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As Ondo grapples with security challenges…

ON Thursday, January 17th, 2019, the Ondo State Government organised a first-of-its-kind “Security Summit” at the state capital, Akure, to address the security challenges that have recently plagued it. Ondo was the state where Chief Olu Falae, former Minister of Finance, former Secretary to the Federal Government, former Presidential candidate, was abducted and humiliated by Fulani herdsmen. It was the state where the expansive farm of the same Falae was set on fire by arsonists. As if these were not enough, in the last couple of months Ondo witnessed an orgy of kidnappings and violent robberies that led to loss of lives, virtually turning the state into a no-go area.

In all of these, it was like Governor Rotimi Akeredolu aka Aketi wriggled his hands and did nothing. Some even said his hands were tied by virtue of his party affiliation (APC). Last Thursday, however, it came out that Akeredolu and his government did not actually play King Nero while Ondo literally was on fire. They were actually up and doing. Yours truly learnt, for the first time, how heads of security formations in the state left their comfort zones and combed all the forests hot in pursuit of the criminals. Akeredolu himself demonstrated the importance he attached to the security of his state as he attended and stayed throughout the full day the security summit consumed. In the intervening period of the security breaches and the lull in government response that many had interpreted as lackadaisical attitude, government had actually set up a high-powered steering committee under the leadership of retired permanent secretary, now Senior Special Assistant to the Governor, Mr. Jones Olu Ogunmusire.

The array of resource persons gathered by Ogunmusire for the summit was intimidating, led by the lead speaker, Prof Femi Odekunle. I knew of the qualities of Odekunle as far back as 2006 when our paths first crossed while we both contributed to the Marwa-for-President project. Other egg-heads and professionals include Prof. Kemi Rotimi (OAU); Mr. Gbenga Adeyanju (CP, Ondo State Police Command); Mr. Lekan Odugbemi; Chief Kunle Ajanaku; Rear Admiral S. I. Alade; Dr. Bode Kalejaiye; Dr. Abdulrazzaq Balogun; the Ondo state Commissioner for Justice and Attorney-General and my senior at Owo High School, Kola Olawoye (SAN); Femi Oloruntoba; and fellow Great Ife, Major-General Chris Olukolade (retd). The two plenary sessions were ably manned by Chief Sam Adetuyi and retired AIG Adewoye Ajakaiye respectively.

From Odekunle who spoke on “Improving the security architecture of Ondo State for Sustainable Peace and Development” through Gov. Akeredolu who expressed his frustrations with the country’s slow pace of development; papers presented touched on virtually every aspect of criminality: Herdsmen and farmers clashes; kidnapping, ritual killing and cultism; marine crime, youth restiveness and armed banditry; the current security architecture and inter-agency collaboration in Ondo State; imperatives of state/community policing and private security organisations; funding security; aligning the criminal justice system with the current security realities; drug abuse and trafficking; and cyber crime and information management system.

Some of the profound statements made at the summit include: That lack of development breeds insecurity and corruption denies people of development. Security must, therefore, be addressed holistically to include food security, provision of schools for admission-seekers, jobs for job-seekers and basic infrastructure that makes living worthwhile for the citizenry. We must move with technological trends as we cannot fight crimes with analogue tools in a digital age; adequate funding is required and the state alone cannot cope. Therefore, private sector participation becomes imperative. The demand for state or community police reverberated at the summit while the buy-in of the people themselves into whatever security architecture is put in place was also emphasized. May I add the importance of security consciousness on the part of the average Nigerian as well as the place of accurate and timely information dissemination in fighting crimes! Since Ogunmusire said participants could still make further recommendations, I submit as follows: Security awareness and sensitivity must be taught to all citizens.

I give two examples: A man sat on the same table with another man at an event. While he was engrossed with activities, his phone, which he had placed on the table, was stolen and the man excused himself to go to the gents. By the time the victim realised this, he was asked to describe the man but he couldn’t. He could not even say what he was wearing not to talk of what he looked like! In some other climes, someone would have described the man in full details that an artist’s impression of him would have led detectives to him. A neighbour’s wife had warned him repeatedly not to visit a particular house along the street occupied by some single ladies. One day on his way from work, he packed his car and went inside this same house. His wife, who was coming from the market, saw the car, went home, took the extra key and drove the car home. Our man came out and found his car “missing.” I was driving by at same time. He raised an alarm and I had to drive him to the police station. The police switched on their radio and asked him for the car number but he did not have it off-head! I drove him home to check for the car particulars when we found the car sitting pretty in his parking slot! How many of us know our car number off-head or our BVN or Pin number? Is that now why we store them in our phones or write them out anywhere and fall prey to criminally-minded persons?

Secondly, accurate and timely information about crimes; proper description of crime scenes and consistent and detailed follow-up of crime reports are important to combating crimes. Social scientists emphasize the key role perception plays in shaping responses to behavioural patterns. Citizens may not cooperate with government if they perceive that the government is not seriously fighting crimes or corruption. We said at the summit that lack of development breeds insecurity and that corruption negates development efforts but Governments often preoccupy themselves with reality while failing to appropriately manage perception. While I tried at the summit to cue in Prof. Odekunle to make comments on this, either the cue was not properly done or he allowed his role as a member of this administration’s Presidential Advisory Committee on Corruption to take the better part of him, he acted the proverbial lizard instead.

In 2006, I think, the university students at Ago-Iwoye, Ogun State rioted and the Otunba Gbenga Daniel administration issued a “White Paper” on the crisis. In my second outing in this column, I described the white paper as “White Sepulchre”. Daniel was furious. He invited me and I walked straight into their EXCO meeting. After he had explained all the sleepless nights he had before coming up with the report I tore in shreds, I had pity on him – but whose fault? In that government were first-class media buffs such as Kayode Samuel, Sine Ogunbambo, and Wale Adedayo; yet, government still could not connect appropriately with its critical publics. Ondo State Government should avoid similar pitfalls. As they grapple with reality they must also manage perception to effectively fight crimes. Akinmusire said the outcome of the security summit will be collated into a Security Policy for Ondo State document; deputy governor, Agboola Ajayi, confirmed this in his closing remarks. The security summit was, without doubt, a good foundation. We wait to see what will be erected on it!
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Quotable quotes at the summit

INSECURITY has been a major challenge globally…Poverty, occasioned by incessant warfare, inclement climatic conditions, unproductive economies in a competitive and unfriendly ambience and, above all, visionless leadership, make the geo-political space occupy an unenviable position in global affairs. The combination of these factors has engendered insecurity  —Gov. Rotimi Akeredolu

It is my prayer that the…outcome and impact of the summit will be such that Ondo State will be safe for the inhabitants and also (become) a safe haven for capital in-flow. The views and recommendations expressed at this summit and from memoranda already received from the general public will be harnessed, processed, and developed into a draft security policy document to be presented to Government. —Mr. Jones Olu Ogunmusire, Chairman, Summit Planning Committee.

It is only under a relatively secure atmosphere that individuals within a state can engage in productive ventures to meet their respective needs. Similarly, it is under a relatively safe atmosphere that the state can mobilize both its human and material resources for meaningful development. Additionally, a state can only attract the much-needed foreign investment under a safe and secure environment as well as project its image to the international community. —Rear-Admiral (Rtd.) Samuel Ilesanmi Alade.

It will take a lot of resources and financial investments…to secure our communities and our nation…In the face of dwindling resources available from the Federation Account and with States generating little or nothing by way of their own revenue…at the core of providing effective security is the fact that any scheme will only work when there is a spirit of teamwork among all key actors and when there is synergy between the public and private sectors. —Dr. Olabode Kalejaiye.

A major result-oriented measure of combating insecurity is to first of all overcome the drug menace because other security challenges leverage on drug abuse and illicit drug trafficking. —Femi A. Oloruntoba.

There is growing dependence on cyberspace in Nigeria like in other nations…Ondo State must be conscious of this reality. The prevalence of cybercrime as a major threat is one of such realities that calls for due attention in the efforts to ensure adequate security strategies for Ondo State.  —Major General (Rtd.) Chris Olukolade.

Except for the recent upsurge in certain types of crime, Ondo State cannot at present be regarded as “high-crime” or strife-torn. So, the state has the temporal opportunity and advantage to plan for the enhancement of the security of her citizens. Graduation into the “high-crime” category can only sabotage her development efforts. The foresight of today is the advantage of tomorrow. —Prof. Femi Odekunle.

Incessant feuds between herdsmen and farmers in Nigeria have had devastating effects on the citizens and the country. The effects of these clashes range from destruction of lives and properties to decline in agricultural production, which is the (country’s) major source of sustenance. —Lekan Odugbemi.

We have our challenges, especially in the area of shortage of manpower…Recruitment into the Force had been put on hold until recently when the present FG approved the recruitment of new officers…Crime prevention and detection all over the world is through concerted efforts, through partnership and robust synergy among the security agencies and their host communities. —Mr. Gbenga Adeyanju, CP, Ondo State.

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