Kogi State Commissioner for Information, Kingsley Fanwo, in a recent interaction with journalists, speaks on sundry issues, including the role of his principal, Governor Yahaya Bello, in Chief Femi Fani-Kayode’s defection to the All Progressives Congress (APC). JULIANA FRANCIS reports
What is really happening in Kogi State with respect to security?
I will talk about security, but I will also speak on other sundry issues, which my boss, Governor Yahaya Bello, thinks we should make clarification about. However, before talking about the issue of security, I will like to talk about the defection of Chief Femi Fani-Kayode to the APC.
He was introduced to the President, and he also met with my boss, Governor Yahaya Bello, who was largely instrumental to his defection to the APC. The governor is very happy about this defection, and he is looking forward to working with a progressive minded person like Fani-Kayode.
We’ve been seeing a lot of positive and negative reactions following his defection, but our concern is that we’re going to work closely with him.
What do you mean by progressive minds?
Progressive politics is not about the party a person belongs to, but the character and the values a person holds. To us, Fani-Kayode has always been a progressive. He speaks truth to power.
No matter where he belongs, he will still say the truth, and you need the truth to shape the nation. That is our position and we strongly urge the media to join us in celebrating this.
You mentioned that your governor was happy he had a progressive like Fani-Kayode in the party, please expatiate.
The governor sees in Fani Kayode a progressive minded person someone, who speaks truth to power, someone who believes in a united Nigeria like him. Therefore, he sees him as someone who can work together with him very closely in moving Nigeria forward.
You know, we’ve been having lots of reports since his defection, with some trying to bring back the past, reminding us that this was what he said about the party and about the President in the past.
Yes, at every point in time, your convictions can change; it’s dynamic, what you knew that time will change when you get to know more. Fani-Kayode is seeing the President from a very different perspective.
He now believes in the leadership of the President, the leadership of this country, and the leadership of the APC, which is why he had decided to join the party that will take Nigeria beyond 2023. The governor played a very big role in that.
When we were about to start our membership drive, the governor did everything he could then, but we knew that there are certain people in the party who are afraid of the fact that someone like Fani-Kayode coming in will affect their interest, so they did everything to frustrate that move.
However, we welcome the victory we recorded by having Fani- Kayode in the party. It is likely a Governor Yahaya Bello victory at the end of the day, so we are going to work together. We know Fani-Kayode is going to add value to our party.
Do you agree that the security architecture in Kogi State has collapsed?
We know that we need to reset and rethink the security architecture in Kogi State. Security is already a very dynamic thing. You need to keep updating your approach to security regularly. What we were battling with before were criminals, armed robbers, kidnappers, insurgence and all of that, but today, I think we are also planning to confront political saboteurs, who are desperate to rubbish the security gains that were recorded in Kogi State with this present administration. I will not want to belabour anyone with some of the heroics that we’ve recorded since 2016. However, before 2016, we even had some very dangerous groups operating in the state, including ISIS. That group was firmly in Kogi State between 2012 to 2015, and it was getting more and more dangerous, and we felt that we needed to do something fast to curb that dangerous situation.
How did the government curb the dangerous situation?
When the governor came onboard, we put in place a very robust security architecture that was able to resolve that very dangerous scenario that we inherited.
We promptly went against criminals in the state, and we discovered that one of the major problems we had then was the issue of security agencies not being able to patrol.
This was with respect to patrol vehicles, so we had to address that challenge by procuring over 240 brand new vans, which we distributed to security agencies.
If you are not even going to look at the ratio on the basis of the number of security agencies that we have, and you can look at the number of local government councils that we have in the state, which is 21, then it means that in every local government, we have more than 10 patrol vans patrolling with security agents.
We also procured some very high tech gadgets for our security agencies to be able to monitor the activities and operations of criminals in the state. I will not go into details on how effective those tech gadgets are because we will not want criminals to know all of these things.
We also activated the Kogi State Security and Vigilante Service Law.
What is the law about?
It’s a law that was put in place by the immediate past administration in the state, but nothing was done about it. We activated it and recruited thousands of young men and women to be able to drive the vigilante service. They were posted to basically the rural areas to be able to gather intelligence and to enforce law and order, and to ensure the overall se- K
curity of our rural areas, which helped us a lot. Also, we’ve launched our constabulary, where we have community policemen and women across the 21 local government councils of the state.
They also help in gathering intelligence and enforcing law and order. They also work with the state’s commissioner of police to be able to ensure the security of our people, especially at the grassroots’ level.
Apart from that, we launched what we call Security Whistleblower Policy because we discovered that the major problem, which security agencies have in Nigeria today, is lack of adequate intelligence.
People are not confident in giving security agents information about the activities, operations and whereabouts of criminals.
We initiated that policy to be able to protect anyone who gives information to security agencies, and it worked wonders in our state.
We also incorporated the local hunters because they understand the terrain more than the conventional policemen. We incorporated the local hunters who will be able to go after these criminals and ensure they are apprehended anytime they are planning to carry out their activities.
These are some of the things that we have done in the state, which is helping us. But apart from that, I think another very important step we took as an administration was to emphasise the issue of tagging a particular ethnic group in the country as criminals.
We keep saying it; every society has anti-social people, who keep going against the norms, the rule of laws of the society and every society has criminals. These criminals are not limited to a particular ethnic group or to a particular society.
What the system should always be able to do is to deal with every criminal activity regardless of who is involved.
Are you talking about herders, farmers’ clashes?
Yes! Those carrying out these activities are criminals, so it doesn’t have to be a particular ethnic group. We’re not going to ask a particular ethnic group to leave our place. No! We’re not going to do that as a state. As a state, we have incorporated them into the security system. It will surprise you to know that some of the escaped inmates from Kabba Custodial Centre were caught by Fulani herdsmen in the bush.
They called our security agents, telling them where they were and how many fleeing inmates they had caught. That’s the synergy we have formed, and that is why we are not having or experiencing the kind of tension in other states.
When we talk about unity, we should make it holistic. Our policies must be nationalistic in nature, so also should our programmes and laws. It should also be the same approach to solving problems. It is this nationalistic approach that has also helped us in improving our security network.
Can you tell us about the Kabba prison break?
What happened at Kabba Custodian Centre was unfortunate! It was a well organised attack on the custodian centre and I believe that there is a serious need to rejig the security architecture by carrying out research and ensuring that we are able to beat these criminals at their games.
We’re trying to find a solution in which we will be able to help the Federal Government in the security of their agencies and agents in the state.
This is very important and I will also say here that there was intelligence before that attack. Yes, there was an Intel before the attack and we quickly worked on the Intel by beefing up security.
There were supposed to be more than 20 military personnel there at that point; we didn’t know what went wrong. They were not all there at that material time that the attack happened, but all the same, we thanked God that we didn’t lose too many people.
Every life is important and we sympathise with the families of those that lost their beloved ones. We are having a series of conversations at the moment with the Federal Government, to find a way of deploying our security strength in the state to help in protecting agencies.
This is because those affected are our people. We have to do everything possible. We cannot just sit and say that they are federal agencies. We want to protect our people as much as possible.
The other fact that led to that attack was because there are high profile criminals being held in that custodian centre. Our security agencies will have to do more in dealing with some of these issues.
When you keep Boko Haram suspects or those that have been convicted in a custodian centre, you should know that their colleagues will want to do everything possible to set them free, not only for the sake of solidarity, but they know that the more they are being held, the more information the authorities are going to get about their activities.
We need to look at all of these things so we will not allow this kind of an unfortunate incident to happen again.