By Jide Ajani
When you meet a good man, you know. Like his Inspector General of Police, Mohammed Dikko Abubakar, the man at the helm of affairs at the Lagos State Police Command, Umar A. Manko, radiates goodness.
He was on his way out for a meeting when Emma Nnadozie, Vanguard’s Group Crime Editor, breezed into his office with this writer.
“CP, today is your meeting?, Nnadozie asked.
“Yes Emma”, the CP replied.
“Oga, you have to meet my Sunday Editor who has been on my neck since the arrest of those two suspects in Cynthia’s case”, Nnadozie pointed out.
Heaving a heavy sigh, Manko moved out of his seat, gave a hand shake and said, “My dear editor, I hope this would be brief”, to which he got an affirmative response.
And so, this interview had to be hurriedly done.
In a country where morale can easily be drowned in a cacophony of angst from negative perception of the image of the police, it should be a public service engagement to celebrate tokens of success.
Manko spoke of how his men were able to trace the identity of Cynthia Osokogu and how the suspects were arrested – there were some strategies revealed and not meant for print.
But believe it, the Nigeria Police has engaged a paradigm shift for the better. Excerpts:
Until recently, Nigerians had lost faith in the police. But the efforts of your men during the week in the Cynthia Osokogu case represent a re-birth of sorts. How were you able to trace an individual without any visible identification element?
For every crime committed there must be a trace and that is where you have the difference between detectives and crack detectives. For every crime, there is always an avenue to trace, so we capitalized on that number that they used and so many other things which I would not want to reveal and we were able to get result.
They called back with a number. They said there was a body in the hotel room and that the hotelier should go and throw the body away.
Interestingly, some other persons have come out to disclose that they had been victims of these same men? What sense does it give you that your effort is already having multiplier effects?
The satisfaction of every policeman is that he is able to contain crime and stop it from happening. If it happens, the next thing is for you to unravel, investigate and get a successful outcome. When you detect a crime and you have the facts to prosecute it successfully, then you are satisfied.
The other lady said she’s a model and that she saw the name and the face of the man on television and so decided to come out to speak. She has identified the man and that is going to help our case the more, though the two suspects confessed to have killed that lady.
This is another person coming out to say they did that same thing to her. That would add to the facts for us in prosecuting the case.
When are these two guys likely to go to court because there have been cases that people just see the men paraded and we never hear of what became of the suspects or the case?
Well, since I came here, in fact, you can find out from those who know me from other places where I have served, I do not allow cases to be swept under the carpet.
When I came in, some people asked me what would happen to the policeman who killed somebody at Pen Cinema area during the protests in January and some people were already saying because it involved an ASP nothing would happen.
As far as I am concerned, I do not know how to connive with any criminal.
And I will not learn it at old age now.
Once I’m satisfied that a case has been thoroughly investigated, I will go to court.
This one in question, very soon, very very soon, we are going to present them in court and let the court do its own part of the process.
We are not going to keep quiet and let people who commit crimes, how much more people who kill others, go free. We will charge them to court very very soon
What specific things would you tell the citizens…?
I have always maintained that crime does not have boundaries and does not know any tribe. The people should know that the police they are seeing today are different from the one they used to know.
Apart from the new leadership, the police are changing everyday with time. A time there was when you had a police force that was made up of people regarded as uneducated (in quotes). Today, there is hardly any discipline that you do not have policemen.
Challenges are there but I think the police are doing a lot to meet these challenges.
There is this new spirit of enthusiasm in the force….
Yes, the new Inspector General, Mohammed Dikko Abubakar, that you all know, is full of ideas and he is the type that is determined to change the face of the police and that is also why those of us in the force have keyed into that paradigm.
I was coming to the issue of the new IGP. When you interface his persona against the new paradigm, what inspirations do you draw?
Some of us have known him for some time and I’ve always believed, even before now, that if there is anything new and progressive that would happen in the police, it may have to wait until his tenure as IG – and this is not about eye service or anything; it is there for all to see. His is leadership that is progressive.
Many of us have been following his foot steps and I think, and I want to say it boldly, that there is no police officer in Nigeria today that I know that can point to that man and say he has compromised or has compelled him to compromise or that he had this adverse issue. You can see it clearly for the short period that he has stayed, the tremendous improvements in the police force, such that even those who don’t like the police can attest to the fact that the force is changing.
How have you been coping with the challenges of policing a state like Lagos?
The challenges are there. But some of us are not very new here.
I came in at a different level but, even then, most of these things have to stop at my table but one good thing about human nature is the ability to adapt, look at where there are deficiencies and see how you can meet up, design your strategies right and you would surmount some of those challenges.
One thing that must be said is that you can never employ conventional means of policing and expect it to work in a place like Lagos. How would you go about it? Where would you start that from?
When new challenges come, you device a means of tackling those new challenges or issues on a daily basis.
But you would agree with me that you cannot be every where at the same time in a state like Lagos or any other state for that matter. That brings us to the issue of your men. How do you now ensure that they stay within acceptable conduct?
No individual can be every where at the same time as you pointed out.
That is why you have Divisional Police Officers, DPOs, and Area Commanders and they have officers attached to them.
Lagos State Police Command, Umar A. Manko
What is expected from me here and other principal officers at the headquarters is to ensure that if we design policies or strategies, we must supervise those strategies as they are being implemented and that is what we have been doing.
In an organization, the leadership matters and I am ready and prepared to lead by example as the IG is leading by example – that is what we are doing.
If I am not going to sleep in my house by 2 a.m., I do not see why a DPO should sleep in his house by 2 a.m..
It is not possible because he might not know that when I leave my house, his office might be the place I am coming to do an unscheduled inspection and if he’s not there he would have to explain to me why he has gone to sleep while I am still moving about to secure the state.
As a CP, you would have experienced a lot of things in the course of your duty. Which single most important thing would you want to remember, that still gives you goose pimple whenever you remember?
Well, there are many of them and, as I said, I worked in Lagos before. Before I left in 1998, I was OC General Investigation Department, GID. And of course you people knew what GID was at that time.
That was the era of 419. But some of us felt that we would never belong. There were many cases of 419 at that time and these boys were carrying money up and down looking for people to compromise but a few of us stood our ground that we would not be compromised.
The general impression that time was that once you are posted to GID, it was an avenue for you to go and make your own money because of what was in vogue at that time. I was not prepared to do that and in fact I ran into many troubles because of that.
You know when you are trying to do things rightly any where, you would find some people who would not want it to move in that direction.
You talked about compromise. Compromise from who?
(Laughter) That is a general statement any way (laughter again)
But after all said and done, I am here now as a CP. That is reward for hard and diligent work as blessed by the Almighty God.
This job is full of hazards, there would have been times you narrowly escaped death?
Yes, I have always said that hazards are part of every profession and that is why some of our colleagues are killed in the line of duty.
The theatre of war has moved today from the premises of the military to internal security.
And the agency trained to fight crime and criminality internally is the police and so we are more vulnerable to death in the course of our duty.
For someone who has worked for 28 years as a policeman, I can tell you clearly that I have overcome some of these hazards by the grace of God.
Looking back and looking ahead, what would you say has been your major achievement and what plans do you have for the future?
By the time I leave, I want to be judged by you people if I’ve done well.
However, my greatest desire is to ensure that by the time I leave, I want to leave behind a team that must be corruption free.
I will insist on that.
I will insist that the police eschew all forms of brutality against the people of Lagos State that they are meant to serve.
I will insist that we have inter-agency cooperation and try as much as we can to see that policemen and other agencies do not get into unnecessary conflicts.
I will also want to leave behind a better police command because that is the aspiration of the IG.
I will do that to the best of my knowledge and ability.