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Monday, 31 December 2012

When you mention deputy commissioner of police in Lagos (operations) it may not ring bell to many but the name Tunde Sobulo is a name that has come to reckon with in Nigeria particularly Lagos police force. The Ogun state born intelligent and hardworking official in the Lagos police has made an impressive record due to his ability to sensitize and cleanse the notorious criminal areas in Lagos particularly the Mushin and Akala area which is known as a hide out for hoodlums and thugs. Sobulo has been commended to have brought peace and rest of mind to that area people can now sleep with their two eyes closed. This good job among others active work earned him the high position he is today and more promotions on the way. Executive editor in Chief, Ola Muhammed, Entertainment editor, Ibraheem Abiodun and Islanders reporter, Aremu Mutiat visited him at the police force headquarter Lagos, Ikeja where we had a chat with him for close to two hours discussing his career, experiences in force , security issues and other shocking issues .
Sir, before you got into the office as the Deputy Commissioner of Police in charge of operations in Lagos State, you were very active and always on the road 24/7 curbing crimes in most dreaded areas across Lagos and you brought sanity to countless areas and communities where people believed were crime prone areas. But Sir, much is not heard in that position, since you left. What do you think is the problem?          
Well maybe they are not as lucky as I was when I was there because of the relationship I have with people over the years due to my duties as head of operations. I am a grass root person and being a grass root person that automatically gives you an edge and certain advantages over so many things and I believe that really helped me in making progress and having results. I know we have people of integrity with the same vision in that capacity and I sincerely believe they are really working hard in ensuring a safer state for all.
 Looking back sir, which would you consider the most challenging in discharging your duties of curbing crimes and maintaining Law and Order that almost made you resigned? 

Well, all of them were challenging even life is a challenge; we live day by day with it, but not to the point of resigning. Maybe I can talk about the disappointment of the society not understanding the issue at that particular time and that was the issue of the OPC. People lack the understanding, the mission and everything at that time. I was in Kano before I came back to Lagos and I was a founding member of ODUA DECENDANT union in Kano our goal then was to promote Yoruba culture, we held meetings assisted ourselves in the area of weddings even to the extent if anybody dies we contribute money and take him back to the South. But disappointedly, when I came back to Lagos, the ODUA DECENDANT union that later became the OPC either because of the leadership problems, they eventually missed the road and started allocating to themselves the jobs they were not supposed to be doing. They were arresting, torturing and passing judgments, some even built cells and I found it totally absurd because that wasn’t the mission of the OPC. They were even carrying arms in public. Initially some people even some elites in the press fails to understand that what the OPC were doing wasn’t right, they got carried away by the ethnical, cultural thing. The law is very straight about that, every citizen has the right to arrest anybody who is not doing the right thing and it went further to say that, you must hand over such person(s) to a police officer rather than take the law into your hands. It was so serious that I received a lot of threats to my life, my family they even went as far as reporting me to my Mother. At that time there were lot of killings everywhere, a DPO in Bariga was killed and a lot of innocent lives was lost and the society refused to see these things and it pained me a lot that people were doing the wrong thing and instead of the larger society condemning them, they were harboring them. I think that was one of the greatest challenges I had.
  Sir, in the last one year the level of crime reduced considerably, but just some four weeks ago there has been series of armed robberies attack and kidnappings all over the State. What is your office doing about this?
Your observation is half correct and half incorrect, if you put the month we are in perspective you will agree with me that we use to have increase in crime at this time of the year. But if you now try to compare the situation now to 2009, 2010 and 2011you will find out that we are doing better than what it used to be. It’s one thing to report a crime or robbery going on in a particular area and before the police gets there, the robbers must have ran away maybe because they heard that the police are coming and we must have heard there was robbery going on somewhere and in that situation nobody would be able to tell us whether the robbers were caught, arrested or ran away. In this situation the police would have to shoulder the blame which sometimes shouldn’t be.
You were once the head of operations in SARS, now Deputy Commissioner of Police in charge of operations. What is the difference between staying in office giving orders and going out everyday facing extreme situations in curbing crimes?
Even the commissioner of police in this state is an operation officer, I’m deputy commissioner of police in charge of operations so we are all in day to day, hour to hour, and minute to minute operation, and we are not missing anything. We are still on ground, is either we are giving directives on air, on the phone and sometimes it requires going there yourself, we are all indeed working together to curb crime.
For instance, last week we were in couple of places where we were having problems Onipanu, Jibowu, Akala and somewhere in Agege. I personally went to Agege because of some people going against State Government law, on the issue of Okada ban on highways. And let me use this medium to tell you that the first set of people to enforce this law, when it was initially suggested by the state Governor, were the Army commander, Airforce commander, Naval commander and the Police commissioner, they were going out in the nights enforcing the law on the ban of Okadas on the highways and restricted areas, because the law says 8pm restriction in the Island and 10pm Mainland. That is to tell you we are all working together and not missing anything.
What is your opinion on the ban of Okada and has it reduced crime rate?                                                                                                    
Please let me correct this impression, Okada was never banned in Lagos. They were restricted to certain routes. If you take a look at those routes apart from crime, those routes are suicidal, are very unreasonable for somebody to carry Okada & jump into Abeokuta express road, where we have trailers, tankers, buses and so on and say you are carry passengers to earn a living, it’s suicidal. What we are saying is these roads you’re restricted but from this road you can operate, but if you think you want to commit suicide, then you have to go back to your village because we would not allow that here. I’m fully aware of one fatal Okada accident along Lekki/Ajah road, since we have started this operation and that is what we are saying we don’t want. And for robbery somebody paying three thousand naira for Okada, from Onipanu to Lekki to go and rob has disappeared, snatching peoples bags on Okada has equally disappeared, so there has been serious crime reduction since we have started working on this Okada. We are now more visible on the roads.
 You just mentioned that Okada were not banned but restricted but I think some policemen lack the understanding between complete ban and routes restrictions. Don’t forget Sir, Okada is the only means of survival for most of them?                                                        
Maybe we still need to do some kind of pubic enlightenment, because every officer operating these law have been giving a pamphlet so that means you now as elite(s) still repeating ban on okada, it means something is wrong because Okadas are not banned in Lagos. But what we are saying is, some routes are no go areas they are restricted. Let me tell you I was in the committee that came out with this, we recommended total ban, but the Governor said No, we cannot ban them completely let us just restrict them from certain areas and you know the Governor been a Man of the people and also maybe he had seen something we didn’t see. Even in those places we have approved, there are areas you can’t go 24hrs a day and some of this routes were picked by the Governor, some Local Government Chairmen even came and said please add some of this my own routes to it and that is why we are having sanity now. So Okadas were not banned, the operators are fully aware of where they are restricted and where they are not. Let me give you an example, if you’re coming from Oba Akran straight to Mobolaji Bank Anthony, both route is restricted, so if you now find an Okada there, did the Okada fall from the sky or how did it get there? We still have an effectual law that says from a certain time to certain time Okada shouldn’t be seen on particular routes and that has really assisted us in late hour robberies and attacks.
 There is an area somewhere in Ajah, called Ilaje it leads to Moba, it’s a small community and not even listed among restricted areas yet you find policemen there disturbing and extorting money from the Okada operators. What do you say about this Sir?                                                                       
I wouldn’t want to go into moral thing those are societal problem, as we have bad Policemen we also have bad Journalists, bad Doctors and so on but if you take a look at the percentage of those who are doing that as far as am concerned are not much. And apart from that we take disciplinary action and that is why we are giving our numbers out, once you see any policeman doing things they are not suppose to do, call us we take action. But don’t forget even before the enforcement of Okada restrictions, there has been a stop and search of Okada by the policemen in some areas, in checking crimes and in some of those exercises, we have recovered cutlasses, locally made pistols and some other dangerous weapons. So on such unrestricted route(s) when a policeman stops an okada operator to check whoever passenger he’s carry and nothing incriminating is found, such person should be allow to go.
Has the ban on Police Check Points across the Nation reduced crime in Nigeria, most especially in Lagos State?
The Inspector general of police in his wisdom took a decision some of us have been yearning for that we can police this country without road blocks. There is no any society, anytime, where there is no crime but we believe we can do it ourselves. When you look at the statistics too, I feel there is no alarming statistics that says because we removed road blocks that is why the crime went up. But what I can tell you is that we are happy that road blocks were removed because first and foremost accidental discharge reduced and secondly, no trailers, no tankers were killing our men on the road and lastly, I have not seen any of our men slumped because he wasn’t collecting bribe on the road, so you can see it’s like the Inspector General of Police read our minds before he came to the office. And now maybe when we are not on the road, the society and even the press would like to know what is happening in the Judiciary and other areas.
Sir, you are regarded as a very discipline, tough, fearless and committed police officer who loves and takes his job very seriously and has been in extreme situations a lot of time, in the spirit of ensuring a crime free state. What was the reason behind a life and death decision of sanitizing the dungeon called Akala in Mushin you took at that time? 
I think funny enough, it’s more or less like a background thing. I grew up here before I travelled abroad to continue my education, so I know every nook and cranny of Mushin and also if you take a look at the era of OPERATION SWEEP and the early stage of RRS, the way we dealt with Akala was very different. When I came back the Governor called me and told me personally that something has to be done about Mushin, Onipanu and so on, we went round every areas that has been mentioned and then the hostility was still there, but we stood our ground. I went there with about ten patrol
vehicles the first day and by the time I entered Akala and looked back, eight of that patrol vehicles had disappeared but I stood my ground, even some of them wanted to start throwing bottles but I told them I knew where they were hiding those bottles so if you
throw a bottle at me, I would throw a bottle back at you. Then, I told them I just wanted to talk to you guys, so they started coming and I delivered the Governor message to them and also told them they were not going to gain anything out of violence and luckily they listened to me. Then we had meetings and people started saying all sorts of things that I was meeting with criminals and murderers and so on, people failed to understand something that anytime there was trouble the very first set of people you meet on the way telling us to go further, are the real criminals, but you won’t know. The meeting now gave us the opportunity to seat them down and know who is who, at the meeting, you will introduce yourself tell us your name, address, phone number, we even took photographs. So anytime there was problem we know who and who to look for, because we already have their data, just after then the big names started coming and they started accusing themselves of one thing or the other, at the end of the day, we now say look we have heard from right and left and we asked them what is the solution. There were lot of bitterness, some say it’s the transport thing other say another thing, but at the end we find out that it has to do with the Mushin thing which is the ego problem. At the end of the day, we were able to bring them down with clear understanding of their language and sincerity because we told them we were not going to take sides and I think that was the fuel that made the engine room ran very well. Today I can tell you that before anybody perpetrates any evil in Akala, they will be the first to call us.
Do you still maintain that relationship with them?
Yes beautiful, still very cordial relationship, let me tell you, somebody called me and said some of your boys are fighting o and I asked what the problem was, I was surprised to hear they were fighting over what to buy for me for Ileya festival. Some said let us buy this and some were saying no, let’s buy a bigger thing. So it’s a thing of joy because we have never had that kind of thing before and we give God all the glory.

Looking at the issue of security in Lagos state, no doubt crime has reduced but still some challenges although, you said there is no total eradication of crime anywhere and now some people are agitating for State Policing, they believe with state police we can eradicate some minor crimes in the state and in some neighborhood with the support of Neighborhood watch because they believe we know ourselves.
Sir, what is your opinion on the issue of State Police?
I was in Alausa when we were forming the neighborhood watch and there were certain things that was on mind then before we started it,  luckily it’s working very well but that doesn’t mean we should forget we have a culture in this part of the world.  You cannot compare the way police started in Europe and America to the way it started in Africa or Western Africa Nigeria or South West Nigeria, we have our own way of policing, but when the colonial master came it was a big problem. Rather than continuing with that, they formed a police force to take care of their trade and their quarters, keeping you and I from moving closer to them.  Unfortunately, that was what we inherited from the colonial masters; we were not having people to police. In England for example, when they were starting the policing, it was the nobles that use to go on patrol, these are people who have factories, businesses and what have you, they were volunteering to go on patrol the neighborhood, then gradually they started handing over to the supervisors, foreman to go and represent them, before the Irish people took over the police. Same thing in America. I’m familiar with England, this are the first seven colonial masters, the system of policing there was, the fishermen would go on fishing, it’s a settlement, and the hunters too would also go hunting, leaving behind able bodied men to police the community. When they return, another set takes over from them, you can see people policing very different from ours. What we inherited here was not people policing still we are coping, but that doesn’t mean we should now jump and say state police, there are other alternatives than state police because we need this centralized police force because of certain immaturities all over the country. You can not say because you have a level headed Governor Fashola who have human feelings and maintaining the family name you need a state police, what happens if  you have a hot headed person and starts using police to harass people? We need to balance up, there is nothing wrong with the National police force, what we need to do is to continue to plead with the Federal Government to release more funds and also do some minor restructuring and the restructuring must also still be under the Inspector General of Police.  I’m not in support of state police, take your mind back to the kind of weapons that were released by the militants during the amnesty and there were allegations left and right that most of these weapons were bought for them by some top Government functionaries, can you now imagine if you’re giving a Governor an authority to buy and equip a state police, it’s like an intention of starting a civil war. Even if you look at our neighbors, how many of them are having state police? Take Ghana for example, they don’t have state police and nearly all our colonial countries don’t have state police. And most importantly, police funding is not a child’s play, it’s not like going to the market to buy ingredient. For now, some of these state we are talking about cannot even generate enough funds to pay salaries of their workers, they still rely on Federal Government to fund their state police, so the purpose is defeated. 
 Sir, what’s your take on the speculations that when you report a criminal based on the popular payoff that ‘police is your friend’,  suddenly the police in return sells you out to the criminal and when he’s released, he comes after your life?
Well, it has been a story going round and round every time, but this is an era of GSM #31# you can call and report any crime to anybody. But let me give you an example, this afternoon as I was going to Oshodi, I got a call from somebody that he saw a group of men in a Kia Sorento car, somewhere around Fatgbems petrol station, quickly I mobilized patrol vehicles from Isheri Division and Ojodu Division, they went there and the young men were found inside the car, they were thoroughly searched and nothing was found on them, but they were still taking to the police station for proper documentation. But, the person who gave me that information, even If he knew them and he was not in position to know that both the car and those people were thoroughly searched and were even taking to the station for proper documentation, what do you feel would be his thinking? I tell you the situation is not as bad as we are portraying it and we are always telling the public, go straight to a senior police officer to report your case.
 How do you access a senior police officer to report a case, when you are prevented from seeing them when you get to the station and sometimes you are embarrassed or thrown out of the station?
If I sit down here and tell you it’s not happening I’m lying, it’s happening and we are aware of it, time and time we call them here to come and defend some actions, we are doing something about it as you know this people also are not from Ghana or Cameroon, they are Nigerians. There is no how we can escape that, except you people give us the permission to go and recruit newly passed out seminarians. More seriously we continue to try everything possible to make them a better Nigerians.
The Man Tunde Sobulo to a lot of people is known as a hot headed, no nonsense police officer, who doesn’t smile at all. Now Sir we are surprised to see you smiling, what is the secret, is it a form of satisfaction in your struggles so far?
I think you hit it right in the head, a little bit satisfied. The early life in the police force is called the rooky years. The rooky years we believe we have solutions to every problem in your shoulder and in your head, you can do anything, but later when you grow up in that system, with clearer understanding you find out things doesn’t work that way. Talking about smiling, I think I’m one of the few policemen that smile a lot. All I can say is I think there is time for everything, there is time to be tough, there is time to be close to people and time to smile, all in all, there is time for everything. But seriously when it comes to crime, I’m always very worried because I don’t know u could be the next victim, those are the things that doesn’t usually put that smile on my face.
Does meeting people in social functions help cover  crime and how would you feel if the next victim is a well known person?
You see, I’m not perfect and I’m not going to equate myself with any super being, but by the virtue of my trainings, the instinct works very well for me. Don’t forget, this is my line, this is my job, this is my education, in fact this is my everything. Everything in life I have studied after secondary school, has to do with policing. I’m a graduate of four post secondary school institutions, graduate of two Universities all criminally related courses. I think the instinct do work for me most of the time. I have once had a situation like that before, somebody I respect so much brought his friend’s son to me in my office and introduced the young man to me, he even told me his mother was a retired police officer and they left. Later that man came back and brought a shoe for me, that he just returned from a journey, but something just told me hey, don’t take. And the gentle man also came for the naming ceremony of my last Child. I’ll be very happy to tell that three weeks after, there was robbery over night Saturday/Sunday, the robbery took us almost everywhere, Shomolu, Gbagada, Mushin, Isolo road and so on, during the shoot out, that young man was among the robbers that were killed, with a lot of weapons, cash, ammunitions recovered from them. So instinct do work for me. The other one you talked about, you see I’ve been dealing with this boys for long, it’s only that you people were not paying attention, I’ve deal with Pasuma for so long, I’ve deal with Malaika, Obesere, Atawewe and so on, I’ve known them for over 10-15years. When I first came in, it was like they wanted to grow, but some people were not allowing them to, police would go to where they are having shows in the name of wanting to arrest a criminal they were looking for, in the process they disorganized that party and I felt it was wrong because we grew up in Micheal Jackson era, if somebody had stopped him when he was growing, who would have known him, so I took it upon myself to make sure that I studied this boys and know that most of the musicians doesn’t even have anything to do with crime, maybe the fans. So i make sure I attend their functions years ago.   
Can you tell us sir, the journey so far?
I’ve been a very fortunate person, from Ogun state where I was born, we moved to Mushin and Agege Mongoro used to be our village those days, when we were under western colony, then we use to go for Xmas, New year and Ileya in Abeokuta and come back to the village. My Mother was living in Mushin, we use to have Abalabi Hotel now May Flower and my Mother had an Amala joint then where we have the filling station now, so when I come home on holidays, I would help her prepare the Amala, cook soup and serve her customers. Later, I moved to the United State, where I finished my secondary school that was Providence learning center in Providence Rhoda Island, I did my high school diploma, then Bristol Community College where I did Associate in law enforcement that was in Massachutte also in United State, then to North America Institute of Political Science where I did a diploma course, then I attended Roger Williams University in Bristol Rhode Island where I did my Bachelor of Science in Criminal Justice and Administration and went further to do my MBA in Public service with concentration in Public Law. I worked in the United State Prisons, for few years that was Rhode Island department of corrections, I entered as a correction officer and later became a senior correction officer. When I returned home, I did my NYSC with the police and I assisted in reorganizing the police dictective training school then at Alagbon, from there I joined the police and went for training in Jos and was later posted back to Lagos I was in (TOD) in Lagos, that is Technical Operation Department and that really assisted me, because our job then was to go from one police station to another to monitor behaviours of officers, check their arms and also check the cells, so this exposed me to a lot of police stations, that is why I was able to know every part of Lagos apart from my growing up here. Then I was transfered, Admin officer here and there, DPO here and there, I was once DPO Alausa, Commander Mopol 20, I was the first Commander RRS , Commander Operation Sweep Police section, Area Commander Orlu in Imo State, Area Commander Ondo and I came back as Deputy Commissioner of Police in charge of Administration in Force Headquarters before I came back here as Deputy Commissional of Police in charge of Operations.
If you are not a Police Officer, what would you have been?
Wow! I use to think about that too, but sometime I would say I would have been this and I would say again to myself oh, you are lying, you wouldn’t have been that. I sincerely haven’t figured out what I would have been because, I love this job with passion and when you love this job with passion, that means you love the Country with passion. And when you put the two together, I don’t think I would have been better in any other job than being a Policeman. 
Sir, is any of your Children taking after you in the police force?
Funny enough, I have one studying Law in England and she is not interested in joining Police, I have another one that attended the same University I attended in the United States and graduated with the same degree, he graduated with Criminal Justice and Humanity while I graduated with Criminal Justice  and Administration, but funny enough he doesn’t want to be a policeman. He is based in the US running his own business.
Has there been anytime your Children or  Wife panicked and told you to leave the police job?
My children were young and didn’t have an idea of what was going on that time, but my Wife I thought could have been the person who should have been worried, but for reason best known to God, she didn’t. maybe it’s a form of encouragement from her that since I have chosen to be a police, she has to support and encourage me. There was a day I was going out and they told me there was robbery somewhere, they told me they snatched a vehicle at Ibadan and were heading towards Lagos and unfortunately, the vehicle I was told disappeared at Ogba and we were in Mongoro then and quickly I mobilized patrol vehicles because we were always on 24hrs patrol. As I was moving out bear footed with no shirt on, my Wife called me, Tunde you’re not wearing any shirt, she now retied her wrapper and pulled the shirt she was wearing for me to wear. And luckily as we were going we saw the vehicle parked at Guiness, we asked the security men who parked the vehicle and they pointed them to us, immediately they saw us they started firing and we were able to overpower them. Immediately after that there was another distress call and that one took us round Lagos again and I couldn’t go home, that was when she felt bad, knowing the risks involved. That day we lost three of our men, (may their souls rest in peace) and all twelve vehicles snatched, were recovered.                 
Knowing how demanding your job is, do you have time to be and attend to your Children at all?
I have been very lucky my Children are my friends and one thing they don’t want to lose, is the friendship between us. We sincerely cherish a father and Daughter and father and Son relationship greatly and they know what I don’t like and they don’t dare do it. If they make mistakes they will appeal to me and personally find time to come to me to explain why they did what they did. You see my brother, it just God. Because sincerely, I don’t have time for my Children, it’s just God in His mercy taking control of the situation.
Finally sir, how do you take out stress, what do you do to relax?
I think the work is what I do to do what you are talking about, if I get tired or bored and I say okay I’m going home, maybe there would be a distress call somewhere that robbery is going on, I have to quickly mobilize and move a team there and by the time I get home it’s late, I’m tired, I will just go to bed.

1 comment:

  1. Deputy commissioner of police Babatunde Sobulo os one of the most dedicated and serious minded police officers we have in the country today,he has a proven record of integrity,may God continue to guide him always and hope he gets to the top.Kudos Sir.


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