Newly promoted Assistant Inspector-General of Police, Bala Ciroma, speaks on security challenges in the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja, in this interview with Ben Ogbemudia
Congratulations on your promotion to the rank of AIG. How has it been as the FCT police commissioner?
Well, managing FCT has always been challenging. The capital territory is fast growing, and you know wherever you witness rapid growth and development, there is also a corresponding rise in crime. Our challenge has been how to provide and maintain security within the nation’s capital. Therefore, my task is to work hard to ensure that people lead a normal and secure life.
Even with your efforts, there have been pockets of crimes that border on ‘One chance’ especially in Gwagwalada and Zuba areas, how is your command handling this?
When we came on board, we realized that ‘one chance’ was one of the major crimes, so we created a special department within the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) to take care of the issues bearing on ‘one chance’.
The unit started by gathering enough intelligence. It was after this that we swung into action and started picking suspected culprits. Again, we put up preventive measures in the sense that we started monitoring both registered and un-registered vehicles. It was only then we also realised that most of the ‘one chance’ operators were using unregistered vehicles for commercial purpose.
Having gathered enough findings on their operations, we deployed our men to critical points and locations in the city and not long after, we started having positive results.
Also, incidence of kidnappings later crept into the city?
I don’t think it was rampant. The only part we had kidnapping problem was at Pegi, Kuje axis. But moments we noticed this, we worked together with the vigilance groups as well as other security agencies to end it.
Besides, we deployed our men and teams to various outskirts and settlements, particularly the border areas to the city because we realised that even the few cases we heard were the ones emanating from other states. The abductors were people who come from other states and after raiding the city, they would return to their states.
What are your thoughts on community policing? Do you think it will help in dealing with criminality in Abuja?
When you consider the number of policemen per population, no doubt, we are far from keeping to the proper ratio and this points to inadequate manpower. Nonetheless, we can’t be everywhere at the same time. Therefore, we need members of the community to help us to offer quality service to them. The idea of community policing involves the people contributing in securing their communities. They are the ones that know the peculiar problems of a given community. Their contributions will assist us to strategise and to checkmate negative activities.
As the head in the FCT police command, did the #EndSARS as well as the El-Zakzaky protests unsettle you in anyway?
I don’t think so. We already had a working system in place. We had strategies on how to handle such situations and I think the system really worked in containing the protests. So, it was not a matter of what I did as a person, but about the system that we have in place.
Will you say the #EndSARS situation made the police lose their value in society?
I don’t think so. Whenever there is any major event, there is always an after effect. It is left for us to analyse what went wrong and what we did right and then pilot our ways again. And I think we have been able to do that in FCT. We have been able to assess ourselves and we are presently making progress.
What has been your greatest challenges in FCT?
I would rather say my greatest achievement has been to organize and have everyone’s co-operation in the effectively policing Abuja. I truly worked towards organising people to co-operate with the police. However, for the challenges, they are numerous. They border on lack of adequate manpower, logistics such as vehicles. Meanwhile, these challenges are being addressed appropriately by the authorities.
Many stakeholders accuse police of lacking maintenance culture. For instance, offer them a new vehicle and three months after, you wont recognise the car. What’s your view on this?
Well, don’t forget that a vehicle given to the police is not like one offered to a ministry. That of police, from the day you start the engine, can hardly go off. With the police, the vehicle works continuously. The person that works with the vehicle in the morning, is not the same person with it in the evening. Policemen operate the shift system. So as somebody takes over, the same vehicle continues to work. The import is that you have a vehicle that works 30 days in a month and 365 days in a year. The way such a vehicle is used will be more evident than the one that is used occasionally.
Those are operational vehicles. They are always on the highways and roads, going into impossible places. Their state of maintenance cannot be the same as you have it in other establishments.
Can we have an idea of your worst moment as FCT commissioner?
My worst day was the day I lost my deputy commissioner. He was out there rendering service when he sustained injuries. We rushed him to a hospital and there he gave up the ghost.
Have you been put under pressure by your superior?
We are constantly under pressure to perform. You can’t be in-charge of FCT and not be under pressure. You need to ensure that everything is right, because whatever happens in Abuja, is what the outside world will assume happens in Nigeria. The power of seat in this country is in Abuja.
Therefore, you have every responsibility to ensure that there is peace and stability in Abuja. You have to ensure that there is no negative impression about our country.
It is not always that you are in this kind of beat as a police officer. Today, you can find yourself in a beat that is extremely busy, demanding extra sacrifice from you, tomorrow, in the next beat, the pressure will be less.
So, we learn to adapt. When I’m free, I’m there with my people but when exigence of duty comes up, most of the time, I stay away. That is police job for you.