Assistant Inspector General of Police Mbu Joseph Mbu was a former Commissioner of Police in Oyo and Rivers states and the FCT. He also served as a former Commissioner of Police in charge of the Mobile Force (MOPOL); Commandant, Police Staff College, Jos and the Assistant Inspector General of Police 7, Abuja and Zone 2 (Lagos and Ogun). In this exclusive interview by PeesReporters, he blames Governor Ben Ayade for the increasing rate of crime in Cross River State.
As a top police officer who attained the level of an Assistant Inspector General of Police, what do you think could account for the increasing waves of crime in Cross River State?
Cross River is one of the easiest states to police in Nigeria. It has only two roads- the one that leads up to the Itu Bridge and the one that goes straight to Ugep and to Ikom. From Ugep, the road goes straight to Ikom. At the Mbok Junction, the left goes to Abakaliki and the straight one leads to Ogoja and then Gakem, our boundary with Benue State.
Then at Ikom, we have the one that leads to the borders, just a few kilometres and the other one leads to the Obudu Ranch but which has now become impassable. The Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) was there and, after so much money was spent to work on that road, there is nothing to show for it. The road became impassable, not up to one year after.
So, there is nothing to police in Cross River. But, today, Calabar South is a no-go area. How can they say it is a no-go area? We have allowed criminals to take over. If the government is not a criminal government or if most of the elements in government are not criminals, why should we perpetrate all these evils in a state that was once known as a very peaceful state?
What could account for the change in the security outlook of the state?
Now, cultists, kidnappers and armed robbers have taken over. Go to the State Housing which is supposed to be the GRA of Cross River State, you will see boys with small guns. They snatch people’s bags and phones at gunpoint. You go to the ATM in Calabar, as soon as you leave, they will accost you, take your bags, money and phones. Is that a state? Cross River is even worse than Borno State and all those places where we have the Boko Haram insurgency, but criminal cases are under-reported here.
You go down to Ikom or Obudu where a DPO was killed and a DSS officer was injured. A DPO killed? That was not possible when I was a Commissioner of Police. I will hunt for the killers and make sure that I inconvenience that area for one year. I was Commissioner of Police in Oyo State, Rivers State and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT). I left those places in peace.
Why won’t there be crime when the police have no means of patrol? If the governor procures two hilux pick up vehicles each for the only 18 divisons, crime will reduce. As I am talking to you, the Cross Rivers State Police Command does not have a serviceable vehicle; not just one for the Operations Department, for the CID and for the SARS. What they have are dilapidated and very old vehicles. Go to the area commands; go to the divisions and tell me how crime will not be perpetrated in the state.
Where lies the fault of the Governor Ben Ayade-led administration in all these?
Let me tell you, the state governor has a security vote of not less than N500 million every month and which is domiciled in the account of his Chief of Staff (CoS). He should tell us what he is doing with that money. Look at the local government fund: they are pilfering it here and there. If you buy two vehicles from the fund of a local government area and give to the police division in that local government area, they will do something with it, patrolling.
Travellers from Calabar to Ikom are robbed once it is 5pm. Why? The spots are known but where are the patrol vehicles? None. Who gives the governor information? They only want him to hear what he wants to hear, singing his praises as the digital governor. I will never join them to do that rubbish. If we decide to keep quiet, how will the state move forward?
The government of the day supports criminality. Criminals are arrested, cultists, kidnappers and armed robbers are arrested, one person or the other will just go there and the next thing is that all those charges are withdrawn or the DPP will write or enter into a noile prosequitor. Such inconsistency cannot work.
A known cultist is facing criminal charges, but they have gone ahead to change the charges and gave him a soft-landing so that he can become a councilor in Calabar South. What I am seeing here cannot happen in Yoruba land or in the North. Our leaders have failed us.
But we thank God, we are alive; we are back. I cannot go back to the police, I am above 60 years old. I have no ambition whatsoever of becoming the governor of this state. What for? Is it to use and blow siren which I have been blowing for the past eight or nine years? Go on Google, you will see my name; mention my name anywhere, people know me. But we must correct what is happening in Cross River State.
What exactly do you want the governor to do?
The governor should tell us how many security vehicles he has bought since he took over as the governor of the state, over five years ago How many times has the IGP, or DIG Operations or AIG of the zone come to the state to commission vehicles for the police? If he floods Calabar, even with those small Hyundai cars (like 20 or 30 units), and they keep patrolling consistently, with all seriousness and without compromising, crime rate will drop in the state capital. If you are caught with a gun, trying to endanger the life of any other person, the law says the security agent should use his weapon on such a person.
In broad daylight, people will be shooting. If the people in government are not in support of cultism, why should it continue? You see where a senator of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, all because he wants to become a governor, will be parading the streets with cultists. The next Cross River State governor will be selected by the people. If you like, go there and manipulate, but the next governor will be selected by the people. We will dig deep into your past to see how useful you have been to the community.
Are you saying the governor is not doing enough in terms of security?
If the governor buys about 30 Hilux pick-ups and gives to the OPs and the police divisions for the first term, they will be patrolling the roads. The second term, he buys another set of 30 units, the crime rate in Cross River State will drop. That is just that.
A serious governor will never joke with security. I want to tell you that there is no Commissioner of Police who comes to the state that has not complain to me that he hardly sees the governor. A CP will arrive in Calabar and it will take about two or three months to see the governor.
The governor is the Chief Security Officer and the chairman of the state Security Council committee, while the CP is the deputy chairman of the committee. As soon as a new CP arrives, a good state governor, who wants peace in his state, would arrange that the next thing after the handing over, the CP will move straight to the Government House to see the governor.
Sometimes, a CP will tell me that he has been calling the governor but the governor will keep him on the line for about five to 10 minutes or that he will call the CP later. No governor, not even a minister, has ever done that to me. I will not take it from you. I will tell you, ‘Your Excellency, I will not work with you again. I want to go back to Abuja’. That was how I was operating. The AIGs have made similar complains that they cannot see the governor. A serious governor will never joke with security.
So, the people of Cross River State must cry out. It is the first duty of the governor of a state. That is why he is the Chief Security Officer of his state; he is to provide security for the people of the state. Ayade must do it because we are not going to condone further killings again. We are going to investigate any killing. This is our state; we have retired military generals and retired top police officers here, but what are they doing? They have to speak out. We are not fighting the governor: we only want him to do what is proper.
You said the governor is not holding security meetings with the service commanders in the state…
Ayade has abandoned security meetings with service commanders. Let the governor tell us how many times he has held security council meetings with the service commanders in the state, the police commissioner? I am not talking about the kangaroo emergency ones that he will just call them because something has happened.
It is mandatory that, every month, the state governor must hold security meetings with the service commanders. This is not the case in Cross River. If it is done, Governor Ayade should show us the minutes, even on the television. We will not allow these things to continue. We will be talking for the people of Cross River State. This is to make sure that justice, good governance and accountability prevail in the state.
Members of the Traditional Rulers Council are people who are very close to the people at the grass roots level who should be feeding the government with information. But the governor should tell the world how many times has he held meeting with them? It has been over a year that the governor lastvheld a meeting with the traditional rulers. Is that what is going on in the other states? Everybody is keeping quiet, but we are not going to keep quiet.
What is expected of the governor and what do you have in mind to effect the changes?
We have to change things in this state. The next person who wants to become the governor, from any political party, we are going to profile that person. We will come out; we will shout and if a party decides to impose you, you will fail because we will come out and we will be actively involved in the selection of the next governor. This time, nobody is going to bring anybody who will tell us the time is 9’o’ clock when it is actually 3’o’ clock. We will not accept that again.
You also claimed that the governor is interfering in the affairs of the local councils. How do you mean?
Yes, Governor Ben Ayade should stop interfering in affairs of the local councils. He has told the whole world that he saved N11.36 billion local government fund. We appreciate him, but the local council chairmen have been sworn in by him: they and their deputies don’t have official vehicles. They have no running grant and imprest for the past seven weeks now. The governor should please respect his promise and himself. He is yet to do what he said to the whole world. The governor should release the money, the N11. 36 billion, to the local government areas.
Apart from that, some people in his government, especially the Commissioner for Local Government and Chieftaincy Affairs, are having the audacity of writing the local government councils and giving them names of those that should be appointed as special supervisory councilors or PAs. The commissioner doesn’t have such rights. The governor does not have such rights. It is the exclusive preserve of the local council chairman. You are interfering in everything, but how can the state move forward by doing such a thing?
Can the President Muhammadu Buhari-led Federal Government write a letter to you, as the governor, and say you must appoint some persons as commissioners or as head of one agency or parastatals? If he cannot do that, why are you, as the governor, doing that to the local councils? These are the things that we must cry out against and let you know. For me, I will never ever sing his praises. What for? Any day the governor wants to reply me, let him go ahead. I will talk and tell the whole world. My advice to him is this: please let us start to do the right thing.
Why are you insisting on the removal of the state Commissioner for Health, Mrs Betta Edu?
You will recollect that sometimes early this month, the Cross River State branch of the Nigeria Medical Association (NMA) accused her of unethical handling of COVID-19 testing in the state. She was alleged to have, by her acts, put the residents of the state in a precarious state of health, resulting to the death of many people.
The allegations were contained in a letter, dated July 5, 2020, in which the NMA passed a vote of no confidence on her and also referred her to the NMA National Disciplinary Committee and the Medical and Dental Council of Nigeria (MDCN). These allegations still subsist and there has not been any improvement in the handling of the COVID-19 pandemic in the state.
We will ensure the removal of Commissioner for Health, Mrs Betta Edu and if the governor does not want to sack her, well the law will take its course. We will pursue her matter and make sure that she goes to jail. The governor does not have the power to withdraw the charges against her.
Before I round off on this issue of COVID-19, I just got information from the NMA, Cross River State that they are submitting a situation report to the Minister of Health.
However, testing has commenced at the Lawrence Henshaw Memorial Hospital. But the government is refusing to upload the results to the NCDC. 75 per cent of the results on the NCDC Situation Report, as of now, are only from the University of Calabar Teaching Hospital (UCTH).
Meanwhile, the government has refused to activate the Adiabo Isolation Centre. As soon as the 5-bed isolation centre at the UCTH is filled, patient are sent away. Sent back to where? They are sent back to the society so that they will now go and continue to spread the virus.
I don’t know if you saw the headlines on AIT Television, yesterday, that they have started testing at Boki Local Government Area. This is preposterous; this is evil. Ikom and Etung local government areas have a legal border with Cameroon. We are supposed to start testing in Ikom and Etung local government areas before we get to Boki Local Government Area. He should go and do the testing in Obudu and in Calabar, then we will know that the government is serious.
What is the problem of the state? The Federal Government is trying to fight COVID-19, but here we are trying to conceal it. They want people to continue to die so that there will be nobody to oppose the mismanagement of this government or what?
You seem to be so bothered about the welfare of the state, but have you ever reached out to the governor, privately, to discuss the problems and the way out?
It is nothing personal. I am not the only one he is doing this to: he has been doing that to some other prominent indigenes of the state. On two occasions, I have met with the governor and talked about these issues. In his usual way, he only said he will do something about it, but nothing has been done so far. On another three occasions, when he came to Abuja, I also traced his house: I went there and dropped a letter that we have to see. He did not get back to me, up till this moment.
But since he has refused to call for a private meeting, where we can discuss and resolve all these issues affecting the state, then I think it will be appropriate to come into the open. I hope that Governor Ayade would see reason and find a way to attend to and address the problems affecting the state, especially the issue of insecurity and pervading crimes.