By Janet Mba Afolabi, Lagos Nigeria.

An interview with Frank Odita retired commissioner of police

Scroll Report: What was crime situation  in the post independence days?

Odita: The crime in those days was very low because there was jobs for everybody. There was no problems of unemployment. Not many people were desirous of becoming rich over night. There was this idea of work and worship and no room for ostentatious display of wealth. Although few people were known to be rich but their sources of riches were known. There wasn’t so much jealousy or envy. The value system was in place. So whatever you are doing, you are conscious of it and also the population.

Scroll Report: At what point did we start having waves of crime in Nigeria?

Odita: When the military took over in 1966 and there became young officers in the army who were governors, ministers, chairmen of boards etc. There was this display of wealth among them. The new breed of Nigerian leaders emerged. There was one coup after another. A group comes out to overthrow the other group these so much created so much instability and of course at a time we saw instability in every facet of our system. The police was to a large extent destabilised because everything then became forced. Every soldier saw himself like a potential governor or chairman of a board. Force became applied and everybody became brutalised and force became the order of the day. Some people took advantage of the situation  to perpetrate crime and criminality and that was when sophisticated weapons came into crime. We started having people like Oyenusi a notorious armed robber in Ibadan and others followed. People like Anini and his partner Monday Osinbor in Bini and Shina Rambo in Lagos etc.

Ostentatious life became the order of the day. Gradually people started feeling, that was the standard. And they began to think that they can get anything by force that was when and where the whole thing started cracking and the problem started.

Scroll Report : With the present security challenges, are the police equal to the task? Can they cope and can they really handle it?

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Odita: It is not going to be possible. The strength and equipment of the police force can’t cope with the present crime situation. That is why soldiers have been brought in to carry out police duties. The issue of internal security is principally police duties. So Nigeria police can’t not cope with the present situation of crime and criminalities at all. There had been introduction of other security agencies into the country. Civil Federal Road Safety, recently we have been talking about Peace Corps. So there is a duplication of the job of a policeman. And the policeman still has to do the job of orderly to governors, ministers, V.I.P, envy member of the parliament etc. Some of them want a policeman in their vehicle or standing behind them, so the manpower of the police has been depleted, from essential police duties.. so the police cannot deal with the problem of Boko Haram because of the sophistication of their weapons. The herdsmen have become an issue, there is also Niger Delta and Biafra agitators. With what manpower is the police going to cope. So what it means is that security is everyone’s business even if it means by mere information machinery. And what is most important is that we must begin to go back to our winning ways. That is the restoration  of our value system. Create jobs for everybody it is not about being wealthy it is how the wealth was acquired.

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Scroll Report: Let’s talk about the herdsmen issue.

Odita: The introduction of weapon is new, then if herdsmen come to your place and you drive them away, they quietly go to another place. But the issue of killings and destruction of crops and farms is new. Research is being conducted to know where they are getting the weapons. And they are also getting involved in robbery. And that is not good for Nigeria. Is not good for our security. It is not good for our economy because a nation that is unsecured is  unlikely to make progress. States have the responsibility of protecting their states and making laws that will deal with the situations. Maybe it is time to decentralise some things like police and electricity, because these are the issues that border on security.

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…to be continued.

Please send your comments,questions or analyses.


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