Adejoroh Adeogun is a member of the House of Representatives who represents Akoko South-East/Akoko South-West federal constituency of Ondo State.
A retired officer of the State Security Service (SSS), he was recently appointed deputy chairman of the House Committee on Security and National Intelligence.
In this interview with selected journalists including Nasir Aiyetogo of PREMIUM TIMES, he talks about steps that can be taken to curb insecurity in Nigeria.
Question: What is your legislative agenda?
Adeogun: I am a first-timer, not just in the House of Reps but in legislative business. But I am not a first-timer when it comes to getting involved in governance or knowing what governance is all about.
I’ve been around for quite a while. I’ve actually worked for government, the secret service for few years, retired and served in the Ondo State Government at several capacities.
Getting into the National Assembly, talking about my legislative agenda, first, it is not my idea, it is that of my constituents that brought me here. I had the cause to go round all the wards in my constituency and the first problem of my people is unemployment. We have a population of about 200,000 to 400,000 people and a youth population of about 150,000 and I can assure you that 100,000 of them are either unemployed or underemployed. So this means that our number one problem is unemployment.
The number two is infrastructure. This means that everything about legislation for me should be about reaching out to my constituency.
Solving the problem of the country becomes next and for Nigeria today, the number one problem is insecurity. And how do we solve the problem of insecurity? How do we look at establishing what I call a sense of urgency in addressing insecurity?
For me, the first issue is, how do we secure Nigeria? Making Nigeria secured means that we would be able to at least establish businesses in such a way that someone who has funds to invest would come and invest in our place. How do we provide infrastructure so that someone can invest in my place and be able to move goods from my constituency to another with ease so that we create jobs and provide employment for the people?
Q: With your background, what kind of legislation would you propose to tackle the insecurity in some parts of the country?
Adeogun: When you want to address something, you, first of all, ask, what is the cause? In security business, if someone commits a crime, you are not looking for the crime itself, you are looking for the motive: why do people go into criminal activities? Poverty and unemployment. It means that if you want to solve the problem of insecurity in Nigeria, you must first of all look at the root cause of the criminal activities and I can assure you, it is poverty.
So how can we create the policy, provide the legislation that ensures that there is sustainable living amongst the generality of the population? When you solve that, you can now start looking at the issues of repercussion of these activities. Can someone commit a crime and be arrested for it?
I will give you an example of a typical problem we have in Nigerian; security. We are not employing technology to solve our problems, the typical one is when someone commits a crime with a footprint, can the Nigerian law enforcement agencies use those footprints to get that person? They can’t. They do not have the database, they do not have the training, they do not have the capacity to solve the problems.
For a fingerprint to be useful, there must be bases for comparison, that Is it. If I have your picture and I don’t see you, there must be something to compare with the other. I have done a lot of research to actually find legislation that provides for us to have a crime data centre with the police.
Q: In relation to the recent kidnapings across the country, do you think the GSM service providers are to an extent to blame, considering the fact that all lines are registered with a name and biometrics?
Adeogun: It is not the job of service providers to track the kidnappers, it is the job of the law enforcement agencies. What they will do is to collaborate with the service providers.
With my experience in tracking, we have active and passive tracking. Passive means you can actually track without passing through the network while active means you need to get the cooperation of the network.
But I don’t think our problems today in Nigeria is tracking. Kidnappers are becoming smarter, they don’t take the telephones to the area where the victims are kept. You have a network now, you can kidnap someone in Ondo and the person who is holding negotiations is in Bauchi.
A lot of kidnappers now use Thuraya, Thuraya is not within the network, so it goes beyond that. But then, I think our security agencies have the capacities to track, I don’t think their problem is tracking.
Q: You mentioned unemployment and poverty as the two major causes of criminality. What about the farmer-herdsmen clashes, can we attribute these two factors to these form of insecurity?
Adeogun: You need to understand that this issue of herdsmen-farmers, there are two dimensions to it. The genuine clashes between herdsmen and farmers which means herders grazing their cattle to the farmland of the farmers, that’s what you have in parts of Benue, Taraba and some other places. Then you now have criminals masquerading as herdsmen, engaging in criminal activities. You must isolate the two.
The criminals masquerading as herdsmen are the ones committing the atrocities we are complaining about. Let me give you an example of the priest kidnapped in Enugu State and then people went around saying they were kidnapped by herdsmen only to find out that they were Igbo boys.
We have issues on the Lagos – Benin expressway attributed to herdsmen. Every criminal has now adopted that cover of herdsmen. We need to separate them.
But the reality is that where we have issues of genuine herdsmen and farmers, then we need to find a way herders do not graze their cattle outside a fenced environment where you won’t find any business infringing on the right of other people.
Q: The perception out there is that the National Assembly has not done enough. They have held several security summits and invited security chiefs on different occasions. What is the new thing you are bringing to the table and how will you be able to influence the institution to get things done security-wise?
Adeogun: First, the perception of members of the public is not always the right perception. But I’m not saying that they are wrong all the time. There is always this general idea that people in government are bad. It’s given that if you are the best man in the world, the moment you come into government, you are bad. That’s a wrong perception. So people always feel that the National Assembly hasn’t done enough. But then, we must understand that the job of the National Assembly is not to enforce laws but to make laws. Even the national budget itself is a law. So government should support the law enforcement agencies with it. If the executive arm is not doing it, the National Assembly should not be held liable.
But then, because government is one and there should be a symbiotic relationship and this is what is being done by the ninth National Assembly, to ensure that there is greater cooperation, there is more of an understanding that this is the problem of the executive and then the National Assembly can help the executive get their job done faster and better.
Sometimes, resources are always inadequate, are there ways that resources can be brought from other areas to assist the security agencies? They do not have enough, personnel are not adequately trained, their welfare is poor, they don’t have even the basic needs to get their jobs done.
I’m believing that the ninth assembly, which by the grace of God I’m part of, will do a lot more to support the law enforcement agencies.
We need to get that idea of the need for urgency. I have that idea that we always believe that we have time. You have issues with insecurity and it is treated with some methods of slow reaction. We should not be reacting, we should be proactive. I think that is what the National Assembly will bring into the relationship between the executive and the legislature.
Q: There is this feeling that Nigeria today is militarised, there are several military operations across the country under different code-names and Nigerians are asking, why do we have soldiers doing the work of the police?
Adeogun: Because we don’t have enough police officers. You have to look at the UN ratio, you are supposed to have one policeman for 250-300 people. That’s the general requirement, but in Nigeria, we actually have one policeman to 650 people, which means we need to double the population of the Nigerian police for effective policing.
When you look at that UN ratio, it is worse when you have to look at policemen per weapon. How many rifles do they have? Even if we say we have 500,000 policemen, how many weapons do they have to combat the criminals?
We have to look at this vis-a-vis our population. We have a large population and we have policemen who do not have the resources and training and manpower to protect, so the military is brought in to assist them.
In countries like the U.S. where you have national and state police, they still have the national guards so that when you find out that the police are overwhelmed by the event, the national guards come in. In Nigeria, we don’t have that, so where the police are overwhelmed, the only alternative is to use the military.
Q: The chief of Army staff was here last year for budget defence and he mentioned the fact that even the military is overstretched. What are the implications of this?
Adeogun: First, if you solve the problems, there won’t be any need to overstretch the military but we must increase the numbers.
I mentioned to you that in my constituency, the number one problem is unemployment. So the police, civil defence and military don’t have the number and we have thousands of young people looking for jobs. Solve the problem two ways: solve the security problem and solve the unemployment problem.
The only thing is that we have to find ways to raise the resources and increase the revenue base of the country so that the country can provide funds to back up what is needed.
Q: Looking at the security architecture of the country, do you support state policing?
Adeogun: I’m aware that there are two or three times where attempts were made to amend the Nigerian constitution to provide for state policing and it’s been opposed by parts of the country.
There is a lot of suspicions. The political leaders don’t handle power well. Give a governor the power to appoint the commissioner of police or have state police, he will use the police to overcome his opponents.
Look at what happened to state electoral commissions. The opposition parties cannot win an election. So that is the same thing that will happen when you have state police. The opposition will not get security protection, we are not mature for that.
What we can do is to provide some form of decentralisation of the existing force until such a time that our leaders are mature enough to realise that the general welfare of the people is superior to personal interest.
For now, most of our political leaders don’t understand that it is not about them, it is all about the people.
I will not subscribe to state policing now. But community policing, yes; but under the central control. Central control in the sense that if you employ a policeman, you deploy him to his place. A policeman will not misbehave if his parents know. If you are asked to protect your own people, you won’t have a choice than to behave yourself.
But if you take someone from Sokoto to Lagos, he can afford to stand on the road and shoot somebody and feel like he doesn’t care. But where he is known, he will be better behaved. That I will subscribe to.
Q: Security agents are sometimes fingered in crimes. Very recently, we had a case between the police and army in Taraba. Some also finger security personnel in the kidnapping across the country. Will the average Nigerian ever see an end to all these?
Adeogun: You know the story about the apple and the bad apple? Every apple tree has a bad apple. So it’s not new that we are having collaboration between security agencies and criminals.
You remember the same case of Anenih and Osunbor, the police DPO that collaborated with him? So it’s not a new thing. The question to ask is what is the percentage of criminal elements that are in uniform? I think it is actually low.
You spoke of probably one army captain in the midst of thousands. So it’s normal that you have one or two bad people and because of unemployment, you actually have criminals themselves getting recruited into the military and police and it’s all over the world. Let’s not make it look as if we are the only ones involved. Where we’ll have the problems is if we are unable to fish out the bad elements.
Q: Do you think it is time for security to be separated from politics? There is this suspicion that every crime has a political undertone.
Adeogun: You can’t isolate politics from security. Why is that civilians will still have to give instructions. When you look at what has happened in the U.S. between the FBI with the CIA and Donald Trump, the investigation of the Russian firm and attempt by Trump to impose his FBI and CIA, you could see there was resistance because there were some measures of independence for these agencies.
We will get to a point where the institution will become stronger than the individual. We are not at that point yet. When we get legislation with the proper practice of democracy, our institutions will become stronger.
Q: You spoke about the strengthening of institutions, is your committee going to ensure that? If yes, how are you going to do that?
Adeogun: One committee cannot strengthen an institution, it is an institution that strengthens the other. It means that the entire National Assembly, not just one committee. What we can do is help the institutions gain the confidence to know that there are certain things that they will do to give them more powers because if you are giving someone power and he doesn’t know that you are giving him power, it is worthless to him.