Chiemelie Ezeobi writes that the community policing strategy of the Lagos State Police Command under CP Imohimi Edgal has yielded vibrant outcomes
Per chance, the Commissioner of Police in Lagos State, Imohimi Oluwole Edgal, can be termed the proverbial cat with nine lives. But those in the know are seemingly not surprised about his staying power. According to them, Edgal’s professionalism as an ‘operations’ man cannot be denied.
Last Yuletide was a proof of that as Lagos residents literally enjoyed a crime-free season. However, top of his achievements in Lagos was in extinguishing the flame of the ‘Badoo’ ritualist group that once held sway in Ikorodu and its environs, as well as getting over 860 individuals to renounce cultism in just over six months Edgal, who became a police commissioner in the state in August 2017 following his promotion by the Police Service Committee, took over from Fatai Owoseni. Prior to that, he was a deputy commissioner of police (DCP) in charge of operations in the Lagos Command.
From decimating the once-dreaded badoo gang, to the daily raid of criminal hideouts in blackspots, disbanding the reign of traffic robbers, effecting arrests of domestic violence perpetrators and even declaring war against sexual predators, Edgal has provided the much-needed impetus to effective policing in cosmopolitan Lagos.
Little wonder the jubilation that greeted the recent signal rescinding his redeployment to head the Explosive Ordinance Unit at the Force Headquarters, Abuja.
Just few days back, a signal had circulated announcing the supposed end of an era for Edgal at the helm of Lagos affairs. To replace him, Kayode Egbetokun, a one-time chief security officer (CSO) of the then Lagos State Governor, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, in 1999, was redeployed on acting capacity pending confirmation from the Police Service Commission (PSC). The signal had directed Edgal to redeploy to the Force Headquarters in Abuja to head the Explosive Ordinance Unit.
While industry watchers had speculated that Edgal’s redeployment could be a fallout of the recent violence carried out by members of the National Union of Road Transport Workers (NURTW) during the campaign flag-off of the All Progressives Congress (APC), others posited that it was long overdue.
According to another school of thought, his removal might not be unconnected with his perceived closeness with the Lagos State Governor, Akinwunmi Ambode, with whom he enjoys a robust relationship. On the day of the said handover, a little drama played out that saw Edgal emerging victorious. Both Egbetokun and Edgal were about proceeding with the handover when a signal came from the force headquarters that status quo be maintained. No one truly saw that coming.
Further details later emerged that the new Inspector General of Police, Muhammed Abubakar Adamu, had graciously suspended the planned redeployment. According to the state Police Public Relations Officer, CSP Chike Oti, the IG in his wisdom had said the status quo should be maintained.
In a statement made available to THISDAY, Oti said: “The CP, who is well known for his discipline and respect for orders, was about handing over to Mr. Kayode Egbetokun on Tuesday when he received the directive to suspend the ceremony and await further instructions. While humbled by the decision, the CP wishes to assure the people of Lagos that their safety and security remains his priority.”
When the news filtered out, it was met with jubilation as officers loyal to Edgal released a hail of gun fire in celebration. To many security analysts, the jubilation was not out of the ordinary having critically appraised Edgal’s unrivaled crime fighting prowess since assumption of office.
The Badoo boys
In the anals of Lagos, a terror group once held sway. Known as the Badoo ritual gang, their stock in trade was to smash people’s head before making away with their private parts. For a long time, they reigned supreme and their word was law in Ikorodu and environs. They seemed to defy all security aparatus, at least until Edgal swore to see their end.
Even before he became CP, Edgal as the deputy commissioner of police in-charge of operations had taken the war to the doorsteps of Badoo. His body language while still serving as DCP Ops sent cold shivers down the spines of these enemies of the state; an indication that if given the full opportunity to serve as substantive CP, the menace of Badoo in Lagos State would be history.
Thus, upon assumption of office as the police commissioner in Lagos, he swung into action immediately like a wounded lion; holding regular town hall meetings with stakeholders and community leaders in line with his policy thrust of community policing and community safety partnership. It was not surprising when he brought the reign of terror to abrupt end.
This was another vice that held sway in Lagos until Edgal. He exhibited the same zest in the fight against cultism in the state. The vigour and tenacity of purpose showcased in this fight forced no fewer than 860 cultists to renounce their membership and willingly surrendered their weapons of destruction within six months.
In one instance, over 200 youths from different cult groups like the Aiye, Eiye and Buccaneers, renounced cultism, just as they surrendered their arms and ammunition. Also surrendered were 15 locally made long guns, 30 bullets, 11 cutlasses, four axes, four double-barrel guns, five short locally made pistols and a sword.
But prior to the renunciation, two other batches had late 2017 also called it quits with cultism. Perhaps the first renunciation on November 7, 2017, was the trigger that others needed to follow suit, as no fewer than 500 youths in Ijede Local Council Development Area of Ikorodu, Lagos, voluntarily renounced their membership of various cult groups in the area.
They included cultists from Aiye, Eiye, Buccaneer, and KK among others. The youths, whose ages are between 17 and 35, also submitted their weapons. The weapons, which were displayed at the Ijede LCDA hall included pump action rifles, AK-47 rifles, locally-made guns and single-barrelled guns. Also displayed were cartridges of various types as well as axes and machetes.
It was therefore not surprising that after the success of the initial renunciations, another batch followed suit on November 29, 2017. On that occasion, no fewer than 120 youths renounced cultism and surrendered their arms and ammunition to the police at Oba Ajibade Agoro, the Ranodu of Imota Ikorodu Lagos state. The ceremony was significant because those were the same group that had unleashed terror on the community.
However, going beyond the renunciation, Edgal proposed a program for their reintegration into the society. He said those that renounced would be trained in various vocational skills to be accompanied by soft loans. Whereas, it may not be totally correct to say that cultism has been wiped out completely in the state, but a critical survey of cultism and cult-related activities in the state have nosedived tremendously.
War against Drug Abuse
Edgal’s war against the burgeoning menace of drug abuse has been legendary. From one part of the state to another, he has made arrests of the cartels and has recovered huge consignments of drugs. In one instance, his target was on those that sell to school children. His zest in taming the menance was understandable given the recent drug abuse haze that seemingly permeated the society.
According to Edgal, when he took over office, the major challenges he faced was in fighting the war against cultism and drug abuse. Across different fora, his message was simple- an appeal to youths to shun hard drugs and report any drug dealer to the police.
Ardent Community Policing Advocate
If there is anything that has stood him out since his assumption of office- first as acting Lagos CP before his confirmation by the Police Service Commission- it has been his staunch advocacy for community policing and safety partnership.
Under him, gone were the era of the community being scared to confide in the police about miscreants in their midst for fear of retribution. An ardent advocate of community policing, Edgal’s modus operandi has been to partner community leaders, who in turn sensitise their various communities on the need for synergy with the police.
Perhaps it is pertinent to state that these giant strides won’t have been possible without his passion for community partnership. Ab initio, on community partnership and Imohimi had said, “ When I resumed as Commissioner of Police last September, I came with a strategy, which was backed up by intelligence and technology because there were problems of major crimes such as armed robbery, car snatching, mugging, drug abuse, youth restiveness and violence against women and children.
“Thus, I introduced community policing and safety partnerships. I attended over 12 townhall meetings across the state, where I met with the people and explained the need for their close involvement in security. Thus, it is the intention of the police to allow the people take the front burner on how their community is policed.
“We want the people to be more involved in how their community is policed. Community policing involves partnership with the people and relies heavily on intelligence gathering. We would use community policing to get information from the public and process same.”
Fully keying into this mantra of community policing, Edgal has traversed the length and breadth of the state, engaging community leaders and stakeholders across board in the essence of community safety partnership. The positive result is that people are more open now to feed the police with valuable information.
Perhaps one aspect of crimes that piques Edgal each time is domestic violence, child abuse and underage criminality. As CP Lagos, Edgal has shown that he is staunch hater of any form of domestic violence. To drive home his aversion for any form domestic violence, he incorporated the Gender Unit in the command and personally monitors its activities to ensure probity and fairness. A lover of children, Edgal has also shunned parents or guardians that abuse their children and wards under their care. Irrespective of the status of the abusers in the society, Edgal has assured that the survivours are removed from such toxic environment and that justice is served.
Abhorrence for Rape, Incest
This is an abhorrence that was rampant in Lagos before. Again, through the gender office of the command, Edgal has gone after such perpetrators and ensured justice was served for the survivours. Above all, he also created awareness on the ills of these behaviors through mass media.
Discipline of Errant Officers
If there is any area that the Lagos State Police Command has policed and is still policing the state with human face is in the area of civility and discipline of errant officers. As of June 2018, the breakdown of officers either facing punishment or have been dismissed totaled about 95. This record Edgal said, is to serve as a deterrent to other police personnel wishing to toe the path of infamy.
The breakdown include eight dismissal, four reduction in rank, 43 major entry, three severe reprimand, four extra fatigue, 28 warning notices and five discharged and acquitted cases.
Pundits once praised his records, noting that it was the first of its kind in the annals of policing in Lagos, where a serving CP will epitomise what he preaches against indiscipline and corruption in the force.
However, it is pertinent to state that the number has since increased as Edgal’s zero tolerance for indiscipline is legendary. Little wonder the Crime Reporters Association of Nigeria (CRAN) had once written to the erstwhile IG, Ibrahim Idris, about his stellar performance.
However, it has not been all rosy for Lagos helmsman, as there are still areas that needs to be worked on like the irascibility of divisions in carrying out their duties. Most often than not, the policemen at the divisions are a law unto themselves and thus needs to be checked.
Also, on issues of arrests and parade before investigation, most divisions make arrests and rush to the command without due investigations. Although it is on record that on several occasions, the CP has had cause to reprimand them to profile and release those who have no business with the offence they are being held for, as is usually the occasion during general raids.
On the issue of human rights abuses, it seems that despite the CP’s stern warnings and even disciplinary actions against errant policemen, there are some black sheep who are neck deep in rights abuses and this has continuously portrayed the command in bad light.
Notwithstanding these bad elements, Edgal’s quest to rid Lagos of crime is unquestionable and thus should be encouraged.