THE new Police Public Relations Officer (PPRO) for Lagos State, DSP Joe Offor has enjoined Lagosians to cooperate with the police to ensure effective policing of the state.
He said this and much more when ENCOMIUM Weekly visited him in his GRA, Ikeja, Lagos office on Thursday, October 22, 2015.
Congratulations on your new posting as Police Public Relations Officer (PPRO) for Lagos State.
Thank you very much.
How does it feel being Lagos PPRO?
Before I even reported, I knew it was going to be tasking, having not worked in the public relations office before. This is my first time of working as a PRO. And my guess that the job was going to be a very tasking one has not been faulted. I think I expected what I am seeing now.
It’s over a month that you have assumed office, how would you describe the experience so far?
When I was alone, I was thinking, asking myself, how far have I gone? This is because I never had any background knowledge of what being a PRO is all about. And I was like asking myself, have I done it well? Am I learning fast? These are the questions I have been asking myself. And it’s not even good for somebody to score himself because if you score yourself you can give yourself excellent but when somebody else scores you, you will be able to know where you are. So, I leave everything to the members of the press, the general public and my boss who said I should be a PPRO whether I like it or not.
Lagos is a very volatile state, how are you finding the situation here as PPRO?
When I was leaving Abuja for Lagos, I knew I was going to meet the most vibrant media in Africa. And it’s Lagos press that’s ruling the entire Africa whether we like it or not. So, I knew all wasn’t going to be easy but so far, so good, I have never had anything to regret in terms of my relationship with the media practitioners I met here. You people have been very co-operative. Each time I meet some of your colleagues, I always make it known to them that this area is new to me. And that, it’s not my comfort zone. I don’t feel shy saying that, and they have always shared reasons with me. And they have also been encouraging me.
What were you at the Force Headquarters before you were posted to Lagos?
I trained as a lawyer. And before I came to Force Headquarters, Abuja, I have always been in investigation. I have always been in prosecution of cases in court. I have been defending cases involving police and persons and agencies and more. So, that has been my main task. I think I was enjoying myself in that area, so to speak before I was asked to go to the Inspector General (IG) Secretariat to be a staff officer for human rights. And I was attending to human right investigations and legal issues. And getting to that office again, I began to enjoy myself because there were a whole lots of legal matters and human right issues. So, it’s also my comfort zone, I was enjoying myself as well. The only area I have never given a thought in my life or even experienced is the office of public relations. But I thank God for being with me. But just as I said, it’s you that I interact with, members of the public and my boss that can assess if I am doing it the right way or not.
Crime rate is said to be on the increase at the moment in Lagos, especially robbery at traffic points. What’s your comment on this? And what’s your assessment of the security situation in Lagos now?
I thank God you were with us at the Officer’s Mess today, at our meeting with the traditional rulers. People you saw that met with the Commissioner of Police, CP Fatai Owoseni and his management team are more or less the first class traditional rulers in the state. And when you are talking about increase in crime wave, I don’t know the criteria those talking about that had used. I don’t know whether the people saying crime rate has increased have our crime statistics. And now, the CP is trying to build, in line with the IG’s Community Policing Policy Trust and also in line with the international best practices in policing, strong community relations with the people. You don’t police people against their will. You police them in the way they feel they will be safer in the hands of law enforcement agents and also that’s the easiest way to solve the security challenge inherent in that particular area. And that’s the essence of the meeting we had. While the meeting was on, I believe you heard about two or three occasions where they clapped for the CP because CP has explained to them what his policy trust is all about, what his crime detection strategies are and they were able to appreciate all these the way he explained everything to them. So, those saying there is increase in crime rate have not told us what the statistics were in some months, weeks or days back, and what it is today. They should be able to bring the statistics then and now for us to be able to know whether there is increase in crime rate or not.
On the other hand, we’re also looking at the things we’re doing to make sure that crime is not in the increase in Lagos. And the new crimes coming to take our criminal lexicon are these issues of robbing people at the traffic points. Before now, it wasn’t like this. And the issue of kidnapping. You will agree with me that about 10 years ago, there was no kidnapping in Nigeria. The problems we’re battling then was violent armed robbery on the road, homes or in the bank. But now, the thing has changed since the advent of GSM. And these criminals now think the best way to go is to kidnap any rich or famous person, when they do that, money will definitely come out of it.
So, on this note, we have started strategizing and see how best these new crimes will be battled. So many strategies and systems have been developed to make sure some of these crimes are prevented and even when they’re committed, we will be able to resolve them in terms of detecting who and who are behind the perpetration of such crimes.
What are the security tips against all these crimes, especially kidnapping and robbery at traffic points? How can these be avoided by Lagosians?
What you just said is not that difficult. As you are, you also have my mobile contact. There is nothing stopping people from having the phone numbers of the Divisional Police Officers at their respective domains. Even if they can’t get it, they can make sure they have even if not more than the phone number of a Sergeant in their nearly police stations.
There is no how you have any of these contacts and you won’t be able to rescue yourself or your neighbor when there is any attack. That like I said, the attack may not come to you directly but your neighbor can be under attack, you can dial any of the police phone numbers you have to save that person. That’s one of the tips.
Another one is the one that has to do with robbery at traffic points which we have always adviced the motorists to pin down their doors so that those hoodlums won’t be able to open their doors and be threatening them with arms. But the information I got this morning was that even when they came, they didn’t even wait for the door to be opened, they smashed the windscreen. So, telling somebody not to keep the doors of his car open is not even effective again. But now, what’s effective is that we have the motorcycle patrol team. Their duty is to patrol traffic gridlock to make sure that robbery at traffic point is prevented. But most times, the challenges we have is that motorists block the entire road by forming like four or five lanes instead of the normal two or three. So, sometimes, it makes it impossible for the motorcycle to meander to enable it patrol the place. In that case, you will now see the officers parking in one side of the road with their motorcycles. And if the crime is now taking place about 50 metres away from where they are standing, there is little or nothing they can do to rescue whoever is being attacked. But if people could caution themselves and show discipline on the highways and adhere strictly to the measurement of the road, park two-two or three-three as the case may be. With this, the motorcycles will be able to meander and get to wherever crime is taking place along the route. And as I speak to you, we have made many arrests on these traffic gridlock, they have attempted to rob. First, they never knew the people with them were policemen. We disguise to be hawkers and we do anything they also do, thinking we’re together until when they want to strike, we will now strike. And through that method, many hoodlums have been arrested and many others charged to court.
The reason some of these efforts sound unbelievable is because if we have 10 occurrences like that and we’re able to prevent like six, the remaining four victims will not believe other people’s stories. They would say there are no policemen. People don’t sometimes appreciate the challenges that arise in facing some of these crimes. The more the people cooperate with us and the more they obey the traffic rules and also make the necessary contacts, the better for us in carrying out our duty.
Lagos State has a kind of heterogenous setting, doesn’t that complicate the work the more as PPRO?
Yes, in terms of names, you will see that almost all the ethnic nationalities in West Africa, not only in Nigeria, are concentrated in Lagos. But they have one thing in common, Lagosians are highly civilized. They know the need to live in a safe and secured environment. The way Lagosians cooperate with law enforcement agents, if other people in every other state could cooperate that way, Nigeria will be better. So, the task of having multi-ethnic nationalities in Lagos has never affected our policing duty. Instead, it has assisted us.
A lot of people believe the traffic law prohibiting motorcyclists (okada riders) from operating on certain routes has been relaxed and maybe that’s why some of them are back on the highways and express roads since Governor Akinwunmi Ambode came in, and police seem not to be doing anything about it. What’s your reaction to this?
There is nothing like that. All the prohibited routes in Lagos still remain prohibited to all okada or commercial motorcycles. But what happens is that there is a surge in the number of okada riders in Lagos. And many of them that just entered Lagos don’t know the rules guiding their operation. And unlike every other trade, it’s without any apprenticeship. Provided you can move the bike and you know some roads, you have automatically become a commercial motorcyclist and you start getting clients. So, most of the people who just joined the trade don’t even know the difference between the prohibited and non-prohibited routes in Lagos. And many of them suddenly became okada riders on account of the insurgency in the North, and also based on the acute unemployment that has taken over the entire landscape of Nigeria. So many people feel Lagos is the treasure land where you can easily get something doing. So, that’s exactly what’s happening in that aspect. But we have taken steps in making sure that they are flushed out of the prohibited routes very soon.
But the tale is that some police officers have been capitalizing on that to extort okada riders even whether or not they ply prohibited routes…
(Cuts in) There is nothing like that. That’s blackmail. Wherever there is any operation concerning that, you don’t only see the policemen, you see LASTMA officials, the Ministry of Transportation is represented, and other related agencies. And if any motorcycle is impounded, the owner will not see it again. The state government will destroy it. So, anybody alleging that has no fact.
Can you tell us a little of your background?
I am from Ibeagor Umunumo, Ehime-Mbano Local Government Area, Imo State. This is my 24th year in the police. I joined the police in 1991, as a recruit cop with secondary school certificate. And while in the job, I trained as a lawyer at the University of Nigeria, Nsukka. That’s about 15 years ago. I was called to Bar in October 2000. I attended Law School, Abuja.
- TADE ASIFAT