Mr. Zanna Mohammed Ibrahim is the commissioner of police in Delta State, he resumed office in Delta on June 13, 2016. In this interview with NAIJ.com’s Austin Oyibode in Asaba, he tells how the police are working round the clock to keep Delta safe and ward off criminals.
What can you say about the security situation in the state?
Well, the security situation in the state is within tolerable limit, because we have made lots of inroads and breakthroughs since my coming into office. I can comfortably tell you that we have been able to sustain the tempo that was initiated by my predecessor. We might have even surpassed what we met on ground. So, I can comfortably beat my chest and tell you that we are on top of the situation.
Besides militancy in the coastal communities, there seems to be some level of peace in the state. How was your command able to achieve that feat?
Yes, the crime in Delta State borders on the issues of kidnapping, cultism, pipe line vandalism and pockets of high way robberies. It also touches clashes between cattle herdsmen and farmers.
As for kidnapping, I think we have made a lot of breakthroughs by the use of informants and electronics devices; there is what we call soft target which we use as third party to get at the kidnappers.
On the issue of cultist, we have not only followed them to where they operate, we have also created what we call the state anti-cultism unit which was not in place before I came and if I am to give you the statistics, I think as at the last count we arrested about a hundred of cultists.
Their cases have been prosecuted and their case files have been forwarded to the Department of Public Prosecution for legal advice. The remaining few are still in detention pending when their cases will be treated appropriately. That’s with cultism.
Related to the issue of pipeline vandalism, we are liaising with other security agencies like the navy, the army and the marine police to checkmate the activities of these vandals because most of the activities are at the riverine areas. So I think we are making a head way as well.
On the issue of cattle herdsmen, we wouldn’t want our situation to degenerate to states like Nassarawa, Plateau, Zamfara and so on. We are trying as much as possible to involve the host communities so that in as much as they accept these people to come and graze their animals, the herdsmen too should respect the sensibilities of these host communities.
If per chance or by mistake, your animals enter into somebody’s farm, they should come to the table and agree whether to pay compensation or to be forgiven out rightly. There must be conditions. I am also of the view that herdsmen should approach traditional rulers when they enter a land so that they will be better acquainted with the dos and the don’ts of those areas.
This is aimed at reducing incidences of conflicts. Another important issue too is the problem of child cattle rearers; you know children don’t have much discretion, they may not be able to distinguish between a farm land and pure grass land. We are trying to discourage them from rearing cattle.
What is your view on the crisis of the Niger Delta Avengers?
I think it’s not for me to talk much on that. All I can say is to advise them to have a rethink in the sense that it borders on our national interest and pride. So by the time you destroy pipelines, you are destroying the mainstay of the country and everyone will be affected not to talk of the pollution of the environment.
We are talking about investment; there is no investor who will like to invest his money where there is no security. I think the implication is that they are driving away investors. They should put patriotism ahead of any interest. Nationalism should take overriding cause over their personal interest.
They should go into dialogue; I think the government is ready to do that with them. They should bare their grievances to government diplomatically and map out ways to resolve the issue.
Bail is said to be free, but are your officers not violating the provision of free bail?
Not to my knowledge. But I have been preaching that bail is free, and my telephone number is in public domain, if somebody insists you pay money before bail, call me. If you don’t have confidence on the District Police Officer or Area Commander, call me.
Actually, corruption is a crime, but I wouldn’t want to look at it from one side. Holistically, both the police man and the person who gave the money are guilty of the offence. I will advise members of the public to refuse to give that money, then you report. Even if you don’t have a phone to call me, go to a business centre and call. We have a complaint response unit, we have the Public Complaint Bureau under the PPRO’s office and we have DPO’s, Area Commanders who are reliable officers and my humble self. So if you cannot do it at the local level, call me.
I can tell you that it’s only in the police that we have this internal mechanism of checkmating our people. Look at all the organizations in the country, there is none that goes all out to check mate the excesses of their people. We have the X squad; we have the anti-vice, the provost and visiting round officers on daily basis that go round to check the activities and misdemeanors of our men. I believe, with the attitudinal change of our men, we are going to fare better.
And there are also civilians who hang around police stations to negotiate bails. In essence they are helping crime thrive. Some lawyers are even involve, they call them charge and bail. Henceforth anybody connected with case like this will be arrested. Excesses of our men are reducing drastically; it means the sensitization is working. We hope that we will reap in refinement sooner enough.
The past Inspector General of Police has banned roads in Nigeria but police are still seen mounting road blocks and collecting money on the highway, what is your view on that?
Road block is illegal. Anybody who does that is engaged in illegal activity. Anywhere you see road block, call my attention to it. It is an order from the Inspector General. But that is not to say that if there is information, for instance that from point A armed robbers are on their way to point B, in order to get hold of them the police can mount what they call temporary road block to enable them do a kind of stop and search and after achieving the purpose, they dismantle it. It is not just done like that, it has to be done with permission. We have to call the commissioner of police for approval. If not mounting of road block is illegal.
How is the police command relating with the state government and other security agents to ensure there is no loophole in the state?
We are all working towards the same goal which is promoting security and peace in the state. I want to assure you that if there is any relationship between sister agencies that is cordial, I think that of Delta state is the most outstanding.
Apart from the forum of Security Council meeting where we sit and discuss even before the commencement of such meetings we raise issues of concern and deliberate before the main sitting. We have a common voice which we present to government. Am sure you must have heard about the standoff that took place in Escravos, where the communities were agitating for almost a week.
I was informed by the Director of State Security Services. She called me and told me that there is need for us to go there. We had to arrange with Escravos for helicopter and we went. And our visit went a long way in dousing the tension. We went to the community and came back with good results.
Presently, there is an exercise that is taking place in the riverine areas. The Navy, the Army, the Air force, Police and SSS; it’s called Operation Crocodile Smile. We are all engaged in that. So the synergy is very well knitted and I want to assure you that it is going to continue.
With government, I think the administration of Senator Ifeanyi Okowa has been a very listening one. Despite the dwindling resources of the state, the government has been assisting us a great deal when it comes to logistics support; fueling of patrol vehicles, hotel accommodations for our visitors whenever we have VIPs in town. Like now that we are engaged in a recruitment exercise, all the people who came from Abuja for that exercise are housed by the state government for the number of days they will be here. The governor is helping us, even in the spate of a dwindling economy.
He has made our job very easy. All we are striving for is to reciprocate the gesture of government because it will be stupid of us to fail after all he has done for us. If we fail it means we are ungrateful.
Similarly, traditional rulers have been very helpful when it comes to information gathering and sharing. Vigilante groups are also a source of our strength. Youths organizations, especially the anti-cult groups, are one of us when it comes to fighting crime.
Heads of tertiary institutions have also been giving us tangible information. Generally, we are happy with the response of the generality of citizens in this state. It goes to show that they are satisfied with the services we are rendering to them.
All we are trying to do is to police Delta state with a human face. The era of impunity is over. The era when people are afraid to give information is also over. The era of a complainant automatically becoming a suspect is also not acceptable. We want to attract the people to us so that we will be able to checkmate crime. We want to stop crime before it happens; that is what we are doing.
How do you plan to sustain this success story?
Security is business of everybody. We should not rest and say that now that we have peace we are okay, no. We should continue with what we are doing to sustain the tempo.
Information is very important. Like I said earlier on, these criminals are known to us. They are our children, our relations, brothers, sister we know them. If you see someone missing from home for three to four days and the next time you see him is with a brand new vehicle, you should be able to ask him how he made the money. Let us know the source of the income of our youths.
Let’s not hobnob with criminals; don’t hail criminals, expose them. The governor has assented to two bills now, anti-kidnapping and anti-cultism laws which now make the punishments more stringent because both your properties will be confiscated and you will serve a life term imprisonment.
I think the government has done their bit, it lies now with the public to do their bit by providing information. It is always said if you see something say something. Information can only be of value if shared. If you are afraid of whom you are sharing it with, look for credible people. I believe that members of the public should do their own bit and should not be left for the police alone.
There has been clamour for state police, do you subscribe to establishment of state police?
I am a federal police officer and wouldn’t want to relegate myself and become a local sheriff. You are a paramount ruler and you want to become a ward head? The country has the kind of police that it wants to have. If you want a vibrant and effective policing, you can have it. If you pump in resources you can have it.
Why am I saying this? Some of us have gone on foreign missions and came back with commendations, awards, souvenirs and encomiums and name it. So why do we succeed outside and come back to our country and fail? It is because of the lip service we are paying to security. I believe if you empower the Nigeria police force, you will have great change. I believe the issue of state police does not even arise; can the states afford it.
With due respect, some states do not even know how to pay salaries so how are such states going to fare. So when you empower people and you don’t pay them, it will be a banana republic. The country is not yet ripe for a state police.
All that should be done is for the government to lay more emphasis on community policing which we are introducing in collaboration with communities so that together we can solve our security problems. I believe if we empower the local police force, there will be no need for the clamour for state police