Call Oriyomi Titilayo-Oluwasanmi, a Chief Superintendent of Police, the face of traffic policing in Lagos and you won’t be wrong. In her capacity as the Lagos State Traffic Officer, otherwise known as Motorpol, she has reformed the ideals of traffic policing. Before this present posting as Motorpol, Oluwasanmi who has so far garnered over 36 awards both internationally and locally was the crime officer in Alausa Police Division before she was made the officer-in-charge of the Juvenile Welfare Centre. Given her diligence at work, she was selected by the British Council to undergo training on community policing, after which she became a trainer. She was later transferred to Area A Command, Lion Building as the Divisional Traffic Officer. In this interview with Chiemelie Ezeobi, the erstwhile Divisional Police Officer, Ilasa Police Division, shared her journey as a police officer, the highs and the inherent challenges juggling her career and home front
How and why did you join the police?
Honestly speaking, initially, I didn’t want to join the police, it was my uncle that pushed me into the police. He pushed to the police because he said, he discovered that I always stand for the truth, so I will be useful in the police.
Which year was that?
I went to the police academy in 2002 and I came out as a Cadet assistant superintendent of police (ASP) of course 21.
How has the journey been?
Not bad, initially I was posted to Ekiti, as the admin officer at Iyin Police Station. From Ekiti, I came to Lagos, where I was posted to the Alausa Police Division as a crime officer. Later, I became the officer-in-charge of the Juvenile Welfare Centre. Later I was picked through some selections made by the British Council and some top officials in the Nigerian Police for a training on community policing.
We were trained at Police College Ikeja and after the training they selected some of us. I happened to be the only woman among the five men that were trained in community policing. That was between 2006 to 2007. In fact, it was our set that launched community policing in Lagos. Then I was still in Alausa but was later pulled out to be community policing personnel under the DIG F Department, that is DIG Ekpo Udom. So, we were directly under the force headquarters.
The class was a train the trainer course, so we started doing our training in Police College Ikeja and I had the privileged opportunity to train the former CP Lagos State, Edgal Imohimi; former Motorpol Margaret Epe; DC Panti, Yetunde Longe and a lot of other senior officers. At a point we started going from division to division to conduct trainings, so I was there for four and a half years before I ended up with Lagos Command.
When I came back to Lagos I was posted to Lion Building as the Divisional Traffic Officer and funny enough that was the job I hated most in the police because I am Lagosian and I thought people will be seeing me and I don’t want them to see me on the road. But when I took over as the Divisional Traffic Officer, in the Island I really enjoyed the job. Because I began to see it as giving back to the community. I was always on the road from 5:30am you will see me on the road and I don’t close until 10:30pm in the night making sure everybody gets out of Lagos free.
So from there the Crime Reporters Association (CRAN) saw me, I don’t who mentioned me to them but they came and met me on the road. They didn’t talk to me, it was when they were talking about me, the day I was to be given an award that I knew they were on the road to see me. So 2015 I went to China on a course so as I returned I was given the Best Traffic Officer by CRAN. So the day of the award ceremony, CP Fatai Owoseni, who was the then commissioner of police for the state was there when crime reporters were reading out their accolades about me. The second day he posted me to Ilasa as the DPO. I happened to be the first woman to work there as a DPO and the most junior person to work there as DPO.
I happen to know that you proved your mettle as DPO Ilasa. What were your major achievements there?
When I got to Ilasa it was tough, hectic and a different ball game. In the Island, if a criminal runs into a house they will turn him in, but in Ilasa they will deny that anybody went into any house and lock the door. I lost many sleepless nights to sanitise Ilasa ranging from robbery on the express, to unearthing and dismantling the den of cultists, petty thieves, rape and a host of other crimes that were never ending. It was an organised crime.
So we started from the expressway because in the past, when your vehicle stops on the road, the hoodlums gather around you to collect money. I gave my boys instruction concerning that. If someone’s vehicle breaks down and you don’t want to help them, why then would you rob them of all their properties at gun point? But first, I did town hall meetings and warned their families to tell their children that this is a different dispensation and we are not going to be friends unless they are law abiding citizens and that was how that of the express stopped. That was how a journalist wrote about me that he never knew that it can be possible and that he was even thinking of writing to the CP that they don’t want a woman as a DPO.
When I got to Ilasa I met an album where they put most wanted criminals. So every morning I wake up, I would go through the album, pick a name and mobilise my boys to look for the person. That was how I started picking them one after the other. There was a particular man who was a serial rapist. I can’t count the number of children this man has raped. It was when he raped another woman that I laid sieged for him for about three months before he was picked up one morning. He is still in Kirikiri as I speak with you, it was a celebrated case in Ilasa and everybody was jubilating and it was carried by some National dallies. #Later we started looking for one Kanmi in Lagos state Command. The CP declared him wanted because he was the head of the Aiye Confraternity, he wanted to go and initiate some people at Bariga on the day President Buhari was in Lagos for the first time. We arrested him under the bridge where he came to inflict injury on a person with a machete and he was arrested and sent to Kirikiri Maximum Prison.
Later, the robber that robbed Basketmouth the comedian was arrested in Ilasa with a fellow gang member, with two AK 47 rifles and some locally made pistol in his possession. In Ilasa, I recovered over 20 locally made pistol and some English pistols. There was also an extended search for Nafiu, whose younger brother killed somebody at Ire Akari but was later arrested where he was sleeping and they are both in Kirikiri.
But the case that really made noise in Ilasa was when I discovered an oil well when I was on patrol with the incident duty officer for Area D. When I finished patrolling with him, I decided to patrol my own division and we saw a woman carrying out suspicious acts at the wee hours of the day and decided to investigate. When she was accosted, she declined any wrong doing by saying she was fetching water from the well, then we persisted to know what exactly she was doing and discovered it was an oil well with refined diesel in about about 15 oil wells in Ilasa and Lagos was agog. With the discovery, there was increased visibility in 2016 and I was given the best DPO in Nigeria by Crime Reporters Association of Nigeria and that was where the heat started from.
By December last year there was a robbery at the other side of Ilasa which belongs to Itire where somebody went to Diamond Bank and coming out, was shot at but he luckily survived. He was however disposed of his valuables. The two robbers were arrested, together with the heads of Aiye, Eiye Confraternities. Another case was that of the arrest of the 20-year-old girl that was killing people within that same week and Ilasa became calm.
So at the end of January this year when the then CP Edgal posted me to be the State Traffic Officer, I couldn’t tell the community I was leaving because there would have been protests not to let me go, I had to run away. They came to the new place I was posted to complain but nothing could be done to counter my posting due to the fact it was to a higher police posting, even the local government chairman wasn’t happy I left.
Now you are Motorpol, how has the journey been?
The journey has been good but a lazy person cannot be in motorpol, as you have to be up and doing to be in such an organisation. It entails being on the road to access the traffic situation across the state. If you are lazy it will tell on your officers but if you are up and doing, it will also show on your officers as they wouldn’t know where you will be at any given time and in order not to be caught unawares they will strive to do their best. Your job is to be on the road. Before 6am, I call the traffic controller to position all the officers at their duty post as all my officials should up and doing their work.
I go on routine traffic checks around the state to supervise the officers on duty. Just this week, I went to Maryland to personally congratulate Inspector Jumai Musa who is in charge of Anthony Division for a job well done and showered her with gifts and also controlled traffic for her. I take breaks and go to the office aound 1:30pm and 2pm to relax and refresh and ensure I am back on the road to handle the traffic especially during the peak periods which usually starts around 3pm and call on other divisional traffic officers and their personnel to move out and push traffic in order for people to get to their destinations on time.
What are the new innovations you have brought to your unit?
Since I came to this place I made sure that their primary assignment is to decongest traffic. Also, they now dress smarter in their uniforms and are more cordial in their dealings with motorists unlike the situation before. I also make sure everyone is always at their duty posts to avoid giving false reports that would jeopardise their situation if found untrue when enquiry is made. They no longer go out to viticimise motorists rather their primary duty is to decongest traffic.
Sometimes we also fix bad roads. One of such was the Ikeja road as it was giving us problems when carrying out our duty. Because of the traffic it was causing, we went looking for debris from construction sites to fill the potholes and also at the Ojuelegba road we also patched things up. So I made them know that their job is not just to control traffic but to first find out what is causing the traffic and then fix it.
You are a wife, mother and a career woman, how do you balance all these roles?
It is not easy to be a career woman, but I thank God that my children understand me. My oldest child is 14 years old,the second is 10 years old and my last child that is a girl is eight years old. On Sundays when trafic is usually light and during holidays are when we make out time to bond. During the week, we see less often but I make sure to provide all they need. My husband has been very supportive irrespective of my hectic schedule. Although many people have told him to make me stop work and stay at home but he doesn’t listen to them as he is a pilot working for Air Peace. He discovered that I enjoy what I do and has also seen I have passion for my job, so he encourages me and reminds me to be up and doing.
He regularly keeps tabs on me and knows my schedule. When I was working as a DPO, I used to close late around 2:30am or 3am but as Motorpol, we close by 10pm, thereby giving me little room to spend time with my family. No police work is easy unless you are not a career woman that can merge the two together so that one job would not affect the other.
What is your advice to young female police officers?
They should not see themselves as women, because once you are in the police, you are in a man’s world. Like the retired CP Fatai who saw me two weeks ago and referred to me as ‘Okunrin Meta’ (loosely translated as strong woman). Because when you are in a man’s world you have to do times two in order to be on top of your game. We should not see ourselves as weaker vessels. Traffic work is not easy, it is not a job for the faint hearted and so I set a pace for myself.
Women have been at the top in different fields. Even in the military, females have reached remarkable heights, so the police should not be an exception. We should see ourselves as role models who are being looked up to and be outstanding in any field.
Oluwasanmi has so far garnered over 36 awards both internationally and locally. Some of them include the Police Community Relation Committee Award (Merit award as DTO Lion Building), PCRC Award (Merit Award) 2014, Bible Society of Nigeria Award (Award of Honor & Contribution to Bible Course) 2015, Crime Reporters Association of Nigeria Award (Distinguished Award in Crime Fighting) 2015, West African Regional Partnership for Peace & Security Award (Merit Award as DPO Ilasamaja, Lead-Time African Magazine Award (Recognition for Outstanding & Dedication) 2016, and Christian Event Watch Magazine Award ( Award for Energetic Solder of Christ & Excellence, Dedication Officer of Law and Security) 2016.
Others include the Nigeria Peace Magazine Award (Leadership Ambassador Award ) 2016, African Voice of Peace Initiative Award (Managerial Merit Award of Excellence) 2016, Leadership Hope Media Award (Leadership Ambassador Award) 2016, ICON Africa Media Award (Prestigious Africa Merit Gold Award) 2016, Voice of Peace Initiative National Building Award (Good Ambassador and Quality Leadership ) 2016, Global Legend Media Award (Global Legend DPO of the Year) 2016, Hall Of Fame Award (DPO of the Year Award) 2017, Crime Link Publication Award (DPO of the year and Pragmatic Leadership) and Society of National Peace & Leadership Award (Excellence in Crime Fighting Award) 2017.
Also she was awarded with Crime Link Publication Award (Outstanding & Distinguished DPO of the Year) 2017, The Apostolic Church Nigeria Ilasamaja (Meritorious Award of Excellence) 2017, Lagos Watch Award (Star Award of Excellence & Distinction) 2017, National Peace Movement Award (Charismatic Leadership Award) 2017, National Association against Drug and Crime Award (Pragmatic Leadership Award), Transparency Nigeria Award (Most Transparent Police Officer of the Year) 2017, Voice of Peace Initiative Award (Peace Ambassador in Nation Building) 2018, Crime Fighter Award of Excellence (Recognition for Excellence ) and West Africa Media Community Award (The Pride News Paper Man of the Year Award) 2019.
She also got the Fresh Fact Magazine Eminence Award (Most Outstanding DPO), Security Watch Africa (Golden Star Award), Crime Reporters Association of Nigeria Award (Police Office of the year), Africa Security Watch award (Best Anti-Crime Police officer in West Africa), JTAH Award (Special Recognition Award for Dedication and Hard Work), CRAN Award (Award for Gallantry in Police Duties), Voice out Nigeria News (National Pride Award) 2019, City Award (Remarkable Work as CSP in Lagos State and Entire south-west) 2019, Committee for the Defense of Human Right CDHR Award (Award for Excellence for Security Service & Security Personnel of the Year) 2019, JTTAH foundation and Voice out Nigeria News awards.
CSP Oriyomi Titilayo Oluwasanmi was born in Lagos in the early 70s and she attended primary and secondary school in lagos. She is a graduate of Philosophy from Ogun State University, now Olabisi Onabanjo University, Ago Iwoye. She also has a Masters Degree in Leadership and Management from the London School of Management. In 2015, she also attended the Police Officer’s Course in Management in Guandong Police Academy, Guangzhou, China.
After her NYSC programme she enlisted into the Nigeria Police as a cadet ASP in 2002. She was trained at Police Academy, Wudil, Kano. Oluwasanmi is happily married and blessed with children.