crimes that go with nightlife.
There is confusion about the use of tinted glasses in SUVs. What does the policy say about it because most of the cars are imported with tinted glasses?
The law is very clear. If you must drive any vehicle with tinted glasses you must obtain a permit. The permit is supposed to give details about the owner of the vehicle. In case the vehicle is used to commit crime, the permit will at least give the detail particulars of the owner stating the reason why you were allowed to drive such vehicle with tinted glasses. But even when crime is not committed with a tinted glass vehicle, at least, Police would have been in possession of the record of the car and the owner. There may be a medical reason for the use tinted glasses.
How prepared are you to ensure Rivers State is safe from insurgents?
To live in peace you must prepare for war. We are not carried away that what happens in area A cannot happen in area B. We are putting adequate structures in place to ensure that wherever we are we will not allow what is happening in other areas to happen here. For instance, members of the public should be conscious about bags or containers that are dropped in their environment, like compounds, churches, mosques, supermarkets and airports unattended to. We should be conscious and report such objects to the police or law enforcement agencies.