Former Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), retired Assistant Inspector General of police (AIG), Farida Waziri, believes federal and state governments probing the recent EndSARS crisis must not overlook the influence of drug abuse and political interests in the hijack of the genuine agitation by hoodlums who unleashed mayhem in parts of the country. She also opened up on her lifestyle and charity ventures during an interview in Abuja with select journalists, including Tolulope Ibukunoluwa
How do you feel about the recent EndSARS protest that claimed lives in parts of the country?
One fine morning, we woke up and were confronted by the EndSARS protesters. I observed on my television and it was peaceful and they conducted themselves well. To me, it was ok. You are entitled to that as citizens of this country, if you have any grievances, you should speak out to government. And provided it is peaceful, it was ok. So, it went on. I think they gave some conditions, what you call the ‘five points’ to Mr President. I was happy also that Mr President quickly acceded to them. And I saw the Governor of Lagos State, Babajide Sanwo-Olu, he came to Abuja and presented it, I watched on the television and Mr President conceded.
What shocked me was the turn of events where hoodlums suddenly surfaced and hijacked the process. It was very, very sad. The destruction in Lagos was very painful – the destruction of police stations, those cars, the buses and so many other things. And it got me wondering; what is this all about? What is behind all of this? And there was looting and the saddest part was the killing of policemen. Some people sent it to me and I couldn’t even look at it because I felt that the police, especially the members of the rank and file, they don’t deserve this. They too are at the receiving end. These are the people that are at roadblocks 24/7. Come rain, come sunshine, they are at the filling stations, they are the ones you call when there is problem, they are the ones you call to quell riots, they are the ones who get killed almost every day, leaving their poor children untrained and all that. So, to say that you are killing the police when in another breath, you say you want the enhancement of the police, improvement of their welfare and all that and you turn around to destroy the little that they have, you turn around to kill them in cold blood, it was one of the saddest days.
You retired as an AIG in the police, what was SARS like in your time?
SARS was not so prominent in those days.
I will tell you, what we have then was Alagbon Close. You might be too young to know about Alagbon Close. But if you tell a man that you are invited to Alagbon Close, he would almost collapse. There was professionalism, and they were the FBI of Nigeria at that time. So, there was a little bit of SARS then. Again, don’t forget that these crimes were not to this level. There was no much of robbery, there were few cases, there were few assassinations, and there were no kidnappings and rapes. The society had not gone haywire in criminal tendencies like what we have now. I was Commissioner of Police, Administration, of Alagbon. So, we had SARS in Adeniji-Adele, they were not on the roads, they were not stopping and searching, they were not asking questions and they were not dealing with members of the public like that. They would sit down in unmarked cars and maybe with their walkie-talkie. The communication gadget was very effective.
So, at what point did the force bring them out?
I wouldn’t even know. To this extent really, I am just trying to also know about it because at that time, it was mobile police. Do you remember the time of ‘Adewusi’s Kill and Go?’ The mobile policemen! They nicknamed them Adewusi’s Kill and Go; that was the mobile. They were highly rated, they were powerful and they could contest with the Nigerian Army. So, those vans, riot vans, water cannons, the police bought them. The police had them and I think later on, they returned them to the military. So, the mobile police, they have a training school in Gwoza. That was then. SARS was just at the background.
What would you think was responsible for the misbehaviour attributed to some of the operatives?
In any one country, you are dealing with human beings. And human beings are made up of the good, the bad and the ugly, the one they call the bad eggs. And the bad eggs can then impugn on the integrity of others, innocent people unfortunately. I think that is what happened. Probably, there were few bad eggs that rubbed badly on the people and others. And don’t forget that no science can tell what a human being would eventually turn into. So, that is what happened and the relationship with members of the public broke down. You say the police is your friend, but at the end, you are at the receiving end. And nobody wants that. The Nigerian people would want their police to be like the British Bobby. They are just there, their hands behind their back, they are working, patrolling, if you ask them the road, they will lead you, they are polite, they are not carrying guns, they have batter. They want a situation like that. So, it is very unfortunate.
You must have followed the narrative of how the genuine protest was hijacked by hoodlums who vandalized and looted many public and private properties, why did you think that happened?
I am very careful to analyse that kind of situation. But I would want the government to thoroughly investigate that hijack. Something went wrong. You see, something went seriously wrong because the venom that was unleashed on private property was too much. Something went wrong, maybe there were some people behind it, but I am not in a position to say. As a lawyer, I speak about facts and I don’t want to speculate or carry rumours. It is very dangerous. But something obviously went wrong.
But what could have been their motivation because they went to NPA and other national assets?
That is why I am saying something is wrong. What is the correlation between NPA and hoodlums? So, if you say some people took advantage, you know this is a country where people always have an axe to grind. The politicians, I am afraid to say our politicians have let us down a great deal. When they want power, they go all out. When they get the power, their traditional homes in the village, you will see big, big Alsatian dogs, keep off! You come to where they are, it is guards, Alsatian dogs, keep off. And they used these guys. They used them and then they discard them. Those politicians that are not grassroots democratic politicians, but they are bad losers, they must be relevant.
If you look at Nigeria now, it is not so much business, it is politics. People want to be relevant all the time. A governor does eight years, if you are lucky, you see dividends of democracy and the next four years, he is building war chest. He has to contest to come to the Senate. He gets to the Senate, he is quarrelling with the Senate President because he wants what they call lucrative committees. It is continuous and there is never a time to say that we are for the masses. And another thing we must not take our eyes away from is the impact of drug abuse on the hoodlums who hijacked the legitimate protest by the youths. Tell me, someone who went to remove the signboard of Jalingo or Ekiti state House of Assembly or even the toilet seat in someone’s house. What did they need all those for? They are not food and so can’t solve their hunger problem.
Certainly, a lot of these hoodlums must have acted that way after abuse of drugs and that’s why I think President Buhari needs to do all he can urgently to empower the Gen. Marwa led Presidential Advisory Committee for the Elimination of Drug Abuse, PACEDA. They were everywhere with the First Lady and wife of the Vice President last year on this critical assignment but we don’t hear of them again. That is an initiative that must not be allowed wasted or put in the cooler.
So, it is about greed and personal interest?
It is greed. Vested interest, personal interest! And that’s why we have to be careful with the idea of state police. Community police is a better option. There is nothing to be politically correct about on this because our politicians are desperadoes who engage in do or die politics; they will end up pocketing the police commissioner and before you know it, there might be war between state A and state B. We are good with community police but our country is not yet mature for state police. We can do a lot better on our security architecture with the right leadership. President Buhari is committing so much to this and that’s why we have the level of peace we are enjoying at the moment despite some pockets of challenges in some parts of the country. Remember when Gen. Buba Marwa was the military administrator of Lagos, I was in Lagos then and there were security challenges and he personally coordinated operation sweep which metamorphosed into today’s Rapid Response Squad and dismantled all the robbery networks across the state. That was how security was restored in Lagos then. That’s how it should be.
How should government now respond to the youths’ demands?
Government has to be careful. Government has to be careful with them until we know what actually happened, who hijacked them. There is something going on about the Lekki thing. I didn’t watch people in uniform allegedly military shooting at people. But I saw the bullets flying in the sky, and I know that when you are called to quell riots, to disperse innocent people who are not armed, you carry dummy bullets. You don’t carry bullets that can kill. So, I suspect that probably they called them and I didn’t see them shooting at the people. I saw them in the sky because you can see the lightening in the sky. So, until government knows what happened, we can draw conclusions yet.
But each case, according to law, must be treated according to its own merit. That is, those who wilfully damaged property of innocent people must be charged to court and those who killed should also be charged to court for murder. That is if they knew what they were doing, if they have the intent. Did they intend to kill the police? Did they plan to kill or were they on drugs or were they not in their senses? So, you will even need psychiatric examination and all that. Another thing is not to throw the baby with the bath water away. When you group them in detention, COVID-19 is there. We should not forget that. We don’t want all of them to contract COVID-19. The best thing is to take them to court, charge them quickly and send them to prison. Those you want to release on lack of sufficient evidence, you release; those you want to release on other grounds, you release; and so on and so forth.
What would you say are the lessons for the country?
The lesson is that you make people feel important. You don’t have to be a minister, you don’t have to be a senator, and you don’t have to be in any public office. But as long as you are a Nigerian, you should be made to feel that you belong in this country; and your life matters and the security of your children matter and that if they cry out, government should listen to them. Those who have to go to school, let them go to school. Those who want business, government should create conducive atmosphere for them to survive. Government can’t create jobs for everybody. But look, the money they are giving such as N-Power, Tradermoni, Marketmoni, Farmermoni, N-Tech and N-Agro, they say it is better to give you the rod to fish for yourself than to give you fish to eat and the next day, you come back.
So, I want the government to create conducive atmosphere for everybody in Nigeria and they should make available, skill acquisition centres in the 36 states and give them money to start a little business of their own. And there are many things they can do such as being a cobbler, being a basket maker, be an artisan, being a plumber, being an electrician etc. These jobs need little money for start-ups. You don’t just give them money. If you give them money and they go and do drugs and some of them just marry and the purpose is defeated. And government should ensure that money is reaching them. You don’t just say you gave them money. There is BVN. Let them open account, let them have surety, referees; let somebody sign for them. And if you like, keep some particular banks and say this is N-Power bank, this is Tradermoni bank and then, they know where they take their paper and go to because this is Nigeria. If you just release money, you don’t know if the money gets to them.
Regarding the police, the 36 states should have referential colleges. We used to have what is called referential courses. Before promotion, you have to go to be promoted. You know training is training, retraining, and continuous training because the society is changing. It is not static. So, the modus operandi of the criminal, maybe he was poisoning people, you knew about it, then he will change tactics. So, you need to change and be one step ahead of the criminal. This is what the police needs to do.
And the governors, particularly the northern governors, I don’t know why they would not go on mechanised farming. Let us replicate what happened in those days when Kano had pyramids. You remember it was hoe and cutlass and they built that pyramid like the pyramid of Egypt. Why can’t they do it now? So, the governors don’t want mechanised farming. You know it is capital intensive and there are no kickbacks and kick fronts.
After your tenure in EFCC, you run a law firm, private security outfit and an NGO. What time do you have to rest?
I have time to rest. But rest as medically possible. You know I had a lot of challenges like I lost my husband and daughter within one year and it took a lot of toll on me. I don’t want to sit idle and be thinking. So, I get very, very busy. I am not a senior advocate, I don’t get so much briefs. But what I get, I manage. I also have this WYCCO – Women, Youth, Children and Crime Organisation and I partnered with a Canadian company on women mortality also. So, it keeps me busy. I have never applied for any grant. I just get from my pension, I do little things. I go to prisons sometimes because when they release people after years, they just put them outside there with their little thing under their armpit.
They don’t know where to go to. We ask them, where are you going to? And we settle and take them to where they are going and we give them something. And then, the IDP camps, we go to them, motherless babies and so many other things like people who have problems. They need just a little money for operation, I have a secretary, she jots them down and we send. These are the things I am doing. And the company, Trans Atlantic Security, was incorporated in London. The branch is what we have here. My son handles the training in London, and we are doing the physical here with the people and we screen them, young people, we train them. When I started, I was even training them in Police College in Kaduna, and my intention was to have a training institution for this kind of people because what you see is that anybody who has a company will just go to Wuse market, sew uniforms and give them. That is not it. We have our certificate from Civil Defence, and so, we want to later on include dogs, and then, train them.
What’s your best dress style?
Dress style is something free on me. I wore uniform with belt all my life. So, anytime I get home from office, I will quickly throw away the barrette cap, remove the belt and I would take something loose. I don’t want hugging cloths or tight thing. You can see all the things are loose. I want to be very, very free.
What’s your favourite food?
Pounded yam because of where I come from, Benue; it is three times a day.
What soup does it go with? Egusi soup?
Is that the soup that is typical with your people?
Yes, they like it so much, egusi and okra. There, they can boil yam in the morning, fry in the night and in the afternoon, roast and pound yam. Then, when the child wakes up and you say, have you eaten? He will say I have not eaten since morning, it is only little rice because he has not eaten pounded yam.
Where is your favourite holiday destination? Is it the United States or the United Kingdom?
I think it is the UK.
Is it because it is cosmopolitan?
No, my children all schooled in the UK. So, I was just going and coming. My son went to Buckingham University, so I would go and stay; then one went to Leicester, I would go and stay and then, one went to Derby and one went to Manchester. So, I became used to taking foodstuffs to them. But apart from the UK, my husband was ambassador for four years and when he told me we were going to Turkey, I said no, I don’t want that. But that is one of the best places.
Yes. The people are so good and committed and hardworking. They don’t import anything. They have their pharmaceutical company, their medications are good; they are card-cutting, blind, bed sheets, furniture; they do everything. So, you see that at the airport, it is full life; activity of shipping, shipping, shipping and all that. And for medicals, it is the cheapest and one of the best.
What sports do you do?
Table tennis, snooker, and golf.
Which is first on your list?
I prefer golf because I was having knee problem and the doctor said I should be walking. I said, how can I be walking in Abuja? At that time, kidnapping was so much. I said they would kidnap me. He said look, do you know that if you play a golf nine holes, you have walked three miles? I said I didn’t like it. I said look, when you go to watch basketball, you sit down, but that one, you see them walking, walking. So, by the time I started, it is amazing. There; we have some crocodiles, we have birds on the trees, you have plants, and it is very, very nice for me.