He was a former Commissioner of Police in Lagos and Benue States respectively, as well as a former Commissioner of Police in charge of General Investigations at the Force Criminal Intelligence and Investigation Department (FCIID), Abuja. Fatai Owoseni now a Senior Special Adviser on Security Matters to the Oyo State governor, Engr. Seyi Makinde, speaks to Tofunmi Talabi in this interview about the vision of the state governor to make security in the state one of the four pillars of his administration.
What is your score card on security in Nigeria?
When it comes to security, you don’t score,you can only talk in terms of narratives. All over the world, that is globally, nobody is going to score any government on security to say whether you have scored 99% or 0%. We always say it is relatively safe, we are relatively secure. It’s also fluid which means it can be as well unpredictable. Security is such that you maybe having a peaceful atmosphere now and some kind of crime would just emerge that is applicable globally and not just peculiar to Nigeria.
There have been complaints that there has been a decline in how well secured lives and properties are compared to past
administrations. What is the current administration doing to tighten security and improve on existing structure?
I would also first let you know that whatever that has happened in Oyo state is not peculiar to Oyo state. Globally, there has been a pandemic which brought about some security issues all over the world and nationwide we also faced the the #EndSars protest as well as criminal elements that leveraged on the protest to carry out some criminal activities. It’s not about looking at Oyo state in isolation, it’s a thing that is being faced nationwide and globally.
In Oyo state, I have been asked what it looks like in the state. Compared to
some other parts of the country, it is relative peace here. In terms of destruction during the #Endsars protest, Oyo state was a bit better and if you recall within the southwest, Oyo state was the only state that did not declare curfew when that protest was ongoing. In terms of management, Oyo state is a little bit better.
What prompted ‘Operation Burst’ and why is it made up of different security agencies?
This is because one agency cannot manage security of lives and properties in a state. The constitution provides for the intervention of the military. When the police that is supposed to be the lead agency in internal security is overwhelmed, other security agencies will be brought in to help out, It is about us having a synergy of the agencies. In the operation burst, we have the army, a detachment of the air force, the state security personnel (DSS), civil defence and the Swift Response Squad (SRS) arm of the state police. They are all part of that outfit. Where situations require, we do a joint operation where all the agencies combined together including the Nigeria custom, Nigeria immigration, the road safety, the NDLEA perform a joint convoy patrol.
What measures have been put in place to ensure the police carry out their constitutional duties as they did before the #Endsars protest?
This is a period of healing where confidence building is being carried out. Quite a number of people have said that they don’t see more policemen on the road. What they are doing is to do a joint patrol because as of now, you would see an Operation Burst vehicle and Police swift response squad vehicle side by side and as time goes by, you would see the improvement.
Would you say the #EndSars protest was a breaking point for security operatives in the country?
If you watch the event of things, it moved from #Endsars to other things. The #Endsars protest was a wake up call. This is a reminder that the gap in governance must be quickly fixed. The easiest way to get that done was to use the police because that is the institution that has the widest spread. The police is the most visible symbol of government so when people go against the police, that is to say something is wrong with the government.
With the month of December just around the corner, a time when crime rates shoots up, what measures has the state government put in place to ensure that the crime rate is at its barest minimum?
It is an unusual time in the state, the security and law enforcement institutions prior to this time put up an operational plan, as to how to make sure the “ember month” doesn’t increase in crime because there would be an increase in movement and the security agencies would have to put their minds to that and they have done that in the state. What is required is to achieve all the plans that been outlined for that purpose. The state continuously supports what the agencies are doing to keep our citizenry safe including people that need to pass through Oyo state.
Over the past 35 years that you served in the police force, would you say the system has advanced beyond what it used to be?
The police should not be looked at in isolation, it’s about the whole country. The challenges are evolving ones and the government can only try within the limited resources available to support institutions.