•Participants at WAFCON 2017 laud Ojajuni, Umoh for initiating military-police reconciliation
By Kehinde Aderemi
The Nicon Luxury Hotel, Abuja, was a beehive of activities on Monday, January 23. It was the day Nigeria hosted this year’s edition of the West African Conference on Security Communications and Public Information Management (WAFCON 2017).
It was a gathering of leading international experts, who had converged to discuss the various approaches to fighting terrorism in Africa and how to manage information during crisis.
The project was a brainchild of the Peace & Conflict Resolution Resource Centre (PEACREC), the promoters of Military, Police and Paramilitary Public Relations Officers Forum (MILPOPPROF).
MILPOPPROF is an association of public relations managers of security agencies, who make up primary stakeholders of the forum. Law enforcement and intelligence agencies, public information managers, the civil society, media organisations, the judiciary, emergency response groups, non-governmental organisations, corporate affairs managers, the academia and consumers of security services constitute its secondary stakeholders.
“A team of officers, who had passion and vision for Nigeria, established the forum in 2006 to stop rivalry between uniformed officers,” said Steve Okonmah, the Chief Facilitator of the forum.
Recent activities show that MILPOPPROF, a war-child born 11 years ago, has come of age. It was born shortly after the 2006 bloody clash between soldiers and the police at Ojuelegba in Lagos.
It was the initiative of Bode Ojajuni, a Chief Superintendent of Police (CSP), who was then a Superintendent of Police in charge of Police Public Relations in Lagos, and then Major Kingsley Umoh, now a Colonel and Executive Director, Defence Information at Army Headquarters. To a large extent, MILPOPPROF appears to have achieved its objective of ending the rivalry between the military and the police.
When soldiers descended on the Area ‘C’ Headquarters of the Police at Ojuelegba and set it ablaze in 2006, three officers displayed great courage while trying to contain the military incursion. One of them was the then Deputy Commissioner of Police in charge of operations in Lagos, Mr. John Haruna, who later died as a DIG in a helicopter crash, during another dangerous mission in Jos.
Another is the then Area ‘C’ Commander, Mr. Sam Dam Adegbuyi, who is now the Oyo State Commissioner of Police. Adegbuyi was seen at that time as a supernatural being, because rain began to fall, when fire got to him, as he was trapped in a burning building.
And there was Ojajuni, who was captured and seriously battered before the soldiers made him a prisoner of war at Abalti Military Cantonment in Surulere.
It was the Assistant Inspector-General of Police (AIG) at Zone 2 then, Mr. Israel Ajao, who sent a mobile police commander, Kingston Orutugu, to secure the release of Ojajuni from Abalti Military Cantonment.
Ojajuni’s courage earned him awards in Nigeria and Ghana then.
Ojajuni also set up the Human Rights Desk in Lagos, which has been replicated, nationwide. The MacArthur Foundation later identified him in October 2008 as a well-informed person on policing issues in Nigeria in a letter signed by its Director, Africa Office, Dr. Kola Shettima, inviting Ojajuni for a meeting with Mr. Paul Evans of the Foundation.
The January 23 event was described by one of the participants, Mr. Igwe Chibueze, as a grand debut and a rich experience.
The conference brought together 150 delegates across the stakeholders’ spectrum within Nigeria and West Africa. Among the topics discussed was “Crisis and Information Management: A Perspective on West African Security.”
The experts shared ideas, perspectives and experiences on security communication and public information management in the ever-evolving global security environment. And the latest trend in security communication and gadgets were showcased.
Okonmah noted that the objectives of the conference included helping participants to get better equipped with vital information on crisis management.
The major challenge before the military, the police and other security agencies today is how to manage crisis with proactive techniques that are consistent with modern public relations models.