“Armed robbery appears to be on a good decline with about 45/50% decline,” Oyo State Police Command had said in a 2021 letter to Oyo State governor, Engineer Seyi Makinde. The letter stated further that “Oyo State actually recorded lower armed robbery cases in 2020, compared to what it was in 2019. The statistics in 2019 showed a total number of 182 while 123 was recorded in 2020.”
Corroborating the position of the police, the Oyo State Commandant of the Nigerian Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC), Adaralewa Michael, also in 2021, noted that there had been a slide in criminality in the state.
He said, “The last time I checked the index, it has been different from what I met on the ground, so generally Oyo State has been experiencing a relative peace.”
Similarly, the Committee of Retired Inspectors General of Police, during a retreat held at the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA), Ibadan last week, said that one of the reasons it opted to hold its programme in Ibadan was the peaceful atmosphere that pervades the state.
So, despite the rising wave of crimes and violence in the country, Oyo State has, over the years, transmogrified from the hotbed of violence and criminality to the habitation of peace and security. Although the state is not completely crime-free, it has witnessed so much improvement in the area of security that it is much safer than it used to be. But the journey to this transformed state did not happen overnight, it is the outcome of a persistent and consistent commitment of Governor Seyi Makinde who has invested immense mental energy, funds and time to ensure the reduction of criminality to the bare minimum in the state for the benefit of the citizens, residents and travelers.
How did Governor Makinde achieve an almost 180 degrees turnaround in the security situation in the state? How has Makinde been able to change Oyo State from a place where farmers could not go to their farms for fear of being kidnapped to a state where farmers now smile to the banks after their hefty harvests? How did Makinde shift the attention of bank robbers away from the state? How did Makinde change Oyo from a state where gang war was rampant to a state where this has become few and far between?
Seven major factors are responsible for the improvement the state has witnessed in the area of security.
The first is that Governor Makinde understands that his primary responsibility is to ensure safety of lives and property in the state in accordance with Section 14(2) (b) of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (as amended). He knows that as the Chief Security Officer of the state he has to be atop of the security situation in the state. To this end, the governor set up a Security Task Force headed by him with key functionaries of the state government and heads of critical security units as members. The body meets regularly to assess the security situation in the state and moves swiftly to arrest any untoward situation in any part of the state. With this in place, the governor has up-to-date security information from all parts of the state and is able to nip any untoward situation in the bud.
Then the governor collaborates with security agencies. Right from the commencement of his administration, Governor Seyi Makinde has never hidden his readiness to collaborate with security agencies to ensure a safer Oyo State. The collaboration resulted in the establishment of the Police Mobile Force 72 Squadron in Ago Are, Atisbo Local Government area of the state. The Squadron has been vital to the peaceful atmosphere that exists in Oke Ogun zone of the state.
The governor’s collaboration with security agencies also culminated in the donation of a 58-hectare of land in Ajia by the state government to the Nigeria Air Force (NAF) to establish a permanent NAF Base. The project, which is under construction, would enhance NAF’s readiness and responsiveness to security challenges in the state when completed. The base is also expected to serve as an alternate airfield to Lagos airfield, thus enabling the NAF to launch seamless and efficient air operations in the Southwest Region of Nigeria.
In addition to these, Governor Makinde, shortly after his assumption of office in 2019, donated 100 patrol vehicles to security agencies in the state to ensure that all parts of the state were adequately monitored. Since then, more patrol vehicles have been donated by the state government to the security agencies. Consequently, security operatives are able to effectively patrol the state. The state government also announced penultimate week that another set of 105 vehicles would be donated to security agencies in the state to enhance their operations. Allied to this is the resuscitation of the Police Swift Response Squad (SRS) and reinvigoration of Operation Burst to strengthen the state’s security architecture.
Following the decision of South West governors to set up the Western Nigeria Security Network, codenamed Amotekun, Governor Makinde immediately set the machinery in motion to establish the network in the state. The Amotekun officers and men are well trained, well equipped, well remunerated and well motivated. Hence, they have played a critical role in securing the state.
Governor Makinde, while inaugurating the body’s new board recently, poured encomium on the security outfit, saying, “The Amotekun policing meant that they are often the first necessity of defence for our rural communities. If we go through Amotekun’s accomplishments under Omituntun 1.0, we will see that they are a strong reason why our farmers in rural communities are able to return to their farms without fear of attack. They recorded huge successes in stopping kidnappings, motor-bike snatching, burglaries, illegal mining and fraud. We have a record of 10 kidnapping rescues that were carried out by the Amotekun Corps between June 2021 and May 2022.”
Another factor engendering security in Oyo State is the Light-Up project. The project, which covers well over 250 kilometers across the state, keeps the streets aglow even at night. This has become a source of deterrence to criminally-minded people who can no longer hide under the cover of darkness to give vent to their evil intentions.
The governor has also democratised security by enlisting the support and cooperation of traditional rulers to get intelligence that could be used to fight all forms of criminality. Governor Makinde also encouraged traditional rulers to take the message of placing premium on securing the state to their communities. This has heightened the consciousness of the citizens who readily avail security agencies of intelligence about those perpetrating crimes in their communities. The governor also mandated local government chairmen to hold regular security meetings so as to be abreast of security challenges in their area with a view to addressing same without any delay.
The governor also deployed technology to enhance security in the state. There is a toll free number that residents can call in time of distress. The facilities at the Security Control Room and the City Watch have been scaled up to enable security operatives monitor activities across the capital city, while there are CCTV cameras in strategic places, especially in the capital city.
Governor Makinde knows that as important as security is, it is not an end in itself; it is a means to an end. The purpose of providing security is to emplace a conducive environment for businesses to thrive. That has been the experience in Oyo State. The state’s huge investment in security has not only enabled the citizens to sleep with their two eyes closed, it has also boosted the state’s economy.
Over the past four years, the number of enterprises within the state has grown to 1,872,941 with the bulk of them in the capital city. This is one of the reasons a United Nations Human Settlements Programme (UN-Habitat) research ranked Ibadan as the second fastest growing city in Africa, citing industrialisation, urbanisation and economic activities as reasons for the growth.
The state has also attracted private investments of over N27 billion in agribusiness as well as $65million foreign direct investment. Similarly, the state’s internally generated revenue (IGR) hovers around N4billion monthly while the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) has grown by 50 per cent in four years.
As good as all these are, they are not the ultimate for Governor Seyi Makinde whose dream is to turn the state, starting from the capital city, into a 24-hour economy to create more employment opportunities, optimise resource utilisation and provide higher quality of life for the people of the state.
Olanrewaju is the Chief Press Secretary to Oyo State Governor