Retired Deputy Inspector-General of Police, Adeleye Oyebade will surely be remembered for the role he played in the adoption and implementation of community policing across the country. Best described as Mr. Integrity amongst police officers who insist that there is no short cut as long as a case is assigned to Oyebade.
On December 22, after attaining the age of 60 he retired from the Nigeria Police Force (NPF) as DIG in-charge of Research and Planning having served in various capacities. He was the Principal Staff Officer (PSO 2) to then IGP Sunday Ehindero, DCP State CID, Panti, Lagos; AIG in charge of Zone 11, comprising Ondo, Oyo, and Osun States and finally DIG in charge of Research and Planning. In this interview with CHIOMA OKEZIE-OKEH , he advised that the disbanded Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) or its equivalent must be retained in order to quell violent crime which is trending across the globe. He narrated how he escaped being killed by members of the Indigenous People of Biafra, IPOB, in the course of his work.
You are regarded as an officer of repute in the force. How did you get to that point?
Let me first appreciate God. I believe that all that happened since I joined the Nigeria Police Force till the last moment that I had the opportunity to leave has been under the command of God himself. When you look at the police job, it’s so demanding, risky and you must sacrifice and endure.
I love the job, so I do it with all my heart not because I did not get any other thing to do but as a professional. My concept of policing is about, policing with the fear of God, touching lives, believing that fairness and justice must prevail. I want to look at it that I tried my best not to only preach it but practice it. I also tried to mentor some officers to toe the same path. It’s been challenging and rewarding. There is a lot to sacrifice because you do not have time for your family and yourself. But the sacrifice of love that one had been able to put in place, I want to believe that God has crowned it with this my exit.
Take for example the election in Edo and Ondo; it was so challenging because the whole country was wondering whether it will happen or not. In that type of situation, you had to think outside the box, to ensure that you are able to execute the professional job given to you without soiling your hand and have your integrity intact.
You were a leading member of the police management team at a period of serious insecurity in the country. What do you think went wrong?
Crime is dynamic and when you analyze crime, you have to look at it not from the Nigerian perspective but globally. There are times in this country when robbery was a serious crime; there was a time when people were more into online fraud which was as a result of globalization, urbanization and development of information technology. Then kidnapping, banditry and others became a trend. It is not only in Nigeria that you have that challenge, it is in other regions. They have their own share but the issue is if we have the capacity to confront such heinous crimes. With the present program of repositioning the police, the new police act and adoption of the policing concept, I believe there is light at the end of the tunnel. You cannot compare Nigeria of today with Nigeria 30 years ago in terms of development and economic activities. All of these have an impact on the type of crime that is prevalent in society. Where we have such a problem, the idea is to generate a strategy that must be used to nip it in the bud. I want to believe that we are on the right track with the adoption and implementation of the community policing, because I was fortunate to be part of the Senior Executive Course 42 that was at the apex think-tank of this country in 2018 and the government looking at the security situation of the country wanted the internal security architecture reviewed. The theme was ‘Strengthening Internal Security and Community Policing in Nigeria’. Federal Government spent a lot of money to fund that research, after that, we went around all the institutions that are relevant in policing in this country, like in Lagos and Rivers, there is the Neighborhood Watch, and in the North – the Hisbah. We also went to countries that have practiced and adopted community policing. We did a presentation in front of the Federal Executive Council (FEC) in batches, they adopted it and it’s been implemented across the country. It is going to be the police strategy that will combat heinous crimes in Nigeria. We will use them more for intelligence-led policing; we will use them more for gathering intelligence. By the time we are able to pick them before the crime is committed, you see that prevention has been done.Are you saying that Nigeria is not ripe for state policing?
Community policing that is being implemented should be given an opportunity. Let’s see how it works. Government has gone far; we have done sensitization; that is why several retired Inspectors General of Police are going around the states on sensitization visits. It is working in the advanced world, so why not here.
What is your honest assessment of the police force you left behind?
It is upcoming, although there are challenges. One of them is that we have to upgrade our technical platforms. The fact that Nigerian policemen get accolades outside this country when on the United Nations mission, and awards anytime we have an assignment outside this country, says a lot about what we can do. We only need to increase our training and retraining. On investigation, we need more hands especially those with specialized skills. We need the equipment in quelling protests; instead of meeting protesters with bare hands, things like water cannon can be used. At the recruitment level, we need all those that made first class, not people who are idle. We should train and retrain and back it up with enough technology, but the truth is that the police that I have left behind is not bad at all.
During the EndSARS protests, why was it impossible for the police management team to handle the situation properly to the point where some policemen threatened to resign?
We need to appreciate the Nigeria Police. Records will continue to justify what we did and patience and endurance on our path led to what happened. That police did not lose their hold even to the last. If we take a look at what the law says about defending oneself, if it had been followed we would have lost a lot of persons. The police are always taking that right judgment when it’s the best time to use firearms. The challenge there is that the youths overstepped their boundaries. When they had the opportunity to negotiate with the government they would have arranged for someone to speak on their behalf. In every disagreement, there must be engagement. By the time those who were sympathetic to their protest started crying that the protesters were infringing on their rights, the whole thing lost its focus. Ideally, the content of what they were asking for is a different ball game but the procedure is very faulty.
Was changing the name from SARS to SWAT the best solution to the cause of the agitation?
What led to the creation of SARS? You would recall that there was a time when there were regular attacks on the highways. You can’t travel by road and not meet one set of robbers or the other. These were some of the reasons why that department was created. There are so many good police officers who have risked it all to keep us safe. It is not right to condemn all because of the mistakes of one or two persons. People expect so much from us, anything less calls for criticism. The department has to remain with a new arrangement by the government. Policing is a big deal, are you saying that we have to scrap the marine department because a crime was committed there. You cannot remove that department totally because of a challenge, it is so critical that the police must rearrange and reposition it to address the needs of today.
Why did you choose police as a career?
I love the police job. On January 16, 1986, I got an appointment to become a graduate assistant in the then upcoming Ogun State University. My parents wanted me to go into academics; on the evening of the same day, I also got an appointment to join the police. I simply told my father that I want to join the police. When I was on my Masters degree, I wanted to go into Police or Navy because of their uniform which was white. When I was in primary school, the way I normally iron my cloth as the Class Captain, they said that I had the credential to join the military. I already had it at the back of my mind, so when the two came I opted for the police and I have no regret. You can see that I did it with passion.
Can you recount some of the challenges that you faced especially close shave with death?
I never thought of resigning. When I was Commissioner of Police in Oyo, there was always one strike by the workers, you have to go out and manage the workers. When I was in Abia during the time that they have not banned IPOB, the quarter was very close to their base. It was a serious challenge getting them to run their activities within the ambit of the law.
By the time I got to AIG Zone 11, you could recall that in Osogbo that was supposed to be one of the safest in this country, they started kidnapping. It was a big challenge. We confronted it through community policing and intelligence gathering. Mining was another thing because a lot of people were relocating to that zone. Then as a DIG, the community policing and a lot of criticism that followed it and we did our best through sensitization to get the people to accept it. Then the Edo election that was tough, people thought there will be a lot of killing. The Ondo was also there, it’s been all over from Lagos to Benin, Rivers State and Asaba in Delta State. Even when I was a DPO in Babura, Jigawa, a town very close to Cameroon in 1993 when a presidential candidate,MKO Abiola died. We had an influx of people coming in and we had the challenge of people coming in to make sure we curtail those who wanted to mar the insecurity situation in town.
As for the near-death experience, the IPOB attack was one of them. Very early in the morning, they were shooting at my residence, luckily every Commissioner of Police house has guards outside, even during that period we did not take anything for granted. We were sleeping with one eye closed, with our AK47 by our side. Luckily no life was lost on both sides. Another one was when I travelled for an official assignment and was to travel outside the country the next day. I went to Borno for an assignment, and on our way back we entered one of the toughest storms in my life.
You look so strong, even at 60, so what will the retired DIG be doing in the nearest future?
I like nature so I intend to go into farming. I want to invest in cassava processing. It can be used to produce several products.
Your advice for serving policemen?
I want them to police with the fear of God and what I meant by that is not for them to remove anything from what the constitution says. You have the power to arrest, investigate and prosecute. So when you investigate, do that with the fear of God. When you prosecute, do that with the fear of God.