As community policing comes on stream in Ogun

WATCHERS of developments in Ogun State in recent times can in no way be surprised by Governor Dapo Abiodun’s latest security innovation. Just a few days into his governorship, he had already captured the national imagination when he superintended over the rescue of Redeemed Christian Church of God (RCCG) pastors kidnapped on the Ogun end of the Lagos-Ibadan expressway. Prior to the daring raid that took the daredevil criminals out, they had committed barbarities in the thick forests, but Abiodun’s deployment of a helicopter, with federal support, ended their reign of terror. And so when, last week, the Ogun helmsman rolled out yet another security strategy—the state had won an award for the Most Improved in the Area of Security during his first three months in office— not a few commentators felt that he was only being true to type, having helped Lagos State to tame the cross-border banditry that gave Nigerians so much heartache in the early 90s.

As experts acknowledge, innovation in governance is required  both to keep up with the pace of change and to stay ahead of it. This explains why, last week, Governor Abiodun unveiled yet another ace up his sleeve: the official launching of the community policing project in the state, held at the Obas’ Complex, Oke-Mosan, Abeokuta. On that occasion, he constituted the state’s community police advisory committee, harping on security, productivity and industrialization as special areas of focus for any responsible government. He called on the leadership of the Nigeria Police to intensify efforts at total reform of the force to ensure effective community policing. Abiodun, declaring that there was no alternative to a proactive, dynamic and intelligence-led police force, expressed admiration for the police headquarters’ initiatives on community policing. Here’s the deal: the community policing  outfits in  the state would complement the efforts of the Amotekun corps, battling insecurity to a standstill in the state and providing a leeway for investment drives, local or foreign. It is no wonder then that the reresentative of the Inspector-General of Police on that occasion, David Folawiyo, urged the people to give necessary support to the project as they now had power to secure their own communities through selected representatives.

In the security world, community policing designates a law enforcement approach that allows officers to continuously operate in the same area in order to create a stronger bond with the citizens living and working there. That way, public safety officers are afforded opportunities to engage with local residents and prevent crime from happening instead of responding to crimes already committed, with heavy tolls on community life. In being targeted at preventing crimes before they occur, creating a safe social environment, engaging residents to determine which criminal activities they are most affected by, creating an accurate law enforcement priority list shaped by the people who live in the area, and encouraging members of the community to participate with law enforcement in order to keep their own community safe, community policing seeks to decentralise security operations and provide opportunities for communities to build a viable partnership with law enforcement.  Although it does not eliminate the need to address already committed crimes, it definitely reduces the need for such through prevention of crime.

Governance, particularly in an increasingly challenging environment like the world currently has to contend with, requires innovative thinking. As the sage Chief Obafemi Awolowo famously said in this regard: “While many men in power and public office are busy carousing in the midst of women of easy virtue and men of low morals, I, as a few others like me, am busy at my desk thinking about the problems of Nigeria and proffering solutions to them. Only the deep can call to the deep.” On current evidence, it is safe to conclude that in the Abiodun administration in Ogun, the nation has a team that is not run-of-the-mill; one that leverages on expertise and experience to contain novel challenges. Without sounding unduly adulatory, I think that its new security initiative is worthy of applause, and deserves the support of all well-meaning individuals. Apparently, Governor Dapo Abiodun and his team are concerned about the security of life and property of their people. Certainly, a business mogul and boardroom czar like Abiodun is sufficiently apprised of the fact that it is only in a peaceful and crime-free environment that investors can do business to their hearts’ content.

To be sure, community policing is not new in Nigeria. Prior to independence, the country, then on the march to greatness, had very strong community police outfits. But military incursion into governance and the ensuing centralisation of nearly everything flushed that policing system into the drain and created the security monsters we battle today–Boko Haram terrorism, herdsmen’s terrorism, banditry and kidnapping, and in recent times, even the rape emidemic. But with the Abiodun intervention in Ogun, hopefully the situation will begin to change, and a new national narrative can spring forth. Crucially, traditional rulers, opinion leaders, religious leaders, and members of the various communities in the state would be able to identify strangers, spot dubious conduct, and alert the authorities to take prompt action. Crime is not committed by ghosts; the criminals live among us. They have families among us.  The moment we build confidence in our community, we would be able to nip those crimes in the bud. In this regard, it is thrilling that the committee unfolded by Governor Abiodun last week is distinguished. It is replete with people of impeccable character and its chairman is no less a personality than the Awujale of Ijebuland, Oba (Dr.) Sikiru Adetona.

In any case, it is no longer news that since coming on board, Governor Abiodun has upgraded security facilities in the state. He bought 100 vehicles and 200 motorcycles for security patrol, ensuring that the security challenges hitherto experienced  in the state reduced significantly.  He reportedly rallied friends and lovers and raised over N1bn in donor funds. Clearly, he is not ready to play politics with the lives of the people.

  • Bakare writes in from GRA Abeokuta, Ogun State.

 

 

 

 

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