Governor Makinde making efforts to ensure criminal elements are removed from Oyo State – Dotun Oyelade

Prince Dotun Oyelade

In this interview, the Oyo State Commissioner for Information, Dotun Oyelade, says the state remains the most peaceful state in Nigeria. Going forward till 2027, he assures that things will only be getting better with the kind of attitude that Governor Seyi Makinde has put forward in tackling insecurity in the state. He also talks about the Bodija explosion, why the Onido of Ido was suspended by the governor over his alleged involvement with illegal miners. Excerpts:

The kidnapping of the Lagos PDP Chairman and some others who came to Oyo State for a stakeholders’ meeting has affected the peace enjoyed in the state. Is the government not concerned about this development?

That was a very unfortunate incident, but it needs to be clear that the incident happened at the Ogun State end. So, it is not Oyo State, but we came into the picture because there was a South West meeting of the PDP held here which he attended, and it was on his way back that the incident happened. And because of the interstate fluidity that we do have, if a crime is committed in one state, it can affect the security architecture of the other state.

Having said that, I think it is noteworthy for us to know that one month before that incident happened, the security leadership in Oyo State agreed that the state is the most peaceful state in Nigeria, the FCT inclusive. Of course, these are not frivolous people; they do their intelligence and due diligence to the facts before they come up with that definite statement. They have all been here for a while and their men are on the ground.

So, we have to be wary about the kidnapping that is rampant too, but what we have in the state can best be described as skirmishes and not that it is rampant here.

But the government is doing everything possible to ensure that we are not caught napping because of the desperation and the determination of the criminal element to pursue money-making in a very dastardly manner.

You will recall equally that only a few weeks ago, His Excellency (the governor) again procured 100 vehicles for all the security architecture in Oyo State. He did not only provide vehicles for them, but they were also well equipped with all the necessary detective systems, and it will not be the first time he will do that.

Each year, since 2019, the governor has been doing all of these. We are very mindful of the security of our people. And we have been very proactive about it.

For instance, Amotekun in Oyo State has the largest number of security men in the whole of the South West, and we pay more in terms of salary, allowance, and emoluments.

Not only that, the Amotekun has the highest number of vehicles, and they are the most motivated. That can’t be a coincidence but because of the governor’s willingness to make sure that our people sleep with their two eyes closed.

“Oyo State remains the most peaceful state in Nigeria as we speak and going forward till 2027, things will only be getting better with the kind of attitude our governor has put forward in tackling this menace”

Despite the efforts of the state government in funding security, the kidnapping of the Tipper and Quarry Association chairman is another issue that has raised concern about the safety of people. What will you say about this?

The so-called report on the kidnapping of the chairman of the tipper association was a job done in haste. Journalists and bloggers were too quick to publish sensations rather than find out exactly what happened. He was not kidnapped. I am in constant touch with the Commissioner of Police; a man who knows his onions. He told me and I also saw the statement signed by a senior police officer. The man was apprehended by security personnel from Abuja because of certain allegations made against him. So, sometimes when you hear bombastic stories at a time like this, you take it with a pinch of salt.

The clamour that the Federal Government should allow Amotekun to carry sophisticated weapons has been in the public domain for a while and former President Muhammadu Buhari never did, but the baton now rests in the hands of President Bola Tinubu. What is your take on the matter?

If we go back memory lane, in the year 2000, I was the private secretary to the former governor of Oyo State, Uncle Lam Adeshina, and I was present at the executive Chambers when the then General Muhammadu Buhari led a delegation of Fulani herdsmen to Oyo State. The governor received them, and he (Buhari) cried out vehemently that the state government was treating his kinsmen badly in our state. Of course, the governor stood his ground and said everybody living in Oyo State would be treated equally and no one was above the law.

Now, it was the same Buhari who later became the president of this country, and you mentioned the fact that he never really supported that the state security network should carry sophisticated firearms, especially to march the ones being held by the criminals. Well, it is probably expected that such a thing will happen, but our governor will not stop asking what the right thing is.

We have lost some Amotekun members here and if they were fully and correctly armed, they would not have fallen victim to these criminal elements. So, the state government is asking once again that the kind of weapons carried by our security outfit should and must be upgraded to meet the current challenges being faced by them.

Is there any plan by the Oyo State Government to engage the President on this matter?

You will recall that after the unfortunate December 16 explosion here, less than a week after, our governor was at the Villa to meet with the President. He didn’t only meet him to discuss the security of the states and the South West in general; he presented to him a temporary report on the situation and what happened on that fateful Tuesday when the explosion occurred here.

To that extent, we are very hopeful that the picture has to change, not only because the current President is from the South West, but because it is the correct thing to do, and it is the only way that can foster peace.

Having visited the Omi community along Ajia and Ogunbode and some others in Ibadan, it was discovered that some areas lacked adequate security and basic infrastructure. What is the government doing to strengthen the development and security of rural communities?

It is not going to be helpful if we take isolated cases for a security discussion. In 2020, the state governor insisted that we have a Nigeria Police Special Task Force somewhere in Oke Ogun and they have been doing a good job.

The state government is planning another one to ensure that the proximity to the population is so close to forestall and dislodge any form of criminality in this area.

When people were enjoying the Christmas period, the state governor was busy working with the military, the police, and our security architecture to ensure that illegal miners and criminal elements were uprooted from the National Park in the Oke Ogun area.

So, you have between Adafila and Igbeti; they took base there, and the governor ensured that everything that they needed was given to them. All these efforts are to ensure that criminal elements are removed from the state. As I talked to you, a plan is afoot to carry out a similar exercise. We are constantly showing force to discourage criminal elements from plying their trade in this place.

You will equally notice that in all the nooks and crannies of the state, the government has mounted billboards warning criminally minded people that Oyo State is not the place for them, and we are at it.

Oyo State remains the most peaceful state in Nigeria as we speak and going forward till 2027, things will only be getting better with the kind of attitude our governor has put forward in tackling this menace.

Despite the efforts and security checkpoints, many are wondering how explosives got into a residential area like Bodija, which led to such a disastrous explosion. What is your take on this?

The investigation has revealed that there are other spots where these may have taken place, but it is not the job of the government to speak on this now until the full details of the investigation by the intelligent arms of the military and the police before we speak any further on it.

A lot of progress has been made in terms of the revelation that is already in our custody. We are waiting for the Nigeria Police in particular to conclude their investigation before we make anything known to the public, but as the governor said, the investigation showed that illegal miners were keeping dangerous materials in places where they should not be kept, and these were within residential areas.

In certain cases, you find that some of these people are not illegal miners because they got due certification from the Federal Ministry of Mines and Power but their conduct in handling these dangerous materials is the reason that has made them culpable, and we are working towards that.

I am aware that many people have applauded the government’s proactive response to the incident, and it is very encouraging. It was the same way the governor did during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The strategies we used at that time were so productive that many states and the Federal Government imitated us. It was the same procedure here. The governor did everything in phases. As you can see, the residents are not complaining because the government housed many of them in hotels, giving them all the necessary comfort. Some are still there now. Also, the governor last week issued an executive order on safe handling and storage of harmful substances within Oyo State. This is to ensure that there is an interface in intelligence sharing with the people on the subject matter.

Under the new order, it will be punishable to keep firearms and other dangerous explosives.

Recently, the Onido of Ido was suspended by the governor over his alleged involvement with illegal miners, and this is the first time the governor will unseat a king since his assumption into office. What really happened?

Don’t forget that the governor mandated every 33 local government areas in Oyo State to engage in constant security meetings every month.

At the meeting, they are expected to have security agencies together with the local government chieftains to compare notes, and it is the local government chairmen that will give their findings to the governor of the state and then he will act on it.

That was exactly what happened in the case of Ido local government and the suspension of the Onido of Ido.

Yes, it is indeed an uncommon development, but if a government has decided to be fair, it must also decide to be tough. That is exactly the position of Governor Seyi Makinde.

He will give you a level playing ground; if you commit an offence that is so obvious and cannot be condoned, you get the axe for it. Meanwhile, on this matter, the investigation is ongoing. Don’t forget that under this administration, the governor has crowned more monarchs than anyone ever did before. We will be fair where history justifies but where malfeasance is found in the obas, we will not use their positions to judge them but by their act.

How was the suspended monarch associated with the Bodija explosion?

It is only the investigating officers that are allowed to say that. Things must be concluded before the government makes a statement.

Since the suspension, the monarch’s seat has been vacant. Is there any plan to replace him soon?

No, that is not in the works and that will not be fair to the justice system. He has been suspended; all other options are on the table. What should be done is to allow the ongoing investigation to exhaust itself. It is only when the fate of the Onido has been finally decided by the outcome of the investigation that a process can start. The government is not looking that way for now.

“It is only when the fate of the Onido has been finally decided by the outcome of the investigation that a process can start. The government is not looking that way for now”

The explosion claimed some lives, many were injured and displaced. What has the government been doing to restore normalcy?

Yes, it is a humanitarian challenge, but the government has put in place experts for post-trauma development. Some cater for those injured, there are structural engineers to ensure that the integrity of the buildings in the area is checked.

There are people in charge of fending for those who have been displaced and there are those who ensure that criminal elements who want to take advantage of the situation do not succeed.

We also have the verification team that ensures that those who have told us that they lost things did. We are still compiling but very soon, the governor will make another definitive statement on how far we have gone.

We understand there have been several interventions from well-meaning Nigerians and organisations. What are the supports that the government has received so far, and how has it been judiciously put to use to salvage the situation?

I told you that we have different layers of responsible committees. There is a committee on that, and the Office of the Secretary to the State Government is coordinating them so that every donor is well documented. What they give is clear to the public because it is still an ongoing exercise; it is difficult to start speaking about it now.

On our part, we have placed a high priority on helping the victims.

In humanitarian activities such as this, there are situations where many of these people may not be able to access support. What is the state government doing to tackle corrupt practices which may affect the process?

That is very true. We learnt our lessons from the COVID-19 arrangement. During the COVID period, the Oyo State Government had rock-solid machinery to ensure that people got what they needed not only from the government but from donors and kindhearted groups and individuals. So, we are using that same template to ensure, in a more sophisticated manner, the monitoring of these items. There is no way anyone can pilfer what belongs to the needy. We have ensured that in the various arrangements.