In 2006, the Dean of the Diplomatic Corps, the then Philippine ambassador called me and asked if I could set up a meeting with the then IG of the Police Force, Mr. Ehindero, which I did. It was at that meeting I heard gory details of robberies at embassies and it gave me a déjà vu of my own experience.
At the end of it all, I chipped in and said, the common denominator here is response time and that first and foremost, no country can guarantee anyone of a crime free environment. What any country has been able to offer is swift response to crime. When we got to the US in the early 80s, it was 911 but now it is ‘Panic Button’ because 911 you had to state your address and all that. It is automatic with the panic button.
The panic button was provided by a private company ADT. Private companies or private driven initiatives are to provide the technology to synergise the human policing.
But we operate differently here…
In Nigeria we have always done human policing which has never worked. You shouldn’t put a policeman in front of a bank or in front of your house. With technology like panic button, door magnet, motion detector communicating from a control room and disseminating the information to the police is the most effective means. It then fell on me to provide the materials to install the security wares.
I was looking at it from the business angle and provided the alarm systems I got from America and thought I would just sell them and move on with my life. But that was not to be as I had to undergo one year of training at the insistence of one of the ambassadors to actually understand how the security system could fit into the Nigerian situation and also gain full technical knowhow.
The alarm systems and fence can operate for a while without power for at least three days; which means they have been modified to cater for a society like ours. I have also adapted them to operate the same way they do with setting fortress like control rooms and training the manpower from the Police Force to man them along with equipping them with other necessary facilities.
How have all these impacted on the ordinary Nigerian?
Upon my return, I have trained 21 other Nigerians on the installation and repairs of the systems.
In the about one year we have been in operations we have been able to solve a notable number of crimes and recovered stolen items thorough tracking and demolisation among other means while working with the Abuja Crime Control Squad (ACCOS).
This has generated many questions because people want to know how the ordinary man can benefit from it. We had to go to the drawing board and came up with something called OCASS: Operation Community Alert Security Scheme. In trying to strike a balance, we have asked states to meet us half way. Let them have the control rooms set up along with the repeaters to cover the state. Once that is done, we can drop the price of the alarm system significantly to make sure we have 70 per cent affordability rate for the masses. If possible, have a pay as you go monthly system.
With policemen in banks and sirens blaring…
It is tough but to discourage the use of policemen in front of banks, Interbank Security Alert System (ISAS) was launched. Policemen are sitting targets and are likely to be first targets of robbers. The common joke about policemen in America is coffee and donuts. They are always sitting in their car and eating coffee and donuts. But in their car they are well equipped and have all their gadgets to respond to any emergency they receive information about. So let the Nigerian police operate like this; stationed at strategic points with all the equipment they need to respond to any situation. With the banks equipped with panic buttons they can alert the police patrol closest to them. This way the element of surprise would weigh against the intruders.
I was in a bank in America when they closed down operations because another bank was being robbed. We now integrated this system into our control room and upgraded it so that if a certain bank is being robbed, the information is disseminated to all banks to shut down operations.
We also developed EPASS (Executive Protection Alert Security Scheme) which is for bank MDs, judges, lawmakers and other cadre, especially with the kidnap surge. It basically operates the same with the PASS with the aid of a personal tracker as you have with cars.
We are looking for motivated people to come on board and get training because even with the OCASS, we need to train residents of the area to install and repair the system.
Have you got support from the police and other corporations as this is a capital intensive venture?
In my opinion the Nigerian Police is one of the most effective when you consider their working environment. They are daily subjected in harm’s way and with very little budget. Even what we have now is still not the best it can be. Abroad, they would like to see video footage through the CCtv showing them where the intruders are, their weaponry and all. But the Nigerian Police lack adequate funding to operate this way.