•Says Armoured Personnel Carrier deployed on Lagos-Benin Road
By SIMON EBEGBULEM, Benin-City
It was harvest of suspected criminals, penultimate Friday, in Benin-City, when the Edo State Commissioner of Police, Haliru Gwandu, paraded 70 suspected armed robbers, cultists, kidnappers and murderers. The suspects include the alleged killer of a reporter of the Nigeria Television Authority (NTA) Benin-City, Mr Lawrence Okojie. The CP used the opportunity to speak to Sunday Vanguard about the security situation along the Benin-Lagos Road where dare devil armed robbers have been holding motorists hostage for the past two months and other security challenges bedevilling the state.
How were you able to make this large number of arrests, particularly the suspected killers of the NTA journalist, and how has it been fighting crime in Edo State?
I am in line with the agenda of the Inspector General of Police that peace and tranquillity must reign in our states. Intelligence-led-policing must be strictly adhered to. We have been partnering with traditional rulers and hunters among others and, at the end of the day, we put together the intelligence which has resulted in the arrest of suspected criminals.
There is no crime that is not challenging. What is important is the modus operandi you use to burst the crime. You know kidnapping, armed robbery, murder, cultism are heinous crimes that attract severe punishment. But I thank Allah and the entire people of Edo for being with us, giving us information that we have been using to arrest criminals. That was how we have this harvest of suspected criminals. All the suspects were arrested within two weeks. Edo people are helping the police to burst crime. Police cannot do the job alone because we are not magicians, we rely on good information. The partnership we have with traditional rulers, hunters, vigilante and individuals is paying off with good information that translates to actionable intelligence. We should also recall that our IGP is an advocate of intelligence-led- policing. And that is what has brought this success.
Cultism is one of the major crimes in Edo. How were you able to curb it?
Enforcement alone cannot curb cultism. I made a clarion call to parents, clerics and schools to come to our aid by inculcating morality into our kids, so that they can understand what is good for them. Some of these crimes are introduced to the younger ones without them knowing. But when morality is inculcated into them, you find that crime will be reduced to the barest minimum. That is what I combine with law enforcement. When we get intelligence, we move before criminals strike. That is why you see everywhere quiet and people are going about their businesses.
On Benin-Lagos Road robbery attacks
We are dealing with the situation and the bastards are on the run as we speak. By the grace of God, we will sustain security on that road. Our strategy is subject to review and we thank God that the government is a listening type. With the assistance of the state government and the intelligence we are getting from the public, we were able to establish the black spots and we got assistance from the natives, hunters and vigilante groups to fight armed robbers along that road. That is why we have respite now. Like I always say, crime prevention is dynamic just as the society is dynamic. We have several strategies and we can apply them based on circumstances. In busting crime, you must get intelligence even from pepper sellers and I can tell you that the cooperation we have been getting from hunters in busting crime has been excellent. The same thing applies to Benin-Lagos Road and Auchi-Abuja Road. We have seen enough peace here in the past two months. In the past, we saw incessant attacks especially along Benin-Ore segment of Benin-Lagos Road, but, today that is no longer the case because of the measures we have put in place. Our men are all over, we are using Armoured Personal Carriers to police that highway and the Benin-Auchi-Abuja Road. We are not sleeping, we are busting crime every day and we will continue until we flush criminals out of the state.
On the issue of herdsmen, we are doing everything humanly possible to prevent killings. What we do is to arrange regular meetings between community leaders and herdsmen and we have been getting results. They always brief us and if there are tensions we address the issues before they snowball into crisis.
How were you able to arrest the killers of our colleague in NTA?
It is a cult related matter. We were able to arrest the guy who gunned him down while he was trekking to his house and the guy is cooling off in prison. So many people sent commendations to us for bursting that crime. You cannot kill and go scotch free in Edo.