Femi Adediran recently spoke with the Ogun State Commandant of the So-Safe Corps, Mr. Soji Ganzallo, in Abeokuta about the security challenges in the state:
What role should traditional rulers play in tackling insecurity in Ogun State?
Traditional rulers have a great and very important role to play in fighting insecurity. There is a complimentary role that traditional rulers must actually play. In Yorubaland and the entire South-West, we reverence our traditional rulers a lot. And aside from that, they know their subjects and when traditional rulers speak, people tend to obey and adhere to their advice and instructions and so, they have a very great role to play in securing the lives and property of the people, in the sense that in their various domains, they can actually assist exposing criminal elements that are in such areas. Because traditional rulers will know, through their Baales, through some of the chiefs that there are some people in their communities that are not behaving well. Most of the time, people go to their palaces to lodge reports and when such reports are lodged, the onus lies on the traditional rulers to call security agents to move in and take necessary action. So, their role is indeed very, very important, crucial and complimentary to security agencies.
Are you enjoying the support of traditional rulers in tackling crimes in the State?
Yes, in Ogun State, I can say and beat my chest that traditional rulers have been assisting us tremendously, because if we any problem anywhere and we go to them, they summon their subjects, their chiefs, their Baales and they address them and we have always been having cause to thank them for such a role. So, they have been doing very well.
But be that as it may, that does not mean that all the traditional rulers are doing well. There are some that are not doing well. For instance, when we are talking about land grabbers, there are some traditional rulers that we have seen shielding the land grabbers. What is their interest? There are some who know that some of their subjects are criminal elements and you still see them shielding such people from arrest by security agents. There are some of them that are doing that, but if we want to look at the activities of traditional rulers in the State generally, I think majority of them have been very cooperative.
There is a belief in some quarters that armed robbery, kidnappings and other criminal activities have increased in Ogun State. What is your position and why?
I think it is visible to everyone the way we have tackled these crimes. For instance, the issue of cultism, you can see that, it is on the rise now, most especially in Ijebu and Remo axis of our State. But we have working with the police and other sister security agencies to tackle this. We are taking intelligence from the Department of State Security Service (DSS), the police and the So Safe corps are actually working together and you can see the way we have been working together, trying to get them even from their hide outs and that has yielded results. You can see now that Ijebu-Ode and Remo axis are getting calm because of those that we have massively arrested. And recently, when the Ifo started with theirs, because of the experiences of Ijebu-Ode and Remo, we are able to nip that in the bud. This is exactly what we are still doing, we want information from the residents of Ogun State, where ever you live if you see any cult activity happening in your area, please inform the security agents, not only the So Safe corps, you can inform the police, you can inform the Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC) or other agencies and we will get to that place and do the needful.
At the same time, we are still going around with our orientation programme. The Director of Information and Public Relations department of this organisation have been moving around, going to communities, talking to our parents to check their children. When we were in school in those days, cultism was for students that were in higher institutions, but these days, you see artisans, mechanics, electricians, Okada riders, all of them going into cultism and cultism is now even spreading into primary schools and this is a very dangerous trend that must be nip in the bud. This time, we need to be very proactive in the way we are tackling cultism in our State. Our approach to tackling cultism should not only be a reactive thing, it is not when crimes are committed that we should be looking for a way to solve the crime, we must be proactive with it and prevent the crime from happening. And this is the reason why we are intensifying our efforts on the orientation of our children, the young ones, moving to the schools and talking to them about the evil in cultism.
How is your organisation working to tackle herdsmen/farmers problems, which are almost turning into an inter-ethnic issue today?
You see, when we are talking about herdsmen attack, we are being very, very careful because you see people labelling must crime, associating it with the herdsmen attacks, but we are doing our best and we are trying to monitor the herdsmen that we have in Ogun State. If you look at it very well, you will see that if we are talking about herdsmen attack, Ogun State and Lagos State are still very lucky compared to other States in the SouthWest where we have attacks of herdsmen on our people.
But that doesn’t mean that we don’t have our own fair share of it, look at the Eggua incident, look at the one that recently happened in Remo, look at the one that happened in Ijebu-Ode, look at the one that happened at Odeda. So, we are having but we are solving it. And I want to give kudos to the Ogun State government, the government have been very supportive on the issue of the herdsmen attack. It is only in Ogun State that we have a committee set up by the government, involving all the stakeholders. All the security agencies have representatives in the committee, our farmers are there, even the representatives of the herdsmen are part of the committee and we are working together. So, if anything happens anywhere you will see the committee moving into such a place, when it becomes a criminal thing, you see the security agencies effecting arrest and trying to investigate. But, as I’m talking to you, there are several cases that have been able to resolve on their own at that committee level that do not develop into criminal issues. At times, when you see cattle destroying farms of our farmers before you see them having crisis, but this time around, you see them mediating, trying to sort it out and they have done several cases like that, that they have sorted out without resulting into arrest and other things. So, we are a having a fair share of it and we are handling it headlong, most especially at this time.
You know the incident that happened in Oyo State recently put a lot of pressure on us in Ogun State because some of the herders are now moving into our State, but we have been decimating them, we have been checking them, making sure that we profile those ones that we have here. Don’t forget we have some herders here who have been living with us for over 30, 40 years, they have been cooperating on the security of our State such herders we cannot tell them to leave our State at this time because they have been doing well. If any herder stray into our State, they are the people that will tell us that there are strangers in the State so that we can arrest or profile such a herder. And these are the things that we have been doing and it is paying off for us.
Is your organisation threatened by the creation of Amotekun in the State?
No, the more the merrier. If you travel out of this country, most especially to the US, you will see that there so many security organisations taking care of the security needs of their people at the various segments. The So Safe corps is a grassroots security organisation. Don’t forget that I was part and parcel of the creation of Amotekun. So Safe corps as an organisation attended the international conference at Ibadan and the DAWN Commission conference on the creation of Amotekun. I have been part and parcel of all the stakeholders’ forum that led to the creation of Amotekun. Don’t forget that the first screening of the Amotekun operatives was actually done in my office here. So, I’m part and parcel of the Amotekun operation and if you look at the constitution, the law setting up Amotekun, you can see that I’m even a board member in Amotekun, so, So Safe corps is not threatened, instead, it is a collaborative effort because we must collaborate, we must come together, it must be a wonderful synergy, it must be a symbiotic relationship between us and Amotekun and other security agencies to make Ogun State safe.