In-between a busy schedule of duty, Lagos State Commissioner of Police, Edgal Oluwole Imohimi, fielded questions in a 20-minutes interview espousing his strategy for policing the Mega City. In the end, he tasked Lagosians to show more interest in their own security, while complementing the Police Force.
Below are excerpts from the interview:
Q: Can you first introduce yourself?
Ans: My name is Imohimi Oluwole Edgal, and I am the Commissioner of Police, Lagos State.
Q: How has the job been?
Ans: Tasking, but generally quite interesting. Of course, policing is my profession. In other words, policing is what I do. It’s a job I have passion for, so irrespective of the challenges that I face in policing a cosmopolitan economic nerve centre like Lagos, I am still forging ahead because I derive joy from what I am doing. Also, I am getting the needed co-operation and partnership from both the government and the people of Lagos State.
Q: What is the crime statistic of Lagos now?
Ans: When I took over as the Commissioner of Police Lagos State sometime in September last year (2017) – I am an officer that believes in statistics because I am an operations officer. I have been Assistant Commissioner (Operations); Deputy Commissioner (Operations), and you know that we keep statistics in operations. Mind you the statistics we have might not be 100 percent accurate because not all crimes are reported, but it’s up to 70%. And with 70% you can make analysis and projections. So, between September last year and 15th of January 2018, I can tell you categorically, confidently that the crime rate in Lagos has reduced by well over 35 percent.
Now let’s look at the major crimes. Let’s take robbery first. Violent robberies, highway robberies, snatching of cars. From our statistics, it’s been a long time we recorded any major robberies or snatching of vehicles at gun point in Lagos from September last year. The issue of residential robberies, too, is dwindling, because we adopted the concept of community policing and safety partnership. We recognise partnership as one key element in community policing. I have already put that to action. What I did, especially on the issue of residential robberies, is to insist that communities within Lagos State set up local vigilante groups.
These vigilante groups were already there, but were not cohesive. They were not under any general authority, so they were not effective. So what we have done now is to place them under the DPOs. The operatives were profiled, after which the DPO added armed policemen to them, for patrols at night between 12 midnight and 5am. That is the period that residents are sleeping and they need police protection. That has helped to reduce residential robberies.
The major problem we are having now is cultism and proliferation of drugs; drug abuse. We have started to tackle that at the community level.
I visited Isolo/Mushin area few days ago for a Town Hall meeting. That was the problem they reported to be having. We sat down together to proffer solution to the situation. We designed both short term and long term solutions. We are going to implement all. Recently, we raided, for the first time, the notorious Akala. I ordered a raid on the notorious Akala. Well over 500 hoodlums were arrested. They were forcefully arrested because they were armed and they attacked the policemen that raided the place.
Marijuana and other hard drugs worth over N50million (street value) were recovered from Akala. I obtained a court order and I burnt it at Olusosu.
So we are fighting it. Unfortunately we allowed this problem to fester for too long, to the extent that they have now become a major community problem – cultism, drug proliferation and substance abuse. Small kiosks you see here and there are drug shops – people sell drugs to our children.
But what I am telling community leaders, religious leaders, ethnic leaders and other eminent persons within our society is that, we must take our community back from hoodlums.
These leaders must partner with the police to do so. Don’t forget that the community dwellers naturally know their people more than the police. They are the people that know where all the drug joints are located. That’s why I believe in partnership.
Q: Talking about partnership, how are you relating with other security agencies?
Ans: We are relating very well. Yesterday we had the Lagos State Security Council meeting. That council is chaired by the governor. Membership of that council consists of the Police, Army, Air Force, Navy and the DSS.
The purpose of having that meeting on a monthly basis is to review co-operation among security agencies; reviewing the joint task forces that we have already, and forging new partnerships.
In so doing, we create channels, process and share information; turn them to intelligence for appropriate actions. In fact, that’s the secret behind the peace in Lagos.
So we have clear, demonstrable and functional partnerships between all the security agencies.
For example, when we had the problem of fuel tankers blocking major roads in Lagos – Apapa-Tin Can axis; the hue and cry by people in that area and all that, we sat together in the Lagos State Security Council meeting and formed a Task Force which had all the security agencies. I co-opted the traffic agencies such as LASTMA, and FRSC officials to join the Task Force. You can see that they have brought the situation to a tolerable level.
In our fight in Ikorodu, I have been sharing intelligence, and most times doing practical activities with the DSS operatives. Once in a while, the military joins us. So it has been a joint effort of all the security agencies.
Of course, the police will always be at the forefront, because we are in charge of internal security, but have the needed co-operation from other security agencies.
I think what is going on in Lagos should be replicated everywhere in this country. In modern day Nigeria, and with the dynamic nature of crime, no agency can do it alone.
Q: Professionally, what do you do with a tip off?
I have started another round of Town Hall meetings. I have been declaring it everywhere I go, that it is ‘Operation Know Your Neighbour’. The basis of Operation Know Your Neighbor is to encourage citizens to pass on credible information to the security agencies. So basically, tipoff is about passing on information. That’s the bottom line.
I’ve come to realise that people are not taking the desired interest in their security. They are not particularly concerned about how their communities are being policed. It’s only when there is a problem that you hear them cry out. But these problems started bit by bit, until they blossomed.
So, we must confirm any information, any tipoff we get from members of the public. Without prejudice whether it’s genuine, correct or not, we verify every information we receive. We try as much as possible to confirm any tipoff we receive. That is the strategy in Lagos now.
Q: What’ your operational supervision arrangement at the Divisional and Area Command levels?
Ans: Another very important aspect of what you do to ensure that you succeed in crime fighting has to do with levels of supervision. In the Force today, we have various levels of supervision. On the field, you have the office of the Area Commander. It is his responsibility to supervise the divisions under his Area Command.
So in Lagos now, every night an Assistant Commissioner of Police who is an Area Commander is the Command Incident Duty Officer. It is his responsibility to mobilize the Area Command Incident Duty Officers who are themselves the Divisional Police Officers. It is a rotational arrangement amongst them within that Area Command.
It is the responsibility of the Area Command Incident Duty Officers to now supervise the Divisional Incident Duty Officers. I structured that arrangement because I realized that from the Headquarters, we will be deceiving ourselves to think that we can effectively police the State. No, that’s not possible. I mean, where will you start from? Is it Epe, Badagry, Ikorodu or where?
So, you must get the officers involved, and that’s what we have done.
What has that translated to? At the end of his tour of duty, the Assistant Commissioner of Police who is the Command Incident Duty Officer will file a report to my office. That report will show that he visited ABC Pin-down Point, XYZ Division; he made the following corrections. And where he sees a serious matter that requires my attention, he underlines it for emphasis. If he cannot send me a hard copy report, he must do so via text message or WhatsApp message. In so doing, our men a closely supervised. But I did not end it there, because I believe that supervision should not be left for us alone.
We have also instituted Community Policing and Safety Partnership, which is anchored on trust and confidence. You cannot build partnership with people who had lost their confidence in you. At a point – except we are deceiving ourselves – the police actually lost the trust and confidence of members of the public, for many reasons. In Lagos we are building it up. In all the Town Hall meetings that I have been attending, you need to see the crowd that has been turning up. They want a reassurance that, ‘we can work with you if you people will be professional in your conduct’.
So what I did was to set up a Citizens Complaints Hot Centre. As Assistant Commissioner of Police here, I had approached Governor Ambode and requested for an Intelligence Laboratory, because Lagos did not have Intelligence Lab where information could be processed and converted to actionable Intelligence.
The governor graciously provided us space at the Government House in Alausa, where we set up the lab.
I have also set up what I call Citizens Complaint Centre. In that Center we have 10 dedicate hotlines and I have been going round the State giving out those telephone numbers to members of the public. Those numbers are for members of the public to report Police misconduct, misbehavour and unprofessionalism.
So, if you go to the police station to report an incident and a junior rank there takes you to one corner and says bring money before the incident is taken. Don’t argue with that policeman, just step aside and call any of those 10 numbers to report the matter.
To make it easier, in that Citizens Complaint Centre, we have duty officers who speak the major languages – Yoruba, Igbo, Hausa, and of course, English Language. So if you cannot speak English, there is always somebody to attend to you in any of those Nigerian languages.
Q: What motivates you?
Ans: Passion for policing. I’ve always been passionate about policing. I believe that everybody has his core area of interest. Mine is policing.
When I graduated from the university and completed youth service, my family asked me what I wanted to do next. I told them I wanted to join the Police Force. Everybody was a bit taken aback. That was about 31 years ago. Then, there were opportunities in several other sectors – banks and so on and so forth.
So, I have a passion for police job. I didn’t come into the Police Force by accident. That’s what has been keeping me going.
Q: How do you unwind?
Ans: I play golf, and I like dancing.
Q: What type of music do you like?
Ans: Every type of music. But I prefer upbeat music, be it secular or religious – it all depends on the function or the location.
Q: Before we started, you tried to say something about religion. What was that you wanted to say?
Ans: No, it’s your partner who said it seemed that I was using juju to catch cultists in Ikorodu and I said that the biggest weapon of a policeman is his holy book – Bible or Quran, depending on his faith. This our uniform has immunity from whatever juju you can think of. If any principality should fear anything at all, it should fear the authority in this uniform.
Gratitude: I want to thank the government and people of Lagos State for the support they are giving me, my officers and my men. Truly, without their support, we will not record the successes we are currently recording.
Secondly, I beg Lagosians to continue to remain vigilant. Where they see something untoward, they should say something.
And finally, like I told them in the Town Hall meeting we held in Area G. I asked them a question, and I believe I have challenged their consciences: Do you know your neighbour?